The Grammy’s are Sunday, Oscar buzz is in the air, the NAACP Image Awards are next week, and yesterday the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) kicked-off in Los Angeles with numerous films from around the world set to screen. The festival runs through Feb. 18 with most screenings taking place at the AMC Magic Johnson Theaters in Los Angeles.
This year, hip-hop is a central theme of many of the festival’s films with more than 15 hip-hop themed films from the U.S., Brazil, Cuba, Morocco, Australia, and Uganda. One such film is Skid Row, a documentary featuring Pras Michel of The Fugees who goes undercover as a homeless person on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Some of the other hip-hop oriented works include Bling: A Planet Rock, a documentary examining the diamond trade in Sierra Leone and featuring appearances from Kanye West, Big Daddy Kane, and best-selling author Ishmael Beah; This Is The Life, a documentary by Ava DuVernay, which explores the story of the rise and fall of a little known group of California hip-hop artists whose work continues to influence the art form; and B.L.A.C.K. —An Aboriginal Song of Hip-Hop, an Australian film, which looks at the blackness, politics, and culture of the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Since its inception in 1992, PAFF has prided itself in showcasing the best in cinema from the African diaspora. It is here you will find films dealing with the struggles and triumphs of people of color around the planet. This year will be no exception. The festival’s opening night film will be Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation directed by veteran filmmaker Charles Burnett. The film, which stars Carl Lumbly, Danny Glover, and Joel Haikali, centers on the country’s fight for independence with the help of the Cuban military.
The festival’s centerpiece film will be Of Boys and Men starring Robert Townsend Angela Bassett, Victoria Rowell, and Faizon Love. The film, produced by Townsend and Pemon Rami, and directed by One Week director Carl Seaton, focuses on a man (Townsend) who leads his family on a journey of healing and self-discovery following the death of his wife played by Bassett.
Andrew P. Jones’s Kings of the Evening, a period piece set during the Great Depression and starring Lynn Whitfield, Glynn Turman, Tyson Beckford, Reginald T. Dorsey, and Linara Washington, will close out the festival.
PAFF will also present its annual Night of Tribute on which it will honor actors Della Reese, Idris Elba, and Taraji P. Henson, directors Charles Burnett and Stanley Nelson, and others. A posthumous award will be presented to the father of African cinema Ousamene Sembene. The event will be hosted by Heroes star Jimmy Jean-Louis and broadcast on The Africa Channel on Feb. 22.
The great thing about PAFF is the sheer depth of the cinema presented. There are essentially films about black people from every end of the planet. It’s a unique place and opportunity to celebrate and gain a deeper understanding of not only our contribution to cinema