By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer
It is already February, where has the time gone? It can only mean one thing. Yes, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, time to travel through the African Diaspora through cinema.
Please note the new dates for the 29th Annual Pan African Film Festival, which will be held virtually this year. America’s largest Black film festival set for February 28 through March 14.
PAFF will showcase films and events that will thoroughly entertain the entire family. Gather the family together for a virtual 15-day journey of the African Diaspora without leaving the comfort of your home. PAFF has the distinction of being the largest celebration of Black History Month in Los Angeles, and the largest Black Film Festival in the United States.
The 29th Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) will take place February 28 through March 14, 2021 and will be entirely virtual–a move festival organizers say will increase their audience and bring the African diaspora to film lovers around the world regardless of their physical location or travel budget.
“PAFF is known for being the largest Black History Month celebration in Los Angeles,” said PAFF executive director, Ayuko Babu, an international legal, cultural, and political consultant who specializes in Pan African Affairs. “This year we had to recalibrate to meet this moment. We will certainly miss seeing everyone in person this year, but we are excited about our innovative new platform that promises to be a unique experience for viewers and will bring the Pan African Film Festival to audiences worldwide. Virtual or in-person we remain dedicated to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through the exhibit of films, art, and creative expression.”
Festival co-founder and award-winning actor and activist Danny Glover is set to serve as the celebrity ambassador for the 2021 PAFF. As an ambassador, Glover will help bring awareness of this year’s festival lineup and PAFF’s 29-year legacy.
PAFF is the largest Black film festival in the United States and the largest Black History Month cultural event in the nation featuring over 200 Black films and 100 fine artists from around the world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live-action and animation short films. The Los Angeles based festival is normally held at the Cinemark 15 Theatres at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will take place entirely online.
Out of over 900 submissions from 83 countries, the 2021 PAFF will feature over 200 films including 168 narrative films, 39 documentaries, 159 short and mini short films from 45 countries and in 43 languages.
PAFF proudly continues its tradition of showcasing 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.
This year’s PAFF will feature four Academy Award Best Foreign Film submissions including the U.S. premiere of The Milkmaid (Nigeria), The Fisherman’s Diary (Cameroon), The Letter (Kenya), and This Is Not A Burial, It’s a Resurrection (Lesotho).
Other notable entries include the world premiere African America (South Africa), the first film from director Muzi Mthembu about a cynical South African woman accepted to Julliard who finds out the hard way that 2017 U.S.A. isn’t as welcoming as she had dreamed. Set in Rio de Janeiro in a near and hypothetical future, Executive Order (Brazil) is a feature fictional film whose plot starts with the enforcement of a law that determines the compulsory return of all Afro descendants to their “countries of origin”. In its U.S. premiere, Finding Sally (Ethiopia), is a documentary that tells the incredible story of a 23-year-old woman from an upper-class family who became a communist rebel with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party. Also making its U.S. premiere, hip hop and art historians will enjoy Fresh Guide to Florence with Fab 5 Freddy (Italy/US/UK) where the hip hop pioneer goes on a quest to uncover the hidden black figures of Italian Renaissance art.
With over 160 filmmakers of African descent, this year’s PAFF will feature 84 female directors and 15 LGBTQ+ directors.
The festival will hand out juried prizes for Best Narrative Feature, Best First Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, and Best Narrative Short as well as audience favorite awards at the close of the festival.
The 2021 PAFF will be powered by the El Segundo, CA based and Black-owned cloud-based content management, distribution, and TV and Film monetization platform Envoi.
Envoi has agreed to license its technology platform to power the 2021 PAFF including powering the cloud services, handling customer acquisition, ticket purchasing, live streaming, and video-on-demand delivery. The partnership will provide both PAFF and all participating filmmakers and distributors in this year’s festival with the technology and cloud computing services for independently distributing and monetizing their works. In addition, the Envoi platform will power the video-on-demand streaming for all PAFF’s virtual live events and PAFF’s newly launched TV network on the Apple, Amazon, and Android smart TV platforms.
“The film industry in the U.S. has been particularly hard hit by the global pandemic,” explained Envoi CEO Nicholas Stokes. “Traditional theatres have been closed due to COVID-19 now for 10 months and creators need solutions to monetize their content directly. Through our partnership with PAFF, we are enabling filmmakers to get their content in front of a global audience and directly monetize their creative work without giving up ownership, distribution rights, or first-person customer data. By providing creators with our enterprise customer relationship management platform “CRM” the playing field will be leveled and filmmakers will be able to directly communicate with their audience, further democratizing the management of customer acquisition and communication.”
In addition to the films, PAFF will virtually host their celebrated industry panel discussions, filmmaker workshops, SeniorFest, StudentFest, ChildrensFest, SpokenwordFest, and the PAFF LOL comedy show.
The full schedule and ticketing are available at www.paff.org.