Los Angeles, CA — With her light brown dreadlocks, colorful Afrocentric dress and ivory bangles that tinkle when she walks, no one would guess that Asantewa Olatunji is one of the powerhouses behind the annual Pan African Film Festival, the largest African American film festival in the country.

“I act as general counsel for the festival and address any contractural issues the festival might encounter,” said Olatunji, a lawyer for 37 years. Olatunji works throughout the year reviewing films, paying bills, meeting with filmmakers and distributors, and planning the festival agenda.
The festival, which recently celebrated its 17th year and is held each February, annually draws filmmakers, distributors, actors, and audience members. For two weeks it provides a stimulating mix of films, panel discussions, workshops and dialogue about films from the African diaspora from around the world.

“We showed 140 films pertaining to Africa and its diaspora this year,” said Olatunji, who with the festival’s executive director, Ayuko Babu, travel to other countries several times a year to meet with filmmakers and screen films for the festival. “Our goal is to show African American audiences the beauty of African culture whether the films come from Italy, the Caribbean, South Africa, Nigeria, or Thailand.”

When the festival is operating, Olatunji is a whirlwind of activity. “When the festival is going, it’s exhausting. It’s like being the pilot of a 727. But after its over, you miss the excitement,” Olatunji reflected.