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BY Bridget Boakye, 6:08am February 21, 2018,

A look at the 2018 Pan African Film and Arts Festival

Black actors at the PAFF

The 26th annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) in LA just concluded with a highlight on the range and diversity of stories and talent in Africa and the Diaspora. From the talent to the content and discussions being held, PAFF proves that it is indeed a great time for Black films. 

PAFF, which started in 1992, is a five-day festival that screens more than 170 films. As director of programming, Asantewa Olatunji, told LA Times, “We’re now the largest black film festival in the United States and probably in this hemisphere. It’s a whole different size than many other film festivals in the United States.”

About 35,000 people, including more than 100 filmmakers, attended the festival this year. This year’s lineup saw films from 40 countries on five continents and 26 languages. Olatunji explained, “We have films from all over the world. From the South Pacific, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the U.S., Canada… wherever there is a community of black people that are making films about themselves.”

The diversity of content and positive representation meant a great deal at the festival as well. As Olatunji shared, “when we first started, most of the stories were very negative stories. They were stories about gangbangers or about the pimps and prostitute idiom. Now we are seeing far more diverse stories. When we first started, films were on 35mm. There was no such thing as streaming. So now we have so many different places to see film, which has really encouraged the creation of so much more product. And with that product comes that diversity of story.”

Moreover, “in terms of the black experience and the black footprint, we have so many new actors in Hollywood that come from someplace else. We have [Brit] Idris Elba playing an African American, and [‘Star Wars’ actor] John Boyega playing a person from outer space! So we do see that black people are now in these more diverse roles than we saw in 1992.”

Some of the festival’s film highlights were the world premiere of “Love Jacked”, a rom-com about an African American who finds love in Africa featuring Mike Epps and directed/ produced by Alfons Adetuyi; U.S. premiere of  “The Forgiven,” based on the real story of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s meetings with brutal murderer Piet Blomfield starring Whitaker and Eric Bana, directed by Oscar-nominated director Roland Joffé’s; and L.A. premiere of “Cargo”, a fisherman smuggling Haitians into America, directed by Kareem Mortimer.

Other highlights included director Samuel D. Pollard’s documentary “Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” a tribute to the legendary singer/dancer, Sammy Davis; “Jimmy Jean-Louis Visits Tijuana” documentary about Haitian community living in Mexico featuring comedian Rainn Wilson; and “Maynard”, a documentary about the first black Mayor of a major southern city, Atlanta, directed by Academy Award nominee and six-time Emmy winner, Sam Pollard.

Check out these tweets from the festival for more insights:

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: September 15, 2018


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