Gerald Bell, Contributor
The 30th Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) is set for April 19-May 1, 2022, in Los Angeles at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15 and XD, and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
The festival will kick off with the world premiere of “Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story” as its opening night selection at the Directors Guild of America on April 19. Starring GRAMMY® winning singer Ledisi and actor Columbus Short, “Remember Me” is a poignant look into the life and rise of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (Ledisi).
Featuring over 200 films during its 13-day in-person run, PAFF titles will represent 55 countries, 18 languages, including 58 World and 32 North American premieres. Of the films selected for the festival, 80% are directed by filmmakers of African descent, 46% are helmed by female, queer, or non-binary filmmakers.
The goal of PAFF is to showcase a broad range of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images, help to destroy negative stereotypes, and depict an expanded, realistic vision of the Black experience. PAFF organizers believe film and art can lead to better understandings and foster communications between people of various cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time, serves as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on important modern-day issues.
“We are fortunate to live in a time when there are so many diverse voices able to tell their stories in their own way,” says Asantewe Olatunji, PAFF general manager. “Aided by technology, our creatives have greater opportunity and outlets to express themselves, tell their stories and the stories of people who look like them, the people who live around the corner and their neighbors without the confines of fitting into someone else’s idea of their reality.”
Cofounded by Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon”), the late actress Ja’net DuBois (TV series “Good Times”), and Ayuko Babu, PAFF’s executive director, the festival events will include a vibrant red carpet filled with Hollywood A-listers and many of the who’s who in the world of art. The lineup will also include informative panels and workshops–featuring top industry professionals–and will showcase rare cinematic works followed by Q & A sessions with filmmakers.
“I predict this is just the beginning of the melting of the system’s iceberg,” Olatunji declares. “Not only are these films Black films…These are films by people who didn’t have a seat at the table let alone a voice in the conversation.”
One of the major highlights of the festival is the Singleton Short Film Competition. Inspired by the legacy of the late Los Angeles-born legendary African American filmmaker, John Singleton, the competition is designed to honor Singleton’s cinematic contributions while also celebrating his unapologetic approach to filmmaking.
“To present these stories and provide access for both filmmaker and their audiences is a great privilege,” says Olatunji. “[We] are happy to be a part of this process of helping to shift the paradigm of whose stories are told.”
Traditionally held in the month of February, the PAFF has been pegged as one of America’s largest Black History Month events and is the largest Black film festival. This year’s festival was moved to April due to pandemic related precautions.
In conjunction with the film festival, there will also be an art showcase, “Artfest”, held at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The Artfest will feature more than 100 established and emerging fine artists and quality craftspeople from all over the Black Diaspora. Featured artists present their creative works using oil on canvas, watercolor and pastels, acrylic paper, glass, ceramics, metal, cloth, plastic, wax, wire, leather, and stone. In addition to fine art and one-of-a-kind crafts, the Artfest also features the best in designer and traditional fashions, jewelry, home decor, fashion accessories and so much more!
The full schedule and ticket information can be found at www.paff.org.