The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF), one of the largest Black History Month events in America and the largest Black film festival, will kick off its yearlong 30th celebration in February with the first of several specially curated blocks of the festival’s most fascinating, complex and most liked films over the past three decades. Throughout the festival’s 30-year history, PAFF has celebrated Black filmmakers and actors whose work has pushed the envelope in cinema in the US and abroad in Africa and other parts of the world. The Best of PAFF Retrospective Series kicks off with a Black History Month exhibition featuring nearly two dozen cinematic groundbreaking foreign and domestic films. The inaugural Best of PAFF Retrospective Series will take place virtually Feb. 15-28, 2022. Film listings, tickets, and passes are available at paff.org.
To celebrate PAFF’s 30-year milestone, the festival will continue its retrospective series in March highlighting Black female filmmakers and their films.
In addition, the 30th annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival is slated to place April 19-May 1 after being postponed due to the rise of COVID cases in Los Angeles County. The hybrid festival of in-person and virtual screenings will take place in Los Angeles at its flagship venues the Directors Guild of America, Cinemark Baldwin Hills, and XD and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
The Best of PAFF Retrospective Series is sponsored in part by the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (8th District), Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price (9th District); the 10th Los Angeles City Council District; the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, LA Arts COVID-19 Relief Fund with the California Community Foundation, and the LA County COVID-19 Arts Relief Fund administered by the LA County Department of Arts and Culture.
The complete Best of PAFF Retrospective Series for Black History Month lineup:
Back of the Moon (South Africa)
Bigman Wahala (Ghana)
Caged Birds (US)
Coming From Insanity (Nigeria)
Love Jacked (Canada/South Africa)
October 1 (Nigeria)
Of Good Report (South Africa)
The Great Kilapy (O Grande Kilapy)(The Big Swindle) (Angola/Portugal)
The Forgotten Kingdom (Lesotho/South Africa)
The Milkmaid (Nigeria)
Viva Riva! (Congo)
41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers (US)
500 Years Later (US/UK)
Agents of Change (US)
Ancestral Voices: Esoteric African Knowledge (UK)
Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death (Belgium/Australia/Canada/Denmark/Finland/France/Germany/Netherlands/UK)
Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra (Australia)
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (US)
Nasser’s Republic: The Making of Modern Egypt (Egypt)
The Case of the Three Sided Dream (US)
41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers (PAFF 2010) Documentary/US/130min/2010
Director: Gregory Everett
The first of a two-part documentary follows the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party from its glorious Black Power beginnings through to its tragic demise. Despite the Party’s formation of free medical clinics and a successful children’s breakfast program, the L.A. chapter was known as the most violent Black political group in the United States. Through interviews and archival footage, this must-see film explores the Black Panther ethos, its conflict with the L.A.P.D. and the US Organization as well as the events that shaped its complicated and often contradictory legacy. Detailing the history of racism in Los Angeles and the communities response, it includes a historical analysis of the Watt’s uprising from the perspective of the participants, the formation of the Party as told by the original surviving members, and an eyewitness account of the Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins murders at UCLA in 1968. Featuring are interviews with Black Panther Party leaders Geronimo Ji Jagga, Elaine Brown, Ericka Huggins, Roland & Ronald Freeman, Wayne Pharr, Jeffrey Everett, Long John Washington, and Muhammad Mubarak, as well as, former L.A.P.D. Chief Bernard Parks, US Organization member Wesley Kabaila, UCLA Professor Scot Brown, and many others. Audience Award Documentary Feature Film, PAFF 2010
500 Years Later (PAFF 2005)
Director: Owen ‘Alik Shahadah
An epic documentary, infused with the spirit and music of liberation, explores the collective atrocities that uprooted Africans from their culture and homeland 500 years ago and chronicles the struggle of Black people who continue to fight for freedom.
Best Documentary, PAFF 2005; FIPRESCI Prize, Zanzibar International Film Festival 2007
Agents of Change (PAFF 2016)
Director: Abby Ginzberg & Frank Dawson
The images still hold a charge: graphic footage of student demonstrators at San Francisco State in 1968 being beaten and arrested by police and the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo the following year of black students with rifles emerging from the Cornell University student union building they had briefly occupied. These images are the entry points to a powerful but little-known civil rights story: the struggle that erupted for more inclusive and meaningful higher education across America at the end of a tumultuous decade. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision mandated the integration of American schools “with all deliberate speed.” It wasn’t until the late 1960s that a critical mass of African American students began entering the nation’s colleges and universities. Agents of Change tells the story of what they encountered, how they responded, and the continuing impact of the dramatic confrontations that followed. Instead of being accepted as they were, incoming Black students were expected to shed their identities and assimilate mentally as well as socially into ‘lily white’ college campuses. Many students dealt with racial slurs, taunts, and threats from faculty as well as from other students. Denied facilities and services provided to white classmates, they were often the recipients of unfair campus judicial proceedings. But they refused to take these provocations lying down. They organized, protested, negotiated, and transformed their schools. Agents of Change introduces a cast of largely unrecognized but remarkable characters, whose commitment to justice and equality paved the way for the opportunities that followed, while also reminding viewers about the work yet to be done to achieve full equity and dignity on campus and in society. How is it that so much and so little has changed? This film helps answer that question. Sponsored by Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center
PAFF 2016 Best Documentary; PAFF 2016 Audience Award-Documentary
Ancestral Voices: Esoteric African Knowledge (PAFF 2012)
Director: Dalian Adofo & Verona Spence
An enlightening documentary that examines the significant correlations between beliefs in “mainstream” religions and African spiritual practices which are widely stigmatized under labels such as juju, obeah, voodoo, and witchcraft. The question is raised: why in light of the many similarities in fundamental beliefs are African spiritual systems viewed negatively whereas modern religions are not?
Nominee, Best Documentary, PAFF 2012
Back of the Moon (PAFF 2021)
Director: Angus Gibson
The date July 28, 1958. Tomorrow, legions of police will force the residents of Gerty Street, Sophiatown out of their homes and they will be trucked to a desolate township, ten miles outside of Johannesburg. Badman, an intellectual and the leader of the most powerful gang in Sophiatown, lives life on his own terms in this crazy, cosmopolitan, half-demolished ghetto on the edge of Johannesburg. The gorgeous Eve Msomi, a torch-singer on the brink of an international career, is giving her last concert in the local hall before she travels to London. Refusing to face the bleak reality of Black South African life, Badman has decided that when the police come, he will not move and will fight to the death for his home. But fate thrusts Eve, whom he has loved from a distance, into his orbit. A stylishly beautiful film with a great soundtrack that captures the mood, the violence, and yes, the beauty in apartheid South Africa.
Best South African Feature Film, Durban International Film Festival 2019; Best International Narrative Feature, Black Film Festival Montreal 2020
Bigman Wahala (PAFF 2020)
Director: Daniel Adjokatcher
A corrupt government minister tries to escape the military in the aftermath of a coup d’etat. He enlists the help of a poor struggling taxi driver to take him to the border. Their conversations and encounters during their journey reveal much about themselves and the events leading up to that point. A road movie like no other. Stars Oscar Provencal, one of Ghana’s finest actors. Nominee, Best First Feature, PAFF 2020
Caged Birds (PAFF 2021)
Director: Fredrick Leach
Jordan Lucas is an affluent, Black high school senior counting down the days until college. He’s constantly bullied and lacks the confidence to stand up for himself. When his prideful cousin, EJ, is humiliated by a white bully, Blake, he recruits Jordan and Kevonte, a bussed-in student from the other side of the tracks, to play a robbery prank on Blake. When the prank goes bad, the three boys struggle to avoid being caught. In the process, they are each forced to confront the personal demons that come with being Black in the suburbs. Best First Feature Director-Narrative, PAFF 2021
Coming From Insanity (PAFF 2020)
Director: Akinyemi Sebastian Akinropo
In the mid-nineties, 12-year-old Kossi, with genius-level intelligence, is one of many children trafficked through the Nigerian borders from Togo. He ends up with the Martin Family, an upper-middle-class family of four in Lagos. At their home, he will work overtime for his meals and shelter as a houseboy. Fast forward to the present day, Kossi is still a houseboy with the Martins. He dreams of a better life, but with barely any education, he knows his future is compromised. He relies on his natural abilities and talent to carve out a way for himself, soon discovering the art of counterfeit money printing and floating the most flawless counterfeit dollars in the Eastern Hemisphere. Soon out on his own, he employs the services of a few friends and grows the operation substantially, landing him on the radar of a young determined currency agent who will stop at nothing to bring him to justice. A genuine thriller that will have you on the end of your seat! Nominee, Best International Narrative Feature, American Black Film Festival 2020; Nominee, Best First Feature, PAFF 2020
Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death (PAFF 2005) Documentary/Belgium/Australia/Canada/Denmark/Finland/France/Germany/Netherlands/UK/92min/2003
Director: Peter Bate
A visually stunning docudrama revealing the true story of the terror and shocking brutality implemented by King Leopold II of Belgium as he created a wealthy empire by turning the Congo into a brutal labor camp for the harvest of rubber, resulting in the death and maiming of over 10 million people between 1885 and 1908.
Documentary Honorable Mention, 2005 PAFF
Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra (PAFF 2021)
Director: Wayne Blair & Nel Minchin
Featuring authentic storytelling, mesmerizing technique, and deeply moving and spectacular performances, combined with inimitable soundscapes, candid interviews, and a treasure trove of archival footage, this beautifully executed film evidences why Bangarra Dance Theater developed from a little-known Indigenous dance group into one of the nation’s most powerful cultural institutions. Historically important, Firestarter explores the loss and reclaiming of culture, the burden of intergenerational trauma, and crucially, the extraordinary power of art as a messenger for social change and healing. Taking the viewer through Bangarra’s birth and spectacular growth to where it is now entering its 4th decade, this historically important film recognizes Bangarra’s early founders, telling the story of how three young Aboriginal brothers – Stephen, David and
Russell Page – turned the newly born dance group into one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies. Feature Documentary Award and Inaugural Change Award, Adelaide Film Festival 2020; Best Documentary, Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts Awards
Love Jacked (PAFF 2018)Narrative/Canada/South Africa/100min/2017
Director: Alfons Adetuyi
LOVE JACKED is a sophisticated small-town Romantic Comedy centered around Maya, a headstrong 28-year-old with artistic ambitions, and her father Ed, who wants a dutiful daughter to run the family store. Ed is shocked when Maya, asserting her independence, decides to travel to Africa for inspiration and returns with a fiancé who is not quite what he seems. Stars Amber Stevens-West, Shamier Anderson, Keith David, Mike Epps, Demetrius Grosse, Lyriq Bent, Marla Gibbs, Angela Gibbs, Nicole Lyn.
Programmers’ Award-Narrative Feature, PAFF 2018
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (PAFF 2017)
Director: Bob Hercules & Rita Coburn Whack
Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” icon Maya Angelou gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before. Dr. Angelou’s was a prolific life– as a singer, dancer, activist, poet, and writer she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. This unprecedented film celebrates Dr. Angelou by weaving her words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos, which paint hidden moments of her exuberant life during some of America’s most defining moments. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana to her inaugural speech for President Bill Clinton, the film takes us on an incredible journey through the life of a true American icon. The film also features a remarkable series of interviews with friends and family including President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Secretary Hillary Clinton, John Singleton, and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson. Best Documentary, 2016 Boulder International Film Festival; Best Documentary, 2016 Ft. Myers Film Festival; Audience Award, 2016 AFI Docs Film Festival; Audience Award, 2016 Cinetopia Film Festival; Audience Award & Best International Film, 2016 Encounter
Nasser’s Republic: The Making of Modern Egypt (PAFF 2017)
Director: Michal Goldman
The first film for an American audience about one of the Arab world’s most transformative leaders. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the Egyptian monarchy and soon became a symbol of Egyptian/Arab progress and dignity. From 1952 to 1970, he challenged Western hegemony abroad, confronted Islamism at home, and faced deep divisions among the Arabs. He also established the region’s first military authoritarian regime. A man of enormous charisma and ambition, Nasser had begun a revolution he could not complete. But his ideas, dilemmas, and decisions continue to shape and influence the current world issues.
Special Jury Recognition-Documentary Feature, PAFF 2017
October 1 (PAFF 2015)
Director: Kunle Afolayan
Set in 1960, this psychological thriller details the investigation of police detective Dan Waziri, who is dispatched to a small town in western Nigeria to find the serial killer of young women. Set against the backdrop of the national celebratory mood of the impending Nigerian independence, Waziri is pulled into a game of cat and mouse as he and the killer try to outwit one other. Nominee, Jury Best Narrative Feature, PAFF 2015; Programmers’ Award-Narrative Feature, PAFF 2015
Of Good Report (PAFF 2014)
Narrative Feature/South Africa/101min/2013
Director: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
Parker, a shy and mysterious high school teacher, arrives at his new assignment in a rural school. While he is earnest in his passion for teaching, his extra-curricular attentions are drawn to a gorgeous young girl. When he realizes she is a student at his very school – and forbidden fruit – he grows increasingly obsessed. When the girl goes missing, a female detective comes snooping around, fueling Parker’s unstable, even dangerous, behavior. A modern-day classic film noir that will in time prove to be a milestone in Pan African film. Stars Mothusi Magano, Petronella Tshuma, Thobi Mkhwanazi, Nomhlé Nkyonyeni and Tshamano Sebe. Best Feature Film, Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Nigeria. Jury Best Narrative Feature, PAFF 2014; PAFF/BAFTA LA Prize, PAFF 2014
Rattlesnakes (PAFF 2019)
Director: Julius Amedume
Based on Graham Farrow’s acclaimed stage-play RATTLESNAKES, award-winning
writer/director Julius Amedume’s Neo-Noir psychological thriller tells
the story of Robert McQueen, whose typical day takes a turn for the worse
when he’s ambushed by three masked men who accuse him of sleeping with
their wives. He pleads his innocence, but what he does reveal will not
only change all of their lives forever – but will it be enough to save
his? Stars Jimmy Jean-Louis. Audience Award – Narrative Feature, PAFF 2019; Best African Diaspora Director, AMAA 2019; Best Feature Film, Africa International Film Festival, 2019
The Case of the Three Sided Dream (PAFF 2015)
Director: Adam Kahan
Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a one-of-a-kind musician, satirist, and windmill-slayer, who despite being blind, becoming paralyzed, and facing America’s racial injustices – did not relent. His life’s work was exploring sound and making music. As an outspoken activist, he started a political movement to get more exposure to Jazz on American television. A generous musical soundtrack, archival footage, and interviews with family, friends, and colleagues create a mesmerizing portrait of this super-human, multi-instrumental musical force who played his music literally until the day he died. Special Jury Recognition-Documentary, PAFF 2015
The Great Kilapy (O Grande Kilapy)(The Big Swindle) (PAFF 2014)Narrative Feature/Angola/Portugal/2012/100minDirector: Zézé Gamboa
In the days just before Angolan independence, João Fraga, an Angolan good-hearted womanizer and bon vivant, unwittingly becomes a subversive political issue and hero when he pulls off a massive swindle of the colonial administration to support his affluent lifestyle. Based upon a true story, this amusing and completely captivating tale of the unlikely hero stars the famous, charismatic Brazilian actor Lázaro Ramos.
*Kilapy- word from the Angolan native language Kimbundu meaning coup, scheme, fraud, borrow without paying.
Special Jury Recognition-Documentary Feature, PAFF 2017; Best Actor, Festival de Cinema Itinerante de Lingua Portuguesa.
The Forgotten Kingdom (PAFF 2014)
Narrative Feature/Lesotho/South Africa/98min/2013
Director: Andrew Mudge
Grown accustomed to the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, a young Johannesburg hustler, Atang, reluctantly embarks on a journey to bury his estranged father. As he travels to his ancestral land in the rural mountain kingdom of Lesotho to fulfill his father’s last wish, he must quickly adjust to the more spiritual rhythms of the Basotho people. What begins as an inconvenience quickly becomes a magical rite of passage charged with humor and self-discovery. Stirred by memories of his youth, Atang’s journey takes an unexpected turn as he falls in love with Dineo, his childhood friend, now a radiant young schoolteacher. Atang asks Dineo’s father for her hand in marriage, but because he is unable to pay the bride price, her father removes Dineo to an even more remote village to keep them separated. Atang pawns his only article of value, the ring he took from his father’s finger, to finance his journey to follow his love. He also befriends a precocious eleven-year-old orphan, who becomes both his companion and spiritual guide of sorts during the arduous journey across the breathtaking mountains of Lesotho. Throughout his journey, Atang begins to encounter villagers who lead him further on this unexpected, often mystical, journey into his past. Beautifully shot, written, and acted, this epic-like film reveals a pilgrimage of hope, family, and maturity as Atang surrenders to the rhythm and traditions of his homeland. In the process, he, along with anyone watching, is transformed by the mystical beauty and hardships of the people and the land he had forgotten. Stars Zenzo Ngqobe, Nozipho Nkelemba, Jerry Mofokeng, Moshoeshoe Chabeli, Lillian Dube, Lobohang Ntsane and Sam Phillips.
Best Director-First Feature Narrative, PAFF 2014; Audience Award, Best Narrative Feature, Woodstock Film Festival, 2013; Best Fiction Feature, Golden Punt Audience Award, Cambridge Film Festival 2013
The Milkmaid (PAFF 2021)
Director: Desmond Ovbiagele
A Fulani milkmaid confronts religious extremists in rural Sub-Saharan Africa in a quest to locate her missing sister, but efforts to recapture her disrupted past prove complicated. Nigeria’s submission for the Best International Feature Film Oscar.
Best Film, AMAA 2020; Best Nigerian Film, AMAA 2020; Best Make-up, AMAA 2020; Programmers’ Narrative Feature Award, PAFF 2021
Viva Riva! (PAFF 2010)
Narrative/Democratic Republic of the Congo/96min/2010
Director: Djo Tunda Wa Munga
The film follows a fuel smuggler, Riva, after he brings a fuel shipment into Kinshasa. Riva is pursued by an Angolan gangster, Cesar, who wants the fuel. Cesar uses blackmail to gain the help of a local military officer, the Commandant, who then accesses a local informant and church resources to aid Cesar’s search. Meanwhile, Riva falls for Nora, the partner of a local gangster, Azor. Riva gains the trust of a local boy and uses his help to find Nora again. The conflicts turn out to be deadly for almost all the main characters. 2011 Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography & Best Production Design AMMA, 2011 MTV Movie Awards for Best African Movie.
About the Pan African Film Festival
Established in 1992 by Hollywood veterans Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon), the late Ja’Net DuBois (“Good Times”), and Ayuko Babu (Executive Director), the Pan African Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has remained dedicated to the promotion of Black stories and images through the exhibition of film, visual art, and other creative expression. PAFF is one of the largest and most prestigious Black film festival in the U.S. and attracts local, national, and international audiences. In addition, it is an Oscar qualifying festival for animation and live-action films, and one of the largest Black History Month events in America.
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