By Philtrina Farquharson, Contributing Writer

Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) concluded its 30th anniversary this past weekend, exhibiting Black excellence and thought-provoking creative expression throughout the duration of the festival. Deemed the largest Black film festival in America, the Pan African Film & Arts Festival presented over 200 films from 55 countries in 18 languages at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills in Crenshaw. Although the festival took place in person this year, there was still the opportunity to view many of the screenings virtually if attendees felt most comfortable . 

During the course of the programming, from April 19 through May 1, the festival had a star-studded lineup who attended, including Danny Glover, Damson Idris, and Justice Singleton.  In addition to the film screenings, the Artfest returned after two years featuring over 100 emerging artists in the Black community. These events were mainly sponsored by Stocker Street Creative Creative, FX Networks, and Glassdoor. 

Opening night started with the world premiere of Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story at the Directors Guild of America. This film would chronicle the life of Martin Luther King’s close friend, Mahalia, and detail her years as the “Queen of Gospel .”I was excited to be working as a director since I had wanted to be a director my whole life. It was my hope with this screening that they see authentic storytelling, and in the future, I want to continue to tell stories that paint a picture”, said Director Denise Dowse.

Ahead of the screening and Q&A on the first night, the red carpet drew a crowd. In attendance were Danny Glover, Ledisi, the lead actress for this movie, Tabitha Brown, and Keith David, to name a few. A few days later, the cast of FX’s snowfall attended the festival as the premiere of the fifth season finale as a part of the programming. Snowfall first premiered in 2017, and Damson Idris captured the hearts of many while he was playing Franklin in his role set in the 1980s during the crack epidemic in Los Angeles.

Snowfall was created by the late John Singleton, which was the ideal segway to the next event. John Singleton continued to be celebrated at the festival; on the third anniversary of his death, three young filmmakers premiered their films, paying homage to the quintessential and talented director. Singleton’s mother, children, and friends came out to continue his legacy in the entertainment business.  

“This means everything to me to just see Black and brown people in one setting. Everyone looks like royalty, and I am just so excited to experience it. It makes you feel good when you’re around positive energy,” said Autumn Rae, Miss Black California USA.

To wrap up the festival, PAFF announced the 2022 juried film award winners during the annual brunch this past Monday; awards included Best Feature Narrative, Audience Favorite, Feature Documentary, and Best Short Narrative. The dream to bring African cinema to the US was a success, and it shows 30 years later. PAFF showcased and inspired the current and next generation of filmmakers and enthusiasts.