Top Picks for Pan African Film & Arts Festival 2016 Feb. 4-15

by Tom Nguyen

Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF), the largest, most prestigious Black film festival and largest Black History Month event in the US, is one of my most anticipated events of the year! The 24th annual event is February 4-15 at Cinemark/RAVE Cinemas 15 in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and features a staggering lineup of 150 films from around the world on Black life and culture.

PAFF co-founder, actor and activist Danny Glover recently criticized the Oscars and Hollywood for its lack of diversity. In a Variety interview, he remembers growing up in the 60s and 70s and being able to see great films from around the world in cinemas. “It would widen my whole sense of myself and my relationship to the rest of the world. That’s what the movies and art is supposed to be about!” Glover says and that’s been PAFF’s mission for over 2 decades: to showcase films from the Black diaspora from around the world that usually don’t get a chance to be watched by wider audiences.

The other half of this grand event is the large arts & crafts festival, featuring over 100 artists and vendors, showcasing fine art, crafts and fashion from around the world. So give your eyes a rest between films and head over to find great unique gifts and fashion. Support artisans and small businesses like Amaechina Doreen of ByouBnatural, who will be featuring her handcrafted Art Doll artwork and Wamuhu Waweru of Infinite Miss, featuring crafts and fashion from her travels to her native Kenya, South Africa and most recently Indonesia.

There are also special events and programs for everyone, including special screenings for children and seniors, a fashion show, community forums and talks. Don’t miss the special conversation with Nate Parker, whose film Birth of a Nation made recent headlines at its Sundance premiere and got acquired by Fox Searchlight.

So without further ado, here are my film recommendations (and yes I really do make an effort to see 20-30 films every year here!)…let the film marathon begin! Hope to see you there and let us know what you think of this year’s films and festival, using #PAFFNow on Twitter and Instagram!

Dramatic Features

Narrative films including the opening and closing films of PAFF. I’m really impressed with the films from South Africa this year!

America Is Still The Place (LA premiere): PAFF’s opening film is based on the real life story about a giant oil spill on the beaches of northern California and the institutional racism that Charlie Walker has to overcome in order to finally achieve the “American Dream.”

Miles Ahead: The PAFF closing film is about legendary Miles Davis, portrayed, written and directed by Don Cheadle.

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Film Independent screenings in March at LACMA

al pacinoI love the free screenings at LACMA, given by Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, and sponsored by The New York Times. They’re often attended by directors and stars of the movie, such as the last screening, showing the Oscar-nominated No from Chile, with Gael García Bernal in attendance. This March, they’re presenting 3 upcoming films which all happen to be crime thrillers. RSVP opens on March 5…guests at the Q&A to be announced, so get your tickets quick!
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2013 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

oscar(UPDATE 2/27/13: As predicted, Amour won the Oscar. However, if you want to catch a free screening of War Witch at USC tonight Wednesday 2/27, followed by a Q&A with director Kim Nguyen and actress Rachel Mwanza, whose Cinderella story of being cast for the film after being discovered while living on the streets as a homeless orphan child is truly inspirational, RSVP here. You can also RSVP for the 2nd screening, Beyond The Hills, from Romania.)
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