Pan African Film Festival

The 19th annual Pan African Film Festival (Paff), which came to an end in Los Angeles on Wednesday, enjoyed a strong representation from many African countries including South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Mali. Over its eight days from 16 to 23 February, the festival screened over 100 films made by or about people of African descent from the US, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the
Pacific, Europe and Canada.

Established in 1992 by award-winning actors Danny Glover and Ja’Net Dubois as well as Ayuko Babu, an international legal, cultural and political consultant, the festival has grown to become the world’s largest and most prestigious black film festival, and is the largest Black History Month event in the US.

The Paff festival aims to present and showcase a broad spectrum of creative work by people of African descent, particularly work that reinforces positive images and counters negative stereotypes. “We believe film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles,” says Wyllisa Bennet, the public relations director of the festival. “At the same time, it serves as a vehicle to initiate dialogue
on the important issues of our times.”

Almost all the African actors who rubbed shoulders on the red carpet their colleagues from the US and other parts of the world expressed their belief that African film production has caught up with Hollywood production levels, and that their presence at the festival was a testament to that.

“The days when all that you saw from African films centres around juju and murder is long gone,” said Jean Kieta, a Senegalese film critic. “We are now setting the positive agenda for communities and our entire nations to follow through our films.”

African dignitaries attending the festival included Ghana's leading actress Nadia Buari and Kenya's acclaimed novelist Ngugi wa Thiongo, who were honoured with special tributes. Phylicia Rashad and Hope Foye were given lifetime achievement awards.

Also present were African actors Akofa Ejeani Asiedu, Akosua Busia, Pascal Atuma, Ngo Okafor, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Leila Djansi and Sowande Tichawonna, and African American actors Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker, Nate Parker, Clifton Powel, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Gramma Funk, Keith Robinson and Kim Whitley.

The Pan African Film Festival was sponsored by the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles Arts Fund, Macy’s, Wells Fargo Bank, Sony Pictures Entertainment, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and media outlets such as the Africa Channel and the African Trumpet.

  • This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Modern Ghana.