Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where to be Merry: The 19th Annual Pan African Film Festival

February has been a sensationally action-packed month. Between dinela Restaurant Week, the GRAMMY Awards and the upcoming NBA All-Star weekend, I am ecstatically overjoyed to have this many excuses to put on a cute outfit and step out onto the town practically every single night of the week.

But there’s something even bigger and better that begins today – something that is personally one of the highlights my year – something that I look forward to each and every February.

That “something” is the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF).

Now in its 19th year, this 8-day festival (Tuesday, February 16th – Wednesday, February 23rd) features documentaries, shorts and feature films that celebrate experiences and stories from the African Diaspora. It’s a whirlwind of a week, with inspiring films, informative workshops, entertaining panels, an extravagant gala and even a hip-hop theater performance.

As someone who always roots for the underdog, I personally love PAFF because I can watch so much compelling, original content that doesn’t always make it into mainstream media outlets. To view underground hip-hop documentaries like The Art of 16 Bars (PAFF, 2006) or to have tears streaming down my cheek during comedic date movies like Speed Dating (PAFF 2010, pictured to the right) just really makes my day. The icing on the cake is that more often than not, filmmakers – directors, actors and producers – attend the screenings and will engage in impromptu Q&A sessions after the films. You truly never know who may be sitting in the seat next to you, asking for a handful of your popcorn.

So what can you expect to see this year? More than 100 diverse projects hailing from all over the world – from Africa and Europe, to all throughout North and South America. Check out the PAFF website to find out more about times and shows.

See you there!

For more information:
19th Annual Pan African Film Festival
Screening Location:
Culver Plaza Theatres
9919 Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles 90232
(310) 337-4737

- Why go to PAFF? In the words of one wise lady and friend, Tulani: “PAFF means to me: Tradition, Culture, Expression, Awareness. As a young child, I attended PAFF with my mother. Back then I didn't fully understand the importance of such an organization. Now,
at 23 I GET IT! I enjoy embracing the African Diaspora by learning and supporting others. For I know in almost every featured film, there is some relation to ‘me,’ a mention of ‘you,’ a resemblance of ‘us.’"

- What short films to see? The riveting Grace, a short film about a mother and her heroin-addicted pregnant daughter. The film’s writer/director
Roni Nicole describes it as “a moving and beautiful portrait of unconditional love.”

Also check out Bathroom Vanities (pictured to the right), directed by Christopher Scott Cherot (Hav Plenty). Producer/Actor Dele Ogundiran says: "The film takes a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover comedy about one woman’s unforgettable experience in a public restroom."

- What feature film to watch? Gang Girl: A Mother's Journey to Save Her Daughter (Pictured to the left). A daughter’s involvement in an LA gang propels one mother into a dramatic journey. Co-Producer Delena Turman states: “It is an extraordinary documentary created by Valerie Goodloe, an extraordinary professional photographer. The film is beautiful and truly for anyone. It tells a story that hasn't been told before yet affects everyone…”

- How much? Regular ticket prices range from $9-$11; special PAFF event tickets range from $15-$150; and festival passes are $55 and $300.

- And anything else? I’m telling you: you really can’t just see one movie – you have to see at least two or three. Take the afternoon or go on separate occasions to discover great new films that you’ll surely fall in love with.

*Photos courtesy of the Pan African Film Festival and participating films

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