Top Picks for Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) 2020


by Tom Nguyen

The 28th Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) opened on Tuesday, February 11, and continues through Sunday, February 23, 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. This year’s theme is “20/20 Vision,” kicking off the decade with a fresh lens and solidifying its commitment to tell diverse stories with a global, luminous view.

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.

The festival opened Tuesday, February 11, with HERO: Inspired by the Extraordinary Revolutionary Life and Times of Diplomat and Judge Ulric Cross at the Directors Guild of America, and will feature centerpiece film She Ball on Friday, February 21, and will close with film Zulu Wedding on Sunday, February 23.

Here is my list of other great films I’m excited to see (in alphabetical order). The list is by no means exhaustive, because there are too many worthy films to choose from! This year, PAFF has selected more than 150 films, representing 40 countries in 26 different languages, and you can find the full list of films here. #PAFFNOW is is where I will be movie-binging the next 10 days! Continue Reading →

Top Picks for Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) 2019

by Tom Nguyen

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, with the opening night screening of The Infiltrators, followed by a gala, featuring two of my favorite local artists: La Mera Candelaria and Sizzle Fantastic of Cumbiaton.

Founded in 1997, this is the second year of the film festival, following a 5 year hiatus. Following opening night, the festival will screen feature films and short films by Latinx filmmakers, at TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, from Friday, August 1, through Sunday, August 4. The festival will also present LALIFF Legacy, LALIFF’s free student festival, featuring films produced by students from elementary, middle and high schools, as part of the statewide, public school film program. The festival closes with the world premiere of The Devil Has A Name, directed by festival co-founder and iconic actor, Edward James Olmos.

In addition to the films, there will be live musical performances each night, with more of my favorite artists, like Jarina De Marco , who will be celebrating her debut EP Malcriada, Gemma Castro, and YANGA, plus art, episodics program and special events. Here are my top feature film picks for LALIFF (in alphabetical order):

Continue Reading →

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA6lBW3R__M

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! Continue Reading →

Last Night at the Metro….

by Tom Nguyen

Last night at the metro, I saw a young couple getting physical while arguing, with the girl pushing the guy around. I wanted to say something but they seemed to settle down so I walked down to the platform, hoping they were resolving things.

Then the couple came down the platform, still arguing, and the young man was so distraught, he sat down at the edge of the platform, dangling his legs over the tracks, and sobbing uncontrollably.

I approached them and asked if everything was ok. It was a really tense situation, and a really belligerent man by the name of Javier Rodriguez, who’s a known bully in the building I live in, started making things worse by shouting and making accusations at the girl. I turned around and told him to mind his own business and to shut his mouth, because instead of deescalating the situation, he does what he always does, like in our building, always being aggressive and confrontational.

I sat down next to the crying young man, with my hand on his shoulder, and told him whatever was bothering him, we could talk about it, but the train was going to be here in a few minutes, and nothing is worth getting hurt over. It took a couple of minutes to console him, and eventually he let me take him over to sit on the bench.

Then 2 LAPD officers approached, asking us in an accusatory and aggressive manner why we were all standing off limits on the platform’s edge. I told the young man to stay quiet and that everything’s cool. They immediately threatened to fine us if we jumped the turnstiles without TAP cards and accused all of us of possessing weed and alcohol, saying they could smell it on us. Continue Reading →

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra Electrifies at the Belly Up!


by Tom Nguyen

Last night was an incredible show by Antibalas at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. My first time at this beautiful and historic venue was just last year, to see Salif Keita, and let me tell you a secret I’ve quickly learned: if an act is playing both in Los Angeles AND at the Belly Up, it’s worth the drive for me to see them here, because the sound is incredible and the stage is low, up close and intimate!

And in fact, why not see acts twice? After boasting to a gentleman next to me, that we’d driven 2 hours to be here, he told us he’d driven 3 hours from Moorpark! Brett says Antibalas is a “2 show band” — meaning if they play 2 shows in the area, it’s worth the drive, and he’s seeing them again at their Saturday Los Angeles show at The Regent!


I made the drive with Vanna Mae Art and DJ Glenn Red, who’s been coming to the Belly Up since 1996. We got there in time to catch the last few songs of Here Lies Man, a psychedelic rock group fronted by Marcos Garcia (Chico Mann) and whose percussionist Rich Panta, we know quite well from Very Be Careful. Chico Mann is also the rhythm guitarist in Antibalas, but with Here Lies Man, he gets to really showcase his vocals and rock guitar solos — it’s an audacious mix of what he calls “Afro Rock….What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat?”   Continue Reading →

3 Powerful Videos premiere on International Women’s Day: Ruby Ibarra, La Misa Negra, Nakury

by Tom Nguyen

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll watch these videos that premiered on International Women’s Day 2018 and smash the patriarchy!

“US” – Ruby Ibarra, featuring Rocky Rivera, Klassy, Faith Santilla

Rapper Ruby Ibarra is joined by fellow Bay Area MC Rocky Rivera, Klassy from Echo Park and Los Angeles spoken word artist Faith Santilla for an explosive anthem on Pinay pride. Rocky Rivera says of of the video, “So proud to add my perspective on what it means to be PINAY. We are many shades of militant and we are not your FETISH. I hope lil bby Pinays look at this video and feel proud.” Ruby Ibarra recently played an amazing show at the Bootleg Theater to celebrate her debut album Circa91, and Faith Santilla and Klassy performed last week at AF3IRM LA‘s annual International Women’s Day rally & march (peep my live video).

“Dueña de Mi” – La Misa Negra

Continue Reading →

Interview: 18th Brazilian Carnaval features 2018 Rio Samba Champion, Kids Matinee and more!

by Tom Nguyen

The 18th Annual Brazilian Carnaval happens next Saturday, February 24, at Cafe Club Fais Do Do! This year features singer Neguinho da Beija-Flor, direct from Rio de Janeiro, and I was able to interview Brazilian Nites Productions founder, Patricia Leao, who has been putting on the faithful reproduction of Rio-style Carnaval for almost two decades in Los Angeles.


EnClave.LA: Congratulations on another successful year of Brazilian Carnaval! What do you have in store for us this year?

Brazilian Nites: Thank you! Exited to have yet one more traditional Brazilian Carnaval that will celebrate 18 years with the very special presence of the Samba Star of Carnaval – NEGUINHO DA BEIJA FLOR directly from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil…I would like to say directly from Marquez de Sapucai to be more precise…This is where all the samba schools of Rio parade for 2 full nights competing against each other, with over 3000 dancers per school, amazing floats and special themes. 

We have extended our event to a Kids Matinee Carnaval…after all Carnaval is for everyone in Brazil. This will be from 2pm-6pm and then 8pm to 2am is our Carnaval Party.

We also have a “Market place” that will have food, crafts, giveaways, etc.

So Fais Do Do has three areas that will all be turned into a Brazil for a day from 2pm to 2am! Continue Reading →

Despite injury, Gabriel Garzón-Montano shines at Troubadour 


Story and photos by Johan Moreno

The day before his sold out show at The Troubadour, Gabriel Garzón-Montano sent this message out on his Twitter account: “I think I fractured my left foot. I was having fun shaking my ass for you guys, but I’ll be on crutches or sitting for these shows. Alas.”

Los Angeles holds a special place for Montano. His latest release, “Jardín,” was imprinted by Highland Park’s Stones Throw Records and has been in heavy rotation on KCRW, which has raised his profile. But besides a set of Stones Throw showcases and an album release show at Amoeba Music, this was his first official headlining show in Los Angeles.

However, Montano’s injury did not stop him from performing an electric set in front of an eager crowd at the intimate West Hollywood venue. And yes, he even found the energy to groove around for a few songs. Continue Reading →

Top Cultural Events in Los Angeles: March 22-28


by Tom Nguyen

Eclectic week of music, friends: JAIN from France and Princess Nokia* play sold-out shows. BIA and Los Rakas in town too. So much beautiful fusion of jazz, ambient, soul, blues and world music: Josef Leimberg & The Astral Progressions, Low Leaf & Mia Doi Todd, José James*, Dexter Story and Marcel Camargo leading a whole cast of talents in Celebrating African Heritage, Yemen Blues and CharlElie Couture*. East LA’s Quetzal album release show at JACCC and Buyepongo, 4th Annual Mariachi Women’s Festival, La Chamba, and a new favorite, El Santo Golpe, bring tropical heat to the IE. Aloe Blacc, Cambalache & Jornaleros Del Norte will sing to show support for Pasadena voting to become a sanctuary city, Ron Finley aka the Gangsta Gardener will talk about activism at California African American Museum, the Hammer Museum hosts Her Dream Deferred: On the Status of Black Women. Hollywood Carnival celebrating Caribbean music & dance launches this Friday and much, much more happening all across SoCal this week! *Enter our ticket giveaways!

MUSIC

JAIN
Troubadour (West Hollywood)
Wed. Mar. 23, 9pm, $15-$18, All ages
The French singer with Madagascan roots, who grew up in UAE and the Congo, plays a sold out show at the Troubadour.

Princess Nokia
Globe Theatre (Downtown)
Fri. Mar. 24, 10pm, $25, 21+
“Her full length debut project Metallic Butterfly, saw Frasqueri shape shift into the artist we now know as Princess Nokia. Heavily influenced by DrumNBass and NYC house, Butterfly was an ode to Afro-futurism, anime, comic books, love and Frasqueri’s now signature afro-indigenous urban feminism….It’s the ease with which Frasqueri slips in and out of identities and musical influences that makes her so interesting. She leaves nothing at the door and no label is sufficient: Nuyorican, African, Taina, Bruja, Queer, The Supreme, Ghetto, Tomboy, Bronx Bred, Harlemite, Santera, Goth, Bitch, Nerd, Rapper, Singer, Punk, House, Hip-Hop, Funk, Soul, Trap, Drum-n-Bass; Frasqueri proudly and defiantly embodies all of these simultaneously, while giving a middle finger to anyone who tries to put her or her music in a box.” – Mayda del Valle, EnClave.LA Continue Reading →

Top Cultural Events in Los Angeles: February 8-14


by Tom Nguyen

Pan African Film and Arts Festival, the largest Black History event in the nation, begins this week! Aratani World Series kicks off with 2 of LA’s most innovative & multicultural hip hop dance companies: Versa-Style and Culture Shock LA! Plus tons of great music this week: Low Leaf has her album release with 12 piece orchestra, Los Rakas Grammy party with Subsuelo, LA Retro Festival with Thee Midniters, Urban Badlands presents Noche de Corazones with La Chamba, The Altons, The Red Pears and The Steady 45s and more and De’Anza starts a monthly residency at Mal’s Bar.

Start celebrating Brazilian Carnival with funk, samba and drum groups at Live After 5 in Long Beach and Beats of All Nations in Pomona. TheLIFT ends its long-running underground dance parties with Nickodemus and Chulita Vinyl Club spins Thursday with DJ Degruvme and Sunday at La Cita.

Comedy and political satire like Comedy InvAsian and HisPanic Attack is very relevant in this difficult xenophobic climate right now and there are lots of community events to reaffirm our solidarity together and support one another like Black & Brown Love is Revolutionary at Avenue 50 Studio, LoveUP! at Crenshaw Yoga & Dance and community art walks & marketplaces at Self Help Graphics, East LA Art Walk, Keeping the Culture Alive in Montebello and many more. And congratulations LA Librería on their 2 year anniversary and Las Fotos Project open house of their new location in Lincoln Heights this Saturday!

MUSIC

Live After 5: Mardi Gras Carnival Edition
At The Top (Long Beach)
Thu. Feb. 9, 5pm-11pm, Free, All ages
Live After 5, the DLBA’s free music series returns on February 9th from 5pm – 11pm with a special Mardi Gras Carnival edition. Curated by Bobby Easton of Long Beach Funk Fest fame the event will take place at the brand-new At The Top on Broadway and Pine. Performing at Live After 5: Mardi Gras Carnival Edition will be: Delta Nove,
The White Blinds, Sea Funk Brass Band, Bate Batuque, Gisella Sambista and the Samba Soul Dancers, DJs Dennis Owens of The Good Foot, Glenn Red from La Junta and Afro Funke & more!

Low Leaf and the Ascension Orchestra: Palm Psalms Record Release 
Center for the Arts Eagle Rock
Fri. Feb. 10, 9pm, $12-$15, All ages
Center for the Arts Eagle Rock presents Low Leaf and the 12-piece Ascension Orchestra in a live performance, record release show of her first independent record Palm Psalms A Light to Resolve All Darkness. LA native Low Leaf combines an array of genres in contemporary music by exploring electric harp, piano, guitar, and beat making. Palm Psalms, released on double vinyl under her imprint, Creator DIY, features live instrumentation and freeform orchestration. (*Ticket Giveaway!)

De’Anza’s Residency Launch Party + Single Release with NK Riot
Mal’s Bar (Historic South Central)
Fri. Feb. 10, 9pm-2am, Free, 21+
Join us as we launch De’Anza’s new Friday residency with the release of her brand new single, “La Puerta.” (available 2/10). Every 2nd Friday of the month in 2017, catch De’Anza and her band as they rock the intimate 200 max capacity room at Mal’s Bar. Also joining the monthly party is DJ/visual artist Juxli (Subsuelo / Culture Remixed). He’ll be dropping some serious bangers and coloring the walls with tripped out visuals. Special guest performance by NK-Riot!!! If you missed his much talked about Coachella after-party performance, here’s your chance to see & hear why NK Riot is East LA’s ambassador of electronic music. Continue Reading →