LOS ANGELES — Actress Alfre Woodard has played a nurse, a schoolteacher and a schizophrenic death row inmate, and this week she will assume another role: Lifetime Achievement Award-winner from the Pan African Film Festival.
The festival, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, will honor Woodard at the Opening Night Gala, from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Director’s Guild of America Theatre, 7920 Sunset Blvd. Tickets are $200.
The goal of the Pan African Film Festival, which runs Feb. 9-20, is to promote cultural understanding among people of African descent by showcasing films and art from Africa, the Caribbean and Europe.
“I get excited every year right about this time because I know the Pan African Film Festival is coming. This means that I have felt this exhilaration 25 times,” Woodard said.
Woodard has won five Emmys Awards (from 17 nominations) for roles in “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” “Miss Evers’ Boys,” and “The Practice.” She also has starred in films including “Scrooged,” “The Family That Preys,” “Crooklyn” and “12 Years a Slave.”
For its 25th year, the festival will screen 202 films, 124 of which are feature length. The films represent 56 countries and six different continents, which is the largest selection of black films screened at one event.
“A lot of these films have never been seen by the American eye,” festival spokesperson Darralynn Hutson said. “Everyone in black Hollywood knows to go to our festival for that African connection.”
Hutson said the early work of Oscar nominees Ava Duvernay, Barry Jenkins and Raoul Peck appeared at the first festival in 1992.
“They might’ve been rejected by the mainstream film industry, but we welcomed them with open arms,” Hutson said. “We foster young, black filmmakers.”
To continue the cycle, this year’s program offers sessions such as “Breaking Into the Business: How to Jumpstart Your Hollywood Career in Film & Television” and “Female Empowerment: The Women of Underground.”
“We want to keep growing and leave a legacy for our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children,” said Rachel King, who is also part of the festival.
The programming kicks off with “King of the Dancehall,” a film directed by Nick Cannon on Feb. 9, at the Director’s Guild of America. The red carpet will begin at 6 p.m. and the film will show at 8 p.m.
The plot features an ex-con who travels to Jamaica to start a drug-smuggling operation with a cousin. But once there, he finds himself attracted to a local girl who can captivate an audience on the dance floor.
The centerpiece film, “World Premiere,” directed by Craig Ross Jr., is a dramatic portrayal of a family that fights to keep its business at the top of the communications industry. It will show at 8 p.m. Feb. 15 at Cinemark’s BHC 15, 4020 Marlton Ave. Tickets are $40 (includes screening and after-party) and tickets for the screening only are $20. The red carpet begins at 6:30 p.m.
The festival will close with “The Preacher’s Son” Feb. 19. The film portrays the struggles beneath the smooth-looking veneer of a bishop and his two children. The red carpet begins at 6:30 p.m. and the film screens at 8 p.m. at Cinemark’s BHC 15, 4020 Marlton Ave. Tickets are $60, including the after-party and tickets for the film only are $20.
Special events include Student Fest, a free program showcasing films dealing with issues relevant to young people, such as teen pregnancy, AIDS prevention, self-esteem and gang prevention. That event runs Feb. 13-17 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (all films begin promptly at 10 a.m.) at Cinemark’s BHC 15, 4020 Marlton Ave.