Top Picks for Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) 2019

by Tom Nguyen

The 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) opened on Thursday, February 7, and continues through Monday, February 18, at the Cinemark Rave 15 Theatres at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles, California. The festival is a crown jewel of the African American community in Los Angeles, the largest and most prestigious Black History Month event in the country.

It’s absolutely one of my favorite events of the year and must-see film festivals in Los Angeles. It’s the only opportunity to see so many independent films from the Black diaspora that might not otherwise make it to movie screens here. And it’s more than just a film festival…next door to the theater, inside Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, are 2 floors of fabulous art, crafts and vendors from all over the country.

PAFF has always been a platform for important discussions to inspire, nurture and elevate Black representation in filmmaking. To “amPAFFify” PAFF’s proud history, the organization recently launched an “#IAMPAFF” Meme Generator, designed to allow festival supporters to share their own stories on social media. Festival supporters can join in the fun by creating a meme here to tell their story. There is also a spoken word fest on Saturday, February 9, from 7pm-10pm.

The festival opened Thursday, February 8, with Amazing Grace concert documentary at the Directors Guild of AmericaSpotlight Feature films include Sew the Winter to My SkinBoss: The Black Experience In Business, and The Robeson Effect.

Here is my list of other great films I’m excited to see. The list is by no means exhaustive, because there are too many worthy films to choose from! You can find the full list of films here. #PAFFNOW is is where I will be movie-binging the next 10 days!


Fig Tree
LA Premiere
Dir: Aalam-Warqe Davidian
Thu, Feb [email protected]:40p; Sat, Feb [email protected]:45p
Mina, a Jew, is trying to navigate between a surreal routine dictated by the Ethiopian civil war and her last days of youth with her boyfriend Eli, a Christian. When her family makes plans to immigrate to Israel to escape the war, she weaves a plan to also save Eli.

(2018/Kenya/South Africa/Germany/Netherlands/France/Norway/Lebanon/
Dir: Wanuri Kahiu
Fri, Feb [email protected]:00p
“Good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives,” but Kena and Ziki long for something more. When love blossoms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.

Sew the Winter to My Skin
(2018/South Africa/Narr/118min)
LA Premiere
Dir: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
Sat, Feb [email protected]:40p; Sun, Feb [email protected]:40p; Mon, Feb [email protected]:30p
A visually-rich re-imagining of the hunt for South African folk hero John Kepe, aka The Samson of the Boschberg, who stole from wealthy white farmers to give to the country’s impoverished Black communities during 1950s Apartheid.

Dir: Tchaiko Omawale
Sun, Feb [email protected]:40p; Mon, Feb [email protected]:30p
When a 17-year-old orphan is shipped off to her estranged grandmother, she plots her escape while navigating a foreign environment, new friendships and a hidden eating disorder. Stars Lynn Whitfield, Glynn Turman and Hope Olaidé Wilson.
[Editor’s Note: You also might enjoy Little Woods.]

Dir: Jean-Philippe Gaud
Fri, Feb [email protected]:30p; Sat, Feb [email protected]:20p
Growing up in the Moroccan village of Tazzeka, Elias learned the secrets of traditional Moroccan cuisine from his grandmother who raised him. He goes to France to fulfill his dream of becoming a chef and does so in an
unexpected way.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Dir: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Thu, Feb14 @ 09:15pm
A boy in Malawi helps his village by building a wind turbine after reading about them in a library book.
[Editor’s Note: You might also enjoy Fatuma.]

The Burial of Kojo
LA Premiere
Dir: Blitz Bazawule
Fri, Feb [email protected]:30p
A man is trapped in a mine shaft by his vengeful brother while his daughter embarks on a magical journey to rescue him.

They Had a Dream (Le Rêve Français)
LA Premiere
Dir: Claude Faure
Thu, Feb [email protected]:20p; Fri, Feb [email protected]:00p
Beginning in 1963 to the present day, this family saga moves through several generations of two Guadeloupe families whose destinies lay between their Guadeloupe homeland and metropolitan France.
[Editor’s Note: You might also enjoy The Guardian of No Return.]

What Death Leaves Behind – Non Linear Psych Thriller
Dir: Scott Hamilton
Fri, Feb [email protected]:00p; Wed, [email protected]:55p
After a kidney transplant, Jake Warren experiences a constant plague of nightmares he believes to be visions of his donor’s violent murder, sending him on a path of vengeance but leading to unbearable truth.


Bakosó: Afrobeats de Cuba
World Premiere
Dir: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi
Mon, Feb [email protected]:35p; Tue, Feb [email protected]:15p; Sun, Feb [email protected]:40p
Our connection to Africa is not a thing of the past. When Afrobeats hit Cuba, it help create a new genre called Bakosó, which itself is beautiful proof
that the exchange between Cuba and Africa did not end with the Transatlantic slave trade.
[Editor’s Note: You might also enjoy Galsen: The Language of Souls.]

Black & Privileged: Volume 1
World Premiere
Dir: Mark Harris
Fri, Feb [email protected]:45p; Sun, Feb [email protected]:10p; Mon, Feb [email protected]:15p
A Black community has to fight streets gangs and politicians in order to maintain the economics of their community.

Boss: The Black Experience In Business
World Premiere
Dir: Stanley Nelson
Tue, Feb [email protected]:10p; Sat, Feb [email protected]:40p; Sun, Feb [email protected]:20p; Mon, Feb [email protected]:40p
The untold story of African American entrepreneurship, where skill, industriousness, ingenuity and sheer courage in the face of overwhelming odds provide the backbone of this nation’s economic and social growth.

Jamaica House
US Premiere
Dir: Alfred Gragg
Sat, Feb [email protected]:20p; Mon, Feb [email protected]:00p
Jamaica House was LA’s biggest and longest running Hip-Hop nightclub of the 90s. In this chronicle of the club, viewers venture behind the velvet-rope, from the hood to Hollywood, with rap and reggae’s golden-era elite.
[Editor’s Note: You might also enjoy Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes.]

Mr. Soul!
Dir: Melissa Haizlip
Sat, Feb [email protected]:40p; Fri, Feb [email protected]:45p; Mon, Feb [email protected]:20p
Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. SOUL! In 1968, Ellis Haizlip was asked to produce the first “Black Tonight Show.” Haizlip did that, and more. SOUL! Was one of the most controversial, successful, and socially significant TV shows in US history.

Out of Chaos, an Artist’s Journey in Haiti
World Premiere
Dir: Pascal Giacomini
Fri, Feb [email protected]:45p; Tue, Feb [email protected]:10p
Sculptor and photographer Pascal Giacomini is invited to create art for the Ghetto Biennale of Port-au-Prince. He spends a month in this poorest of slums, creating art and documenting life there. An unusually positive, informative, an unflinching look at Haiti and its Vodoupermeated culture.

The Robeson Effect
World Premiere
Dir: Juney Smith
Sat, Feb [email protected]:00p; Sun, Feb [email protected]:50p
Actors Danny Glover and Ben Guillory recount the remarkable story of their journeys to the creation of the Robey Theatre Company.

Wax Print: 1 Fabric, 4 Continents, 200 Years of History
US Premiere
Dir: Aiwan Obinyan
Sat, Feb [email protected]:00a; Sun, Feb [email protected]:00p; Mon, Feb [email protected]:40a
Wax print has become an iconic fabric that has come to visually represent Africa and Africans. But its history, filtered through a lens of colonialism and cultural appropriation, may tell another story.

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