General Manager-Pan African Film Festival
Los Angeles, CA -- With her light brown dreadlocks, colorful Afrocentric dress and ivory bangles that tinkle when she walks, no one would guess that Asantewa Olatunji is one of the powerhouses behind the annual Pan African Film Festival, the largest African American film festival in the country.
“I act as general counsel for the festival and address any contractural issues the festival might encounter,” said Olatunji, a lawyer for 37 years. Olatunji works throughout the year reviewing films, paying bills, meeting with filmmakers and distributors, and planning the festival agenda.
The festival, which recently celebrated its 17th year and is held each February, annually draws filmmakers, distributors, actors, and audience members. For two weeks it provides a stimulating mix of films, panel discussions, workshops and dialogue about films from the African diaspora from around the world.
“We showed 140 films pertaining to Africa and its diaspora this year,” said Olatunji, who with the festival’s executive director, Ayuko Babu, travel to other countries several times a year to meet with filmmakers and screen films for the festival. “Our goal is to show African American audiences the beauty of African culture whether the films come from Italy, the Caribbean, South Africa, Nigeria, or Thailand.”
When the festival is operating, Olatunji is a whirlwind of activity. “When the festival is going, it’s exhausting. It’s like being the pilot of a 727. But after its over, you miss the excitement,” Olatunji reflected.
Some of Hollywood’s best talent, bar none, gathered together for a night of celebration, recognition and promise. The red-carpet event was presented by the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) and the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).
PAFF honored the best and the brightest in its annual “Night of Tribute” on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.
When author Suzanne Collins created the “The Hunger Games” trilogy, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem, she simultaneously created social debates on race. The fictional country consists of a wealthy capital and twelve surrounding districts. District 11 is the home of Rue and Thresh, who are supporting characters in both the book and the movie, and it is depicted as an area near what had once been Atlanta, Ga.
Hats off to the recently departed 2012 Pan African Film Festival.
To the community’s delight, the film festival and art show returned to our own backyard at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, and the adjoining theater now known as The Rave Cinemas.
The festival, often referred to simply as PAFF, continues to showcase great feature-length films, such as Steve Harvey’s “Think Like a Man,” scripted from his best-selling book, which kicked off the festival.
There was a time when racism and segregation arguably brought out the best in Black people in America. From owning small businesses and farms to building hospitals and small towns, African Americans demonstrated a knack for survival and self-reliance despite the various obstacles they faced.
But some argue that was just the beginning of something that could have been greater. Others suggest there is still an opportunity to gain a strong Black economy, but only with the effort of a Pan African union.
“We are heirs and custodians of a great legacy. We must bear the glory and burden of that legacy.”— Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights leader.
Los Angeles’ cultural diversity is what distinguishes it from most international cities. But many African Americans are concerned that their cultural influence on the city’s history is undervalued.