Already underway, this year’s Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) which ends on Feb. 16, is all the more interesting in light of the barrage of criticism due to the scarcity of nominations for people of color at the Academy Awards.

Aside from the political rhetoric about diversity and the lack of it, film festivals offer a glimpse of subjects Hollywood is unwilling to explore. Consequently, PAFF serves up a plethora of films exploring topics appealing to a variety of tastes.

Globalization means the opportunity for exposure to talented musicians who might otherwise be overlooked. In spite of alliances with Paul Simon, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder, Kahil El’Zabar is a percussionist/multi-instrumentalist largely unfamiliar to the majority of the American musical consumer base. The documentary “Be Known: The Mystery of Kahil El’Zabar,” showcases the charismatic Chicagoan in a warts-and-all approach that balances the brilliance of his contributions to avant-guard Jazz against the often comical dysfunction of his personal life.

Emerging nations are often unencumbered by the hypocrisy and exploitative nature of industrialized countries, and yet they are simultaneously hamstrung by antiquated notions and traditions concerning civil rights. Based on a true story, “Difret” focuses on the efforts of an Ethiopian attorney and advocate for a teenaged girl victimized by her country’s entrenched custom of abducting child brides. Produced by Angelina Jolie, this narrative has already made a significant splash at other festivals and garnered awards and acclaim along the way.

Twenty years after its release, rapper Nas’ debut album “Illmatic” is still hailed as a landmark in the annals of East Coast Hip Hop. Already the subject of extensive viewing on the Showtime cable network, the documentary “Nas: Time is Illmatic” attempts to examine the performer’s upbringing in the housing projects of the New York borough of Queens, and the impact it had on his artistic development.

Also based on a (1995) true story (involving Pelican Bay parolee and cop killer Robert Walter Scully), the narrative “Supremacy” is abetted by the stellar casting of Danny Glover, Julie Benz, Derek Luke, Lela Rochon, Evan Ross and Tyrin Turner. Always a compelling performer, Glover shines, as a reformed ex-convict whose middle class tranquility is shattered when his home is invaded by two desperate White separatists.

This year’s PAFF celebrity ambassador is multi-talented actor, attorney and author Hill Harper. One of the highlights is a one-on-one conversation with mega-super star Denzel Washington on Saturday, Feb. 14, at 1 p.m. Tickets to this landmark event are $35.

As in past years, cinema screenings are augmented by a variety of experiences, artistic, educational, and musical. Visual artifacts and fashionable attire are available in the Baldwin Hill Mall, workshops and panel discussions for those interested in “breaking in” to the entertainment industry will be held, along with concerts showcasing the considerable music and spoken word talents of community are an additional attraction. Please access the website at for details.

The 23rd Pan African Film Festival continues through February 16 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 3650 West Marin Luther King Jr. Blvd.