Co-founded by iconic actor Danny Glover, late Good Times star Ja’Net DuBois and longtime executive director Ayuko Babu, the Pan African Film Festival, featuring film, visual art and creative expression from across the diaspora, has been an Los Angeles institution for over 30 years and counting. As always, the festival, with its 2023 themed “PAFF Reimagined,” which started February 9, 2023 and wraps February 20, 2023, boasts another spectacular film lineup. Below are just a sampling of the many standouts—some still available to catch this holiday weekend—that excite us.
In this slice of hidden Black history from writer/director Stephen Williams, which hits theatres in April, Kelvin Harrison, Jr. mesmerizes as celebrated violinist-composer and fencer Joseph Bologne, the son of an enslaved African woman and French plantation owner who claimed his spot among the French elite and also had an entanglement with Marie Antoinette.
American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton
Back in 1968, Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton infamously stood trial for killing a white Oakland policeman. This award-winning short film delves into how his legal team flipped the script and put the heat on American racism.
To Live and Die and Live
In this latest offering from Mooz-Lum writer/director Qasim Bashir, Amin Joseph, better known as Franklin Saint’s Uncle Jerome in Snowfall, stars as Muhammad, a filmmaker and Muslim, whose return home to his native Detroit to bury his beloved stepfather puts his addiction out front as he battles presumptions of a Hollywood success bigger than reality and gets wrapped into a drug-fueled romance with Sky P. Marshall’s Asia who is battling her own demons.
The Africologist: Chronicles of Africa
Steeped in Africology, the academic study of the history and culture of African people, this innovative film features a computer-generated Africologist to delve into the true history, science and technological achievements of Africa informed by director Valerio Lopes own travels across 16 African countries.
Our Father, The Devil (Mon Père, Le Diable)
This explosive thriller from New York-based Cameroonian filmmaker Ellie Foumbi centers around African refugee Marie whose simple life as head chef of a retirement home in a mountain town in the South of France is upended by the arrival of the African priest Father Patrick who is also the warlord who slaughtered her family.
On the Line: The Richard Williams Story
Will Smith’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father on the big screen in King Richard makes this documentary featuring unaired interviews spanning the 1980s to now tracking his rise from poverty in Jim Crow Shreveport, Louisiana to battling racism and the white tennis elite for daring to dream his Black daughters could dominate the tennis world even more essential.
In Raine Allen-Miller’s charming directorial debut, music and humor are centerstage as Yas and Dom (David Jonsson who plays Gus on Industry), two strangers reeling from bad break-ups, traipse through South London battling run-ins with exes and other mishaps that might just restore their faith in romance.
God Said Give 'Em Drum Machines
This documentary sets the record straight By tracing the true origins of techno music back to Detroit, this documentary sets the record straight and puts the spotlight on the Black community and early innovators that include Juan Atkins aka Model 500 and Infiniti, Derrick May aka May Day and Rhythim is Rhythim, and Kevin Saunderson, a force behind Inner City’s breakthrough hits “Big Fun” and “Good Life.”
Dancing the Twist in Bamako
Franco-Congolese actor/comedian Stéphane Bak and model Alice Da Luz star in this beautifully shot epic film (inspired by photographs from Malian photographer Malick Sidibe) set in 1962 Mali, newly independent from France, intertwining political idealism, forbidden love, and rock & roll (and dances) newly imported from the West.
Fantastic Negrito: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?
The Grammy-winning contemporary bluesman pulls back some layers, tracing his journey from Black Muslim kid in rural Massachusetts to Bay Area-based global stardom, in this intimate look during the creation of his newest album featuring interviews with him, his collaborators, and close friends, not to mention a great soundtrack.