Honored as America’s largest and most prestigious international Black film festival, The Pan African Film Festival took place February 7-18, 2013 at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The festival selected 154 films, representing 34 countries, which included documentaries, feature films, and short films.
Those in attendance throughout the week were exposed to independent filmmakers on the rise, while getting a glimpse of their favorite TV and film actors. Opening night, PAFF screened “Vipaka,” starring Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, in the psychological thriller, set in New Orleans. The film followed Angel Sanchez and his wayward plan to seek the truth regarding his mother’s death.
The next night proved to be brighter and full of praise, as PAFF joined forces with the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) to honor actors, filmmakers, and community leaders who bring engaging images to the screen. Working hard and being dedicated to one’s craft seemed to be a running theme with each recipient. Highlighting the “passing of the torch” to the next generation, was actress Nicole Beharie, (American Violet, Shame, 42), who received the Beah Richards Rising Star Actress Award; and actor Omari Hardwick, (Middle of Nowhere), who received the Canada Lee Rising Star Actor Award. In addition, AAFCA recognized producer Reginald Hudlin (“Django Unchained”), director Peter Ramsey (“Rise of the Guardian”), actor Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of Southern Wild”), director Ava DuVernay (“Middle of Nowhere”), and actor Nate Parker (“Arbitrage”), for their film contributions.
On February, 17, 2013, PAFF screened “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” a film directed by Shola Lynch and executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith. “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” will release exclusively at AMC locations in select markets on April 5, 2013.
The 12-day event closed on President’s Day, with the revealing of the winners of the films in competition. The festival handed out jury, audience and special prizes during an awards brunch in the filmmakers honor. Some of the selected winners included, director Sudz Sutherland, Pan African Film Festival-British Academy Of Film And Television Arts/La (Bafta/La) Festival Choice Award, “Home Again” (Canada). Director Patricia Benoit, Best Feature Narrative, “Stones in the Sun” (Haiti/US). Director David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga, Best Director, First Feature, “Nairobi Half Life” (Germany/Kenya). Director Shola Lynch, Best Documentary, “Free Angela & All Political Prisoners” (US/France). Director Ramin Niami, Festival Programmers’ Award, “Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn” (US); and director Elias Mael, Audience Award, Narrative Feature, “Against the Grain” (US).
Filmmaker Elias, notes the growing popularity of urban films, but still notices a disconnect with the access of black themed movies being available in theaters. As this festival concluded, filmmakers were left encouraged to begin new projects for the next festival season. For a list of all the PAFF 2013 winners and honorees, visit PAFF.org.