Stuck With You Cast and Crew. (Ricky Richardson Photo)

By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer

Los Angeles – Thousands of movie lovers heeded the call to insure that their paper work was in proper order so as to secure a PAFFPORT. The PAFFPORT allowed it’s lucky holder a chance to travel through the African diaspora by way of cinema and arts.

The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) wrapped it 12-day marathon of offerings from around the diaspora. It celebrated its 28th anniversary in grand style with a string of highly-anticipated films.

The festival got underway with a star-studded Gala, Tuesday, February 11th, at the Directors Guide of America, DGA Theater Complex. The Opening Night Gala featured a screening of HERO-Inspired by The Extraordinary Life & Times of Mr. Ulric Cross, directed by Frances-Anne Solomon, with Nickolai Salcedo in the lead role as Ulric Cross.

Wednesday, February 12th, featured the timely movie, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This movie resonated with the audience as it deals with Gentrification, which is taking place all across the United States, and a stones throw away from this theatre.

Love was in the air. Friday, February 14th (Valentine’s Day) Spotlight Screening of Stuck With You, presented by UMC. This movie directed by Patricia Cuffie-Jones and featured an all-star cast and crew, who was in attendance to grace the Red Carpet.

My journey through the African diaspora continued on Saturday with the screening of All on Mardi Gras Day/The Last Mambo. The former gave viewers an inside look into the making of the elaborate, hand made costumes worn by the Mardi Gras Indians leading up to Mardi Gras.

The Last Mambo is a great documentary about the vibrant Latin Jazz and Salsa scene in the Bay Area, from the mid-20th Century to the present.

Jamaica & Tamarindo: Afro Tradition in the Heart of Mexico. This eye opening documentary, directed by Ebony Brown, is about the origins of the iconic ingredients from Africa, that are used to make two of the most popular, refreshing beverages in Mexico and the diaspora.

Mama Africa-Directed by Ifayemisy Marquez traced traditional Yoruba religious and cultural expressions. This wonderful movie was film between Nigeria and Venezuela.

The Cuban-Directed by Sergio Navarretta follows the daily life of Luis a former Cuban musician and his caregiver Mina, as she follows her true passion with music, as result of her friendship with her patient. The movie stars Louis Gossett, Jr and Ana Golja, both in attendance at the screening.

Los Angeles City Councilmember President Emeritus Herb Wesson announced the winners of the John Singleton Short Film Competition during a private reception at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF). In conjunction with PAFF and the city’s embRACE LA iniative, the film competition pays tribute to the critically-acclaimed film director John Singleton. John Singleton is known for such classic movies as BOYZ N The HOOD, POETIC JUSTICE and BABY BOY. For helming BOYZ N The HOOD, he became the first African-American and youngest person to be nominated for Best Director in 1992.

Black Mexicans, Directed by Jorge Perez Solano is another wonderful movie that allowed viewers to expand our knowledge and appreciate the every day life of people in the diaspora in this case, Mexico.

Buster Williams: Bass to Infinity, Directed by Adam Kahan is an awesome jazz documentary about Musician/composer/Buddhist, world citizen Buster Williams as we get a glimpse into his life and legacy and the universal music known as jazz. The documentary featured comments and performances by Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson and Carmen Lundy.

Our journey continued in the United States, City of Inglewood to be exact for the screening of She Ball, directed by Nick Cannon. This is another one of those movies that leaves one  to have lively, and engaging discourses about race, gentrification, criminal justice and female empowerment. The cast and crew were in attendance for the screening.

I had to rush to catch another flight, so that I could meet the winners of the iamAFRICA Short Film Competition. PAFF in partnership with Youtubes/Google, and The African Narrative, has produced the iamAFRICA Short Film Competition. It’s a project geared toward finding new storytelling talent, based in Sub Sahara Africa. PAFF jurors and YouTube’s global audience narrowed down more than 160 submission from around the continent. iam AFRICA Jury Award Winner 2020- “Eyelash” (South Africa) Directed by Faith Riyano, “Miracle” (South Africa) Directed by Bongi Ndaba, “Who Knows” (Kenya) directed by Nick Wambugu and the iamAFRICa Audience Award Winner 2020 “The Letter Reader” (South Africa) Directed by Sibusisi Khuzwayo. Actor Jimmy-Jean Louis (Desfrances and Rattlesnakes) offered remarks and conducted interviews with these talented, budding filmmakers.

PAFF ARTFEST consisted of an eclectic mix or original art to suit a range of personal taste. The exhibit and sale included paintings, sculpture, ceramics, fashion, jewelry, home decor, and African artifacts.

My journey through the Diaspora by way of cinema concluded with a marvelous screening of Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes. The reggae and world music community anxiously awaits futures releases from this treasure trove of never before release music.

PAFF is the largest Black Film Festival in the United States and the largest Black History Month cultural event in the nation. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live action and animation short films.

The festival has cemented its role as a hub for breakthrough and award-winning Black films and filmmakers from around the world. PAFF is dedicated to the cinematic promotion and cultural exploration of peoples of African descent. It is PAFF’s goal to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help destroy negative stereotypes. PAFF believes film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, and lifestyles in an entertaining way.

The festival handed out a variety of juries prizes, including Best Narrative Feature, Best First Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, and Best Narrative Short as well as audience favorite awards during an awards ceremony at the close of the festival.

In honor of the late actress and co-founder Ja’Net Dubois, who unexpectedly passed away during the festival, prizes were re-named in her honor. Dubois was best known for her role as Willona in the TV series, “Good Times.”