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To say that 2009 was a very tough year, is most decidedly an understatement, particularly, when it comes to African Diaspora cultural events and organizations.
As he prepares for the 18th annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) and accompanying events, Feb. 10-17, organization founder Ayuko Babu notes that this year’s theme–Get Involved–speaks directly to what the Black community must do to make life better for themselves and their cultural organizations.
“When you have the bust and boom of capitalism–and we’re in the bust cycle now–it’s very important that Black people get involved and try to influence policy, because if you don’t get involved; if you’re not at the meetings and on the scene, people will make decisions about your life, that you won’t have anything to do with.
“We’re trying to add our little voice to get people involved to influence policies and programs,” added Babu, who also noted that in order to wield influence, Black people must demonstrate to film distributors that there is a market for diverse films by and about people of African descent.
“Skin,” a film that screened at PAFF in 2009, is a prime example of how the “system” works.
“Skin picked up some distribution last year because so many people came out to see it. That is one of our successes, and it came out of the film festival.”
PAFF’s part in promoting involvement is to screen films that speak to the issues, that demonstrate the impact of involvement as well as lack of involvement.
Among the festival’s approximately 100 films, there are quite few that demonstrate the theme on both a national and international scale.
“Blood Done Sign My Name,” which will have its world premier, Feb. 10 at the Director’s Guild is a case in point.
Written and directed by Jeb Stuart, this 128-minute documentary starring some of Hollywood’s noted up and coming young African American actors, looks at the story of Oxford, NC.
In the 1970s, a White businessman and his son were acquitted of murdering an unarmed 23-year-old Black Vietnam vet in cold blood and full public view.
In response to the travesty of a trial, young Black men in the rural town, including Ben Chavis (Morrow’s cousin) began to organize and marched on the state capital. They also instituted actions that crippled the state’s then main economic base–tobacco–that still have repercussions today.
Those actions would also serve as the foundation for helping catapult Chavis and other young Black men into national leadership roles.
Chavis holds a doctorate in ministry from Duke University and is also president and CEO of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), founded by entertainment and fashion mogul Russell Simmons.
A South African film by John Kani called “Nothing But the Truth,” explores the relationship between two brothers–one who becomes a liberation freedom fighter and other who sits on the sidelines during the conflict and then wants to take advantages of the opportunities after victory. The 118-minute film explores the jealousy, resentment and other feelings that exist between the two camps that the brothers represent.
Other films examine different aspects of the African Diaspora including “Go Bama” created by a young East Germany-born Sudanese who parallels his life to that of Barack Obama and chronicles the president’s rise including filming at the Iowa primary and during Obama’s visit to Berlin.
“This film is told from an outsider’s standpoint and from an African standpoint of a Black person raised in Germany,” explained Babu.
The PAFF director said the filmmaker commented in the film, as Obama stood speaking on a spot favored by Hitler for making speeches, that the Nazis would have considered Obama a Mongol. Hitler would have immediately executed the U.S. president 75 years ago.
Radmilla is the story of a famed singer of Navaho songs who is both African American and Navaho and was raised on the reservation.
“This takes you into another aspect; another dimension of our life,” noted Babu.
PAFF begins Feb. 10 with the premier of Blood Done Sign My Name at 6 p.m. with a red carpet at the Directors Guild of America. The cost is $150.
Films screen throughout the day at the Culver Plaza Theatre, 9919 Washington Blvd., in Los Angeles. (Check the web site for specific times,
An art show featuring more than 100 fine artists and crafts people from around the world will exhibit Feb. 12-15 at the Westfield Culver Plaza, (formerly Fox Hills Mall), 6000 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City.
On Feb. 12, PAFF will hold its annual awards tribute beginning at 6 p.m. at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4817 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles.
Among the people who will be honored are: Glynn Turman, Nate Parker and Tatyana Ali. The cost is $65, and the event will be taped by The African Channel for later airing across the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.
“Wearable Art on the Move,” the PAFF fashion show Feb. 14 beginning at 2 p.m. is a free event held at Center Court of the Westfield Shopping Center.
Other events include a free Children’s Fest Feb. 13 beginning at 10 a.m. at the shopping center; a spoken word festival Feb. 12 at 9 p.m. at the Culver Plaza Theatres (cost: $15); free screenings for seniors Feb. 11, 12, 16 and 17; and a variety of free panels and workshops Feb. 13, 14 and 15.
On Feb. 15, a program called Centerpiece (cost $30) and features a screening of the film “41st and Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers” followed by a panel discussion.
Festival tickets are $7.50 all day for children ages 2-12; $8.50 for seniors with identification all days; $8.50 for the adult matinee (before 3 p.m.); and $10 for regular adult admission. All-access passes are also available for $350, and a $40 pass will purchase five general admission adult tickets.
The event closes Feb. 17 with ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. at the Culver Plaza Theatres. The festivities include an awards ceremony announcing the winners of the PAFF filmmaker competition.
Finally, in a effort to assist Haitian earthquake victims, PAFF will donate all proceeds from the screenings of “Haiti: The Sleeping Giant” to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund.
For additional information on the festival and all its events, visit the web site at or call (310) 337-4737.