If you ever fear that African American Cinema will not survive or the talent and drive to bring our stories to the silver screen is just not there, then you didn’t attend The 18th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival. It was all there, the hope and promise for our glorious future in the arts.
By now, filmmakers from around the world and across America are on their way home after attending America’s premiere and largest black film festival showcasing their labors of love from which amounted to over one hundred quality films from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the South Pacific and Canada, all showcasing the diversity and complexity of people of African descent.
The festival was created in 1992 and for the past 18 years, Ayuko Babu has presided over the celebrated festival in good times, as well as hard times. And with the help of a dedicated staff, he manages to bring the stars, filmmakers and the public to an annual event known the world over.
Screenings, panels and the Arts Festival took place in new locations this year; Culver Plaza Theaters, The Nate Holden Performing Arts Center and Westfield Culver Plaza, adding a fresh new take on one of the City of LA’s most anticipated events.
The impressive line-up of films included the World Premiere on the Opening Night screening of “Blood Done Sign My Name.” A riveting story of courage and honor against a backdrop of racial hatred, danger and unwelcomed change, based on an acclaimed book by the same name. The story takes place in the 1970’s rural community of Oxford, North Carolina, after the fatal cold blooded killing of a young, unarmed black Viet Nam Veteran. This brutal slaying called to action young men who today continue the fight, one such man is Civil Rights Activist, Dr. Ben Chavis. Nate Parker (“Secret Life of Bees”) stars as Chavis, Lela Rochon (“Any Given Sunday”), Omar Benson Miller (“Miracle of St. Anna”), and Alemo Omilami (“The Blindside”) star in the film written and directed by Jeb Stuart. The film opens nationally on February 19.
The list of films screening at the festival were just as impressive as the panel discussions which included such topics as ‘Breaking Into Reality TV’ and ‘Creating for the Web’, two very hot topics, but only the tip of the iceberg.
The African American Film Critics Association (AFFCA) presented the panel discussion ‘Color Struck: Race and Movie Images in Hollywood.’ This very topic really represented the base or foundation of the film festival itself. Panel members were Erica Conner, Co-Producer of “Idlewild,” Bill Overton, Author “The Media, Shaping the Image of a People,” and Rob Edwards, Screenwriter whose credits include the 2010 Oscar Nominated feature Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” and moderated by Journalist, Kathy Williamson.
The topics included in-depth information on writing, producing, and directing in Hollywood, as well as performing in films, television as well as on the web. It all came down to images and its impact on the dollar, audience and work in film and television, and the current new media that is available to us.
The Night of Tribute was an inspiring event hosted by the 2010 PAFF Celebrity Host, Actress CCH Pounder (“Avatar”). Glynn Turman received the Lifetime Achievement Award, Nate Parker (“Blood Done Sign My Name,” “The Secret Life of Bees”) received the Canada Lee Award, Tatyana Ali, The Beah Richards Award, F. Gary Gray walked away with the Pioneer Director Award, and Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima of Nigeria was presented the PAFF/Africa Channel Visionary Award. While Avis Ridley-Thomas accepted the Community Service Award for County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The program was produced by The Africa Channel and was taped to air on the channel. So, if you get the African Channel on your cable, make it a point to view this very special event. And if you don’t get it, call your cable company and request it. It’s well worth the time.
PAFF also screened the documentary, “Haiti the Sleeping Giant” detailing the glorious, brave history of Haiti. Proceeds from tickets sold went directly to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Equally as informative was the screening of “41st and Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers” an intimate look at the Southern California Chapter of the Panthers, who gained the reputation of being the most violent Black political group in the United States.
There was literally something for everyone at this year’s festival from the Art Show and Fashion Show to Student Fest, Saturday Children’s Festival and Spoken WordFest, 8 days of history, entertainment, information and fun.
Visit the PAFF website daily at www.PAFF.org and catch up on all the activities and events as told through photographs and video.
Gail can be reached at gail@hollywoodbychoice.com