*Culver City, CA. – It’s a wrap! The 19th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival concluded several days ago. The festival took place February 16-23, 2011 at the Culver Plaza Theatre.

The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF), is America’s largest and most prestigious Black film and arts festival. This year, more than 100 films made by and/or about people of African descent from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Europe and Canada. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country.

“Experience Your World” was this year’s theme with films, panels and workshops, Children’s Fest, Spoken Word Fest, Night of Tribute. All of these events delivered as promised to engage, inform and enlightened the audience.

Once again, I had the pleasure of viewing some amazing films. The first being Africa United. The movie was about several youngsters embarking on a trip to the World Cup in South Africa. The kids were very determined to reach their destination. They demonstrated a lot of tenacity, persistence and perseverance. I’m hoping that the group of teenagers in the screening came away with the same message and more.

Ni Wakati (It’s Time) followed M1 (Dead Prez) and Umi (P.O.W.) on a trip to Kenya. The movie’s subtitle summarizes it well “this is hip-hop redefining the African Experience.”

The Manuscripts of Timbuktu is another historical movie about the historical documents/manuscripts that date back to the early 1400’s. This is also a powerful movie about black icon Ahmed Baba whose legacy is prominently felt in present day Timbuktu.

Besouro is another powerful movie about another marvelous icon from Brazil. Manuel Henrique Pereira was a legendary capoeira fighter from Bahia. HIs legacy continues on all over Brazil, as capoeira was finally recognized as a cultural treasure.

Play Again deal with the sad fact that many young people are addicted to technology and the consequences that result from said addiction. This movie is starting a grassroots movement to get kids, teens, and adults to turn off their electronic gadgets, and get outside and enjoy nature more often.

Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae-this movie had everyone bopping their heads to the contagious music featured in this documentary. This is a must have DVD if you enjoy the memorable music of Jamaica from 1966-69, considered by many to be the golden age. The movie featured discussions with and performances by Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, Dawn Penn, Hopeton Lewis, Stranger Cole, Derrick Morgan, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles, U-Roy, Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Jackie Jackson, Gladstone Anderson, Hux Brown, Bongo Herman, and Scully Simms with special guest appearance by Rita Marley.

Red Hope? The Blacklisting of Hope Foye (Her Story, Her Songs) Film goers were fortunate to view this historical documentary as well as to be in the presence of Hope Foye. She is a remarkable lady still performing and teaching other vocal students her singing techniques.

Corner Store  (see photo above) – This movie brought back a lot of fond memories for me while growing up in Tampa, Florida. This hilarious movie, directed by Joe Doughrity and features Roger Guenveur Smith and Judge Mathis is a must see movie as it makes the film festival circuit. The director is scheduled to host several screenings for residents of Detroit in the summer. I’m hoping that between now and then, that a distributor pick up this very funny movie. The director mentioned that there will be a sequel, as “this movie has the potential to become a franchise” stated Roger Guenveur Smith.

PAFF hopes these films with global appeal will open the minds of its audiences, and transport them to lands far away and back home again … without ever packing a suitcase.

And without further ado, the winners are:

Best Picture (Narrative Feature)
Besouro (Brazil), directed by João Daniel Tikhomiroff Honorable Mention:
The Athlete (Atletu) (Ethiopia), directed by Davey Frankel & Rasselas Lakew Best Documentary Feature Thunder Soul (USA), directed by Mark Landsman Honorable Mention:
War Don Don (USA), directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen Best Short Film (Narrative Short) The Abyss Boys (South Africa), directed by Jan-Hendrik Beetge Honorable Mention:
Hear Me (USA), directed by Kenn Michael
First Feature Film by a Director (Narrative Feature) I Will Follow (USA), directed by Ava DuVernay Honorable Mention:
Hopeville (South Africa), directed by John Trengove Audience Award Narrative Feature The First Grader (Kenya/UK), directed by Justin Chadwick Audience Award Documentary Feature Film (Documentary Feature) Gang Girl: A Mother’s Journey to Save her Daughter (USA), directed by Valerie Goodloe Audience Award Short Film The Black Mozart in Cuba (Guadeloupe), directed by Steve James Pan African Film Festival Board of Directors Awards Best Short Film Precipice (UK), directed by Julius Amedume Best Documentary Film The Manuscripts of Timbuktu (South Africa), directed by Zola Maseko Best Feature Film (Best Feature Narrative) Viva Riva! (DRCongo/France/Belgium/South Africa), directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga Honorable Mention: The Child, (Nigeria), directed by Izu Ojukwu The Figurine (Nigeria), directed by Kunle Afolayan Pan African Film Festival-British Academy of Film and Television Arts/LA (BAFTA/LA) Festival Choice Award I Sing of a Well (Ghana), directed by Leila Djansi.

The goal of PAFF is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particulary those that reinforce positive images, help to destroy negative stereotypes and depict an expanded vision of the Black experience. PAFF believes film and art can lead to better understanding ad foster communication between people of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time, serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the importance issue of our times.

The 2011 Pan African Film Festival is sponsored by the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles County Arts Fund, Macy’s, Wells Fargo Bank, Sony Pictures Entertainment, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and the Africa Channel.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]t.