PAFF-How Sweet It Is
Los Angeles-The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) is in full stride. PAFF is dedicated to the advancement of cultural diversity and education through the exhibition of positive and realistic media images. The 16th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival officially got under way Thursday, February 7, with a star-studded red carpet Opening Night Gala Celebration. “Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation” the newest film by award-winning film maker Charles Burnett was screened during the Gala. The Opening Night Gala was sponsored in part by the Namibian Film Commission, Pan African Centre Namibia, Directors Guild of America and Starr Africa Rum. This year’s theme is Explore a Heritage; Refresh the Soul.
Friday, February 8, - I arrived at the AMC MJ Theatres at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza just as actor/singer Herb Jeffries vehicle pulled into the parking lot. I was pleasantly surprise to see Mr. Jeffries in attendance for the premiere of “A Colored Life: The Herb Jeffries Story.” This movie directed by Kim Clemons tells the long and colorful life of legendary entertainer and “The Bronze Buckeroo” Herb Jeffries, “America’s first Black singing cowboy.” This movie featured rare film clips of Mr. Jeffries performing with another legend Mr. Duke Ellington. Mr. Jeffries made the experience more personal by signing autographs, posing for photographs, and speaking to each and every individual as if he has known them for his entire life.
I’m very fortunate to see several movies that relate to various genres of music. “I Love Hip Hop in Morocco” was an interesting movie just by its title along. One can see how American hip-hop/rap has a Universal appeal and a global reach/influence in other cultures. Imagine, if you will a movie about hip-hop/rap without the misogyny, gangsterism, gratuitous violence, bling, profane language in a Muslim country that you would associate with its American counterpart.
Saturday, February 9-I have visited New Orleans numerous times in the past for the French Quarter Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as well as Mardi Gras. “Tootie’s Last Suit” directed by Lisa Katzman. Movie goers were able to view the story of Allison “Tootie” Montana, Chief of Yellow Pocahontas Hunter and the complex relationships, rituals, history, and music of New Orleans vibrant Mardi Gras Indians. This movie is one of my favorites considering that I had a first hand look into the Mardi Gras Indians through my visits to the Crescent City.
Another movie worth mentioning as well as adding to your DVD library is Stepping” directed by Marshall Blackwell and Norman Whiteburn. If you saw the movies “How She Moves (currently showing in local theatres) or “School Daze” by Spike Lee, you have witnessed the stepping phenomena. This history of stepping which is popular amongst the fraternities and sororities at Historical Black Colleges and Universities, consist of modern dance (tap and jazz), call and response with military movements and cadences.
I sat in on the very informative panel “Hiring a Composer” moderated by Sam Brown III. The panel featured Kurt Farquhar, Stephen James Taylor, Eric Butler, and Todd Cochran. Clips of the movies, videos etc. were shown that featured music composed by members of the panel. “The job of the composer is to try to get the vision of the Director in a music score” stated Kurt Farquhar. Can you imagine any of the current slate of films without a musical soundtrack? Moderator Samm Brown III host of Samm Brown’s for The Record on KPFK-90.7-Public Radio is also a well known composer.
Sunday, February 10- I strolled through the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to enjoy the amazing talents of artists at the Art Show that consisted of various paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewelry, and furniture. My day concluded by seeing a series of short films. The short films are group together and showed back to back. It is amazing to see the creativity that goes into these films in the time frame that the filmmakers have to work.My favorite short film so far has been "Bold As Love" directed by Joshua Gee Alafia,starring Thandiwe Maphumulo,Ezra Mabengeza,Roger Guenveur Smith,Magaly Colimon,Masauko,Vincent Burwell,Lady Blue,Miralva Melo Swaby,and Duke Mseleku.
The Pan African Film & Arts Festival continues unto Monday, February 18. There are over 100 films remaining to be viewed from now unto Monday. Additional highlights include the Free Children’s Fest-this is great fun for the entire family! Each Saturday morning during the festival, children and their parents are invited to a free movie screening followed by storytelling, inter-active activities, refreshments, and family fun! There is also a StudentFest, a free program that matches students with age-appropriate films dealing with issues relevant to youth such as teen pregnancy, AIDS prevention, literacy, cultural and racial respect, teen self-esteem and gang prevention. Before the screenings, speakers working in areas related to the subject matter of the films conduct positive and inter-active discussions. If that isn’t enough there is a Spoken WordFest, PAFF Comedy Nights, PAFF Fashion Show, Senior Connections-(free screenings for Seniors over 60-for selected films on February 12-15), Panels and workshops, Art Show Exhibit, and the PAFF Award Buffet Brunch (announcements of the winners of the 2008 PAFF Film competition).
Visit the Pan African Film & Arts Festival website for daily updates- www.paff.org or call the PAFF Gallery-(323)295-1706 or AMC Magic Johnson Theater Box Office-(323)290-5900. Tickets can be purchased at www.fandango.com