Articles: PAFF: Paving the Way for Black Films




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Samantha Ofole-Prince

The competitive line-up for the 2012 Pan African Film Festival is heavily loaded with powerful narratives, tragic tales and urban love stories.

 A showcase for films of African heritage, and an alternative to mainstream film festivals such as Cannes and Sundance, it’s a place, according to the festival’s co-founder Ayuko Babu, where black filmmakers go to get recognition for their projects.

Ayuko Babu

“There are no black audiences at Cannes and Sundance,” says Babu. “If you don’t have a main or big studio behind your film, what you do is put your film in a film festival to show a distributor that there is an audience for your film. That’s why black film festivals are important.”

With 160 films culled from 500 submissions in continents from South America, Europe and Africa, the Pan African Film Festival has been very, very good for black cinema.

Just a few years ago, the South African film, “Tsotsi” won the jury prize for best feature at the festival. The movie went on to win the Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards.

Ayuko Babu and Sidney Poitier

“We promoted and talked about it and were able to get the old voters from the Academy to come out and see and vote for that film,” adds Babu, who partially credits PAFF’s involvement for the movie’s success.

Established in 1992 by Danny Glover, actress Ja’Net DuBois and Babu, a political consultant who specializes in African Affairs, PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country.

“It’s the only place where we can tell our stories,” continues Babu. “As a result of colonization and the slave trade, African people and people of African descent are spread out throughout the world, and our stories are complex.”

From “Children of God,” which deals with homophobia in the Caribbean community to “Africa United,” an extraordinary story of three Rwandan kids who walk 3000 miles to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa, PAFF offers a slate of culturally enriching films.

“There is always a new craft of films and each year our stories are different, as each year people bring new stories. That is what makes the festival fresh and interesting, because we as a people are telling our own stories.”

Screenings will take place on February 9-20 at the Rave Cinemas 15, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

Ayuko Babu with Idris Elba and Company

At the close of the festival, prizes will be handed out for the Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature, and Best First Feature Film, as well as audience favorite awards.

With 91 feature length films and 67 short films on the schedule, among this year’s offerings is a documentary on Bob Marley by director Esther Anderson & Gian Godoy, which is based on footage shot in the early 1970s. There’s also the powerful documentary on the origin of AIDS. Directed by Peter Chappell & Catherine Peix, the filmmakers connect the origin of AIDS with the injection of nearly a million Africans with an experimental polio vaccine.

“A lot of black films try to explain us to other people and we are not interested in those type of films. A movie which enhances, enriches and enlightens is what we are interested in.” continues Babu, who sits on the jury of the African Movie Academy awards.

For much of the festival’s 11 days, PAFF will take movie goers on a cinematic journey with international film screenings from around the globe and Q & A’s with the film directors.

Ayuko Babu with Blair Underwood and Company

“We have one billion black people in Africa and the future for the Pan African Film business rests in South Africa and Nigeria. They have broken out and are creating stories and movies. They have their studios and the money and they don’t need the American market,” adds Babu.

The festival also hosts an awards show, Night of Tribute, honoring world-renowned actors, filmmakers, community leaders and fine artists for their contributions on stage, television, film, the arts and the community.

Actress Meagan Good (“Think Like a Man,” “Jumping the Broom,”) and actor David Oyelowo (“Red Tails”) will receive the Beah Richards and Canada Lee Emerging Artist Awards, respectively. Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Devine (“Jumping the Broom,” Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls,”) will receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

For more information on PAFF, visit

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