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African Diaspora explored yearly at film festival


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The annual Pan-African Film and Arts Festival made its debut again this year from Feb. 6 through the 19h at the Cinemark 18 Theater in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Featuring some 200 films from across the globe, and artwork on display by over 70 artists, it has become a showcase for the African Diaspora worldwide, and one of the major cultural events for greater Los Angeles.

This year’s reprise was especially significant as Founder and Executive Director Ayuko Babu is turning over the reins to his son, Oduduwa Olatunji. A native Angelino and proud graduate of Morehouse College, Oduduwa is a true renaissance man and seasoned performer in his own right, as an actor, comedian, and producer. Babu will remain connected to PAFF, holding the title Executive Director, Emeritus.

Continuing it’s tradition of exhibiting motion pictures relevant to people of African descent, this year’s Centerpiece selection was the world premier of “For the Love of the Motherland,” an historical drama set during the Tigray War in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, between Nov. 2020 and Nov. 2022.

Before the screening the audience observed a presentation of the Ja’Net Dubois Lifetime Achievement Award to Bill Duke. Duke is an actor, director, and producer with 40 years of experience in front of and behind the camera, whose 78 credits include “Dark Girls,” “Deep Cover,” and “A Rage in Harlem.” In addition to his professional accolades, he is an humanitarian whose efforts have been recognized by President Bill Clinton and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. His non-profit Duke Media Entertainment is strategically located a few blocks east of the Director’s Guild, where it provides mentoring to young African-Americans interested in pursuing careers in entertainment.

The award was named in honor of the late actress Ja’Net Dubois, who along with Ayuko Babu and actor Danny Glover founded PAFF in 1992. Before her untimely death in 2020, the Brooklyn, NY native enjoyed a prolific career spanning 60 years, with 69 credits, according to IMDb. They include the television shows “Charlie’s Angels,” “Good Times,” and “Moesha,” along with films “A Man Called Adam.”

A border conflict that mushroomed into full-scale combat, it resulted in between 162,000 to 378,000 people killed, while some estimate the death toll to be as high as 600,000. The area remains on the list of organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, with allegations of human rights violations as the region began a lucrative market for the global arms trade, with drones, small arms, tanks and other paraphernalia utilized from countries not directly involved in the hostilities, including Iran, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The film itself is an historical drama, a variation on the familiar Romeo and Juliet template in which two lovers on opposing sides find themselves locked in mortal combat, in an epic that utilized some 30,000 extras and took two years to complete. Prior to the screening it was revealed that final editing was completed just days before the event.

Immediately afterwards a panel discussion took place with director Theodore “Teddy” Teshome, PAFF Celebrity Ambassador and four time NBA champion John Salley, and dignitaries from the Ethiopian film industry and government. The conversation was interrupted when a gentleman in the audience, apparently connected to one of the warring factions, began to hurl accusations at the crowd seated on stage. He ignored efforts by Salley to pacify him, and was physically removed from the building by security.

Order was quickly restored, and those assembled enjoyed catered food and complimentary cocktails for the rest of the evening.

Established in 1992, the The Pan-African Film Festival has been an international beacon for Black cinema. It is the largest Black film and arts festival and Black History Month activation in the United States. It features a mix of filmmakers, artists and unique craftspeople from more than 40 countries and is largely recognized as the quintessential global celebration of Pan-African cultures. Each year, more than 200 new Black films are featured, along with filmmaker question-and-answer sessions.

An annual event, information for next year’s showcase may be accessed at the festival’s website at