Entertainment Lead Story Movies West Edition

Stars shine on opening night at Pan African Film Festival

“Art is our voice resonating about who we are and where we stand in the world and how we intend to use ourselves to change the world,” said actor Danny Glover, at the opening night of the 28th annual Pan African Film Festival.

“That’s what films do. That’s what art does.”

Glover, best known for his roles in the “The Color Purple (Mister) and the “Lethal Weapon” franchise (Roger Murtaugh), is co-founder of the film festival.

Glover plays “Grampa Allen” in one of the festival’s spotlight films, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” The film centers on gentrification and the story of a young man (Jimmie Fails) searching for home in a changing city that seems to have left him behind.

Fails was one of many actors who walked the red carpet on opening night to promote their work and support the festival. Others celebrities included director Frances-Anne Solomon and Trinidad and Tobago actor Nickolai Salcedo, Tatyana Ali, Vanessa A. Williams, Darren Henson and Petre Byrd.

The evening’s feature film, “HERO:  Inspired by the Extraordinary Revolutionary Life and Times of Diplomat and Judge Ulric Cross,” was based on the story of a native Trinidadian. An appreciation from Trinidad and Tobago’s Cultural Department was read by Tatyana Ali, whose father is also a native of the small Caribbean island.

Festival Co-Founder and Executive Director Ayuko Babu says the festival’s goal is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help destroy negative stereotypes.

He also credits the festival for giving context to the varied experiences of the African diaspora. 

“We don’t know the story in Trinidad, we don’t know the story in Nigeria, and we don’t know the story in Brazil.  All those places are a part of slavery colonization and contain a little bit of our story,” he said.

“If you put all those stories together, then you begin to understand the sophisticated and complex nature of who we really are as a people. Also, you begin to get exposed to some truths that we don’t normally get, because we only hear the story in Los Angeles.” 

This year, the festival will present films representing 40 countries in 26 different languages. The festival will present juried prizes for Best Narrative Feature, Best First Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, and Best Narrative Short as well as audience favorite awards at the close of the festival. Individuals have also been recognized for their contribution to the black film industry.

Previous award recipients include Forest Whitaker, Omari Hardwick, David Oyelowo, Alfre Woodard, Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Sidney Poitier, Nate Parker, Loretta Devine, Phylicia Rashad, Charles Dutton, Billy Dee Williams as well as industry professionals that work in front and behind the camera.

In addition to more than 200 film screenings, the festival also features a SpokenWord Fest and fashion show, institutes and panels and a comedy night.

Artfest, the art show that is companion to the film festival inside Baldwin Hill Crenshaw Plaza, will showcase the works of more than 100 painters, artists, jewelers and sculptures from all over the world. Artfest is presented concurrently and will be open through Feb. 23. 

For complete information on the festival, Artfest and other events, visit PAFF.org.