By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Right now and through to February 20th, all the theaters at Cinemark Baldwin Hills, Calif. will be packed with film goers and celebrities alike at a grand occasion celebrating films from the diaspora. It is the Pan African Film Festival, America’s largest and most prestigious international black film festival. Now in its 25thyear, PAFF was founded by Danny Glover, Ayuko Babu and Emmy Award-winning actress Ja’Net DuBois in 1992.
The most obvious reason to attend PAFF, would be the films, which usually come with commentary by the film makers and cast. Q and A sessions are also common, creating a next level connection between the audience and film makers.
Here are five reasons to attend the 25th Pan African Film Festival:
1. PAFF has curated a lineup of panels including; ‘A Conversation with Mara Brock & Salim Akil.’ The producing and directing husband and wife team known for their work on TV shows “Being Mary Jane,” “The Game,” “Girlfriends” and movies “Sparkle” and “Jumping the Broom,” will share secrets to their success and longevity in Hollywood and offer industry insights and advice. Actress Sanaa Lathan, who stars on the Fox TV series “Shots Fired” with Reggie ‘Rock’ and Gina Prince-Bythewood, is also hosting a panel where she will discuss her journey into acting. Lathan’s movie credits include “The Best Man,” “Love & Basketball” and “Brown Sugar.”
2. Nick Cannon’s “King of The Dancehall” marks his directional debut. In the film, the entertainer takes on the arduous task of director, producer and star. Part documentary, part music video and part comedy, the star-studded film follows an ambitious young man who travels to Jamaica to enter the drug trade, but finds himself swept up in the infectious dancehall musical craze. Think “Dancehall Queen” meets “The Harder They Come.” Starring Louis Gossett Jr., reggae artist Ky-Mani Marley, and Whoopi Goldberg as his mother, this one’s worth watching, especially to see Busta Rhymes, who plays his crazy, comedic and charismatic cousin. He delivers the films funniest moments.
3. From director Angela McCrae‘s visually dazzling film “#WhereIsBeauty,” Ngozi Onwurah’s fast paced drama “Welcome II the Terrordome,” to directors Salome Mulugeta and Nagwa Ibrahim’s moving piece “Woven,” female directors are making a huge splash behind the screens this year with worthwhile and engaging dramas. They are also a few spectacular films, which have a common thread. Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis ("Heroes") stars in three films playing at PAFF. They include the political drama “Toussaint Louverture,” which returns to the festival, “Everything But a Man,” which marks his second collaboration with director Nnegest Likké (they previously worked together on “Phat Girlz”) and Kunle Afolayan’s “The Ceo.” Afolayan’s last film “October 1” earned him a Festival Programmers’ Award for Narrative Feature in 2015.
4. A chance to see “90 Days” the award-winning short film from directors Nathan Hale Williams and Jennia Frederique Aponte, which stars Teyonah Parris, Nic Few, Pauletta Washington and Rodney Chester. Executive produced by Jussie Smollett ("Empire"), “90 Days” is about a young couple having to confront the challenges of loving with HIV.
5. An opportunity to not only screen “Media,” but a chance to meet the cast. The film follows a powerful and influential family who own a media conglomerate and the drastic and unethical decisions they make to protect their wealth. Think 80s dramas "Dynasty" and "Dallas" combined. It stars Brian White, Penny Johnson Jerald, Stephen Bishop, Gary Dourdan, Pooch Hall, Denise Boutte. Directed by Craig Ross Jr., there’s drama and intrigue sprinkled in with relatable themes. The family live in a world of privilege, but still face emotional trials and tribulations: love, adultery, sibling rivalries, greed, success, betrayal and lust. There are also great performances from T.I. and Tyrese who have cameos in the film.
If in the Los Angeles area and want to attend PAFF or a film maker interested in submitting films visit: https://www.paff.org/
Five Reasons To Attend The Pan African Film Festival
By Samantha Ofole-Prince