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PAFF celebrates 25 years of ethnic imagery


This year’s iteration of the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) is especially memorable, because it marks the 25th year of this showcase for cinema by and about people of African descent. For a quarter century, the event has expanded upon its stated goal to promote racial tolerance and “reinforce positive images and help destroy negative stereotypes.”

In that time, the festival has become the largest such event of its kind, showcasing more than 150 films in a climate of congenial fellowship and communication about pertinent issues in contemporary society. Towards that end, it hosts an assortment of musical performances, panel discussions, receptions, spoken word presentations and workshops dedicated to aspiring professionals and exposing children to the arts. A special attraction is the annual art show known as “ArtFest,” featuring more than 75 established and emerging artists from around the world, working in every imaginable medium.

Also on the agenda are a fashion show, and the PAFF Institute featuring seminars for those seeking entry into film, the gaming industry, social media, and television.

For the first time this year, PAFF has qualified for awards consideration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, meaning its short films and animated offerings are now eligible for the coveted “Oscar” nomination.

The fest starts off with an opening night screening at the Directors Guild of America (7920 Sunset Blvd.) featuring “King of the Dance Hall” starring Nick Cannon (who also directs), Whoopi Goldberg, Louis Gossett Jr., Busta Rhymes, and breakout Caribbean beauty Kimberly Patterson. This musical drama follows the path of a Brooklyn native (Cannon) who travels to Jamaica and becomes immersed in Kingston street-culture and the syncopated rhythms of its dance scene.

On the dais for this year are offerings from every imaginable genre, just a few of which are listed below:

*The tribulations confronting a minister and his family are examined in “The Preacher’s Son,” the closing night offering based on the New York Times’ bestseller by Carl Weber. It features Clifton Powell, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and Jaleel White.

*PAFF co-founder Ja’net DuBois is featured in “She’s Got a Plan,” a making it in Hollywood saga directed by Fatima Washington (who also stars) with Golden Brooks, Faizon Love, and Paula Jai Parker.

*Global collaboration, a staple of contemporary filmmaking, is behind the production of “93 Days,” a Nigerian film starring African American actors Danny Glover and Tim Reid. Coming off rave reviews at last year’s Chicago Film Festival, the movie focuses on the efforts by medical professionals in Central Africa to contain the Ebola virus in 2015.

Fans of the documentary idiom will find a number of selections on the schedule. Featured prominently is “Chasing Trane: John Coltrane Feature Documentary.” A half century after his demise at the relatively young age of 40, tenor saxophonist John William Coltrane is remembered for his ground breaking musical transformations and a spirituality that transcended his output as an instrumentalist or composer. This John Scheinfeld-directed tribute was made with the support of the Coltrane family, and features commentary by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist Sonny Rollins, featuring Denzel Washington doing voice over work as Coltrane himself. Also weighing in on the jazz giant’s heritage and influence are rock star Carlos Santana, rapper Common, and ex-president and journeyman saxophonist Bill Clinton.

Most screenings will be held at the Rave Cinemas in Baldwin Hills, 4020 Marlton Ave., unless otherwise noted. Most cultural events occur at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza adjacent to the theaters. For more information about ticketing and other events, go to