The Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) kicked off its 26th annual season with a red carpet world premiere of “Love Jacked,” a romantic comedy production starring rising star Amber Stevens and veteran character actor Keith David. The largest Black cinema event in the country, it is the brain child of activist, cultural aficionado, and political consultant Ayuko Babu, who serves as its Executive Director.
Babu has been an advocate of ethnic film since he saw a screening of the Brazilian classic, “Black Orpheus” as a teenager. A frequent traveler around the African continent, he came up with the idea of a celebration of the Afro centric images he was exposed to, and the festival was launched with the assistance of Hollywood stars Danny Glover and Ja’Net DuBois.
Since then, it has developed a smorgasbord of screenings, fashion shows, panel discussions, educational programs, and art exhibits focusing on the African Diaspora. In addition to this are spoken word performances, comedy showcases, and the newly conceived “Talk4Reel.” Talk4Reel brings in notables like Nate Parker (actor and director of “Birth of a Nation), actress/director Tasha Smith (“Empire”), and a conversation with leading Black studio executives, two Social Justice Screenings and a Community Forum. Also on the dais is the President of Universal Television, Pearlena Igbokwe, the first woman of African descent to head a major American television studio.
Along with these events, workshops will be held by industry professionals, along with special screenings of the hit television series’ “Black Lightning,” and “The Chi.”
Babu’s personal picks from the 170 films from across the globe include “Angelica,” a full length offering from Puerto Rico which narrates the travails of a Multi-racial young woman forced to confront her identity in an examination of racism and sexism in the Caribbean islands. Also of note is “Maynard,” a documentary about the achievements of Atlanta’s first African American mayor, Maynard Jackson, as he struggled for the inclusion of minorities in that city’s economy.
A very special treat is the Centerpiece on Feb. 14, starting with a red carpet at 5p.m., an exclusive screening of an unnamed production at 6:30p.m., followed by a party, all for a $125 Admission.
The closing night (Feb. 18) ceremony will include a screening of “The Forgiven,” starring Forrest Whitaker and Eric Bana in a political drama set in 1960s era South African apartheid. The screening will be followed by an after-party immediately afterwards ($75 covers both events).
The Pan African Film Festival takes place at the Cinemark Rave 15 Theatres, 4020 Marlton Ave, Los Angeles, in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Feb. 8-19. For more information, go to https://www.paff.org/.