Pan African Film & Arts Festival Celebrates 25 Years

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In February, FilmL.A. partnered with the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF-LA). The 2017 festival marked the festival’s 25th year and FilmL.A.’s fourth year as a co-sponsor. PAFF-LA is America’s largest and most prestigious celebration of black film. Annually, PAFF-LA showcases more than 150 quality new films and features artwork from over 100 fine artists and craftspersons. For 2017, PAFF-LA also featured children’s events, fashion shows and filmmaker specific events.

Opening night ceremonies were held at the lobby area of Director’s Guild of America’s Hollywood offices. The event featured an opportunity to walk the red carpet and a star studded after-party.  The opening night screening of King of the Dancehall was heavily attended. The film was directed by actor/comedian Nick Cannon who also appeared in the film.  Other cast members included Whoopi Goldberg, Busta Rhimes, Lou Gossett, Jr. and Kimberly Patterson.  King of the Dancehall tells the story of a New York ex-con who travels to Jamaica to hook up with a cousin and start a minor-league drug-smuggling operation. Once in Kingston, our protagonist is captivated by a local beauty and immersed in the world of dancehall.

Oscar nominated Tanna also screened at PAFF-LA. The film, directed by Bentley Dean & Martin Butler Bentley Dean, tells the story of Wawa, a young woman who has fallen in love with her chief’s grandson, Dain. When Wawa is betrothed to a man from an opposing tribe as part of a peace deal, Wawa and Dain run away. The lovers must choose between their hearts and the future of the tribe, while the villagers must wrestle with preserving their traditional culture and adapting it to the increasing outside demands for individual freedom. Tanna is based on a true story and was performed by the people of Yakel in Vanuatu.

Los Angeles was used as background for two films that premiered at PAFF-LA. Everything But A Man is a film about a successful career woman who has a life-changing romance with a mysterious man from another culture whose lifestyle differences challenge her Westernized ideas of love, relationships and what it means to be a “strong” woman. The stars Monica Calhoun, Jimmy Jean-Louis and Camille Winbush. Everything But A Man filmed in the Baldwin Hills and View Park/Windsor Hills neighborhoods.

The closing night film The Preacher’s Son also filmed in the L.A. Region. Bishop T.K. Wilson, his wife and two children are a respectable family in their community. Yet the Wilson kids are fighting temptations and son Dante has thoughts other than taking over his father’s church. The film stars Christian Keys, Clifton Powell, Valarie Pettiford, Vanessa Bell Calloway and Jaleel White.  Much of the production of the film took place at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theatre. A Q&A session with the filmmakers and cast members followed the screening.

Special events at PAFF included a “Conversation With…” series featuring moderated conversations with popular directors who were screening films during the fest. The conversations began with Pan African Film Festival’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, actress/producer Alfre Woodard. Woodard is well known for prominent roles in Primal Fear, Captain America: Civil War, and a recurring role on Marvel’s Luke Cage.

Other “Conversation With . . . ” panelists were actress Sanaa Lathan known for her roles in Blade, Love and Basketball, The Perfect Guy and her new role on the new FOX series, Shots Fired. Rounding out the series were the showrunning team of Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil.  Akil and Brock Akil were responsible for BET’s hit series, The Game and the 2012 remake of the 1970’s film Sparkle.

FilmL.A. congratulates the Pan African Film & Arts Festival staff on 25 years of excellence. It was a pleasure being there to support you, and we hope you’ll continue encouraging filmmakers and other artists to bring their projects to the Golden State.

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