omari hardwick

Omari Hardwick

*LOS ANGELES – The Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) will recognize its fresh faces of Young Hollywood, by honoring  actors Omari Hardwick and Nicole Beharie with its Canada Lee and Beah Richards Rising Star Awards, respectively. The two will be feted at the annual  Night of Tribute ceremony during the festival’s run.

Co-produced by the Africa Channel, the Night of Tribute honors world-renowned actors, filmmakers, community leaders and fine artists for their contributions on stage, television, film, the arts and the community. PAFF’s “Rising Star” awards are named after actors Canada Lee and Oscar-nominee Beah Richards, who pioneered roles for African Americans in film, television and stage, and sparked civil rights activism in their work.

“Filmmakers tell great stories through the choices gifted actors and actresses make on screen by embracing a role and bringing a character to life. In addition to supporting the work of filmmakers, it’s important that the Pan African Film Festival recognizes and honors the new generation of young talent, honing their craft in the entertainment industry,” said Ayuko Babu, founder and executive director of the Pan African Film Festival.

Audiences at PAFF are very familiar with Hardwick’s work. He’s appeared in various independent films, screened at the film festival, including fan favorite “Everyday Black Man” and the critically-acclaimed “I Will Follow.” Currently, Hardwick is enjoying success in Ava DuVernay’s film, “Middle of Nowhere,” the winner of the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Plus, you can catch him in DuVernay’s directorial debut, “I Will Follow,” airing on BET. Other film credits include “Sparkle,” Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls,” “Miracle on St. Anna,” “The A-Team” and “Beauty Shop.”

Aside from his film projects, interestingly, the Georgia native is a poet since the age of 14, and he’s will try his hand at hosting for BET’s, “Verses and Flow,” anew show, showcasing talent in the world of spoken word and poetry. Previous recipients of the Canada Lee Rising Star Award include such award-winning actors as David Oyelowo, Idris Elba, Nate Parker, Lamman Rucker and Hill Harper– just to name a few.

nicole beharie

Nicole Beharie

Beharie is certainly a promising ingenue on the rise. In 2008, she made her critically-acclaimed acting debut in the indie, “American Violet,” opposite Alfre Woodard, Tim Blake and Will Patton. Next year, she will appear in the upcoming biographical film, “42,” about the life of baseball player Jackie Robinson., directed by Brian Helgeland.  She will also join Olivia Wilde and Hailee Steifield in the Civil War drama, “The Keeping Room,” directed by Daniel Barber and written by Julia Hart. In 2011, she dazzled critics in director Steve McQueen’s compelling British sex drama “Shame,” as the woman who goes out on an actual date with sex addict, Brandon, portrayed by Michael Fassbender.

Beharie’s other film credits include “The Express,” “Last Call,” and “My Last Day Without You.” She began her acting at South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, SC. and continued her studies at the Julliard School, receiving the prestigious Robin Williams Scholarship.

Past honorees of the Beah Richards Award include Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good, Tisha Campbell as well as Regina King and Tatyana Ali.

Gearing up for its 21st anniversary, the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF), is America’s largest and most prestigious Black film festival. Each year, it screens more than 150 films made by and/or about people of African descent from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Latin America, Europe and Canada. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country.

PAFF was founded in 1992  by award-winning actor Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon” movie franchise), Emmy Award-winning actress Ja’Net DuBois (best known for her role as Willona  in the tv series, “Good Times”) and executive director, Ayuko Babu, an  international legal, cultural and political consultant who specializes in African Affairs.  PAFF is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through the exhibit of films, art and creative expression.

The goal of  PAFF is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly 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 and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time, serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.

For more information, please visit or call (310) 337-4737.


Wyllisa R. Bennett, publicist
wrb public relations
[email protected]