It is a Wrap for the 31st Annual Pan African Film Festival

A large crowd of youth and young adults and adults, attended to view some world-class cinema from the African diaspora, February 9-20, 2023, at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw XD, with the ArtFest, a showcase of African art and crafts from around the world, on display, on both floors of the adjacent Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

All Artists Have a Seat at the Table Group (Photo: Ricky Richardson)

By Ricky Richardson | Contributing Writer

(Los Angeles, CA) The second week in February is always a momentous occasion. If you were thinking Valentine’s Day, you were not far off the mark. Give yourself a star if you guessed the annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival. A large crowd of youth and young adults and adults, attended to view some world-class cinema from the African diaspora, February 9-20, 2023, at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw XD, with the ArtFest, a showcase of African art and crafts from around the world, on display, on both floors of the adjacent Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

        You maybe already are experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as the camaradie of being in theaters again to enjoy some excellent cinema from across the diaspora. No need to despair there is hope at the end of this article. 
        The film festival got underway with a star-studded Red Carpet Opening Night Gala held at the Director’s Guide of America. The evening included a screening of the highly anticipated feature, Chevalier, inspired by the incredible story of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The film is about the son of an enslaved African woman and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr. in a tour de force performance) rise to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, completed with the ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) herself and her court. Chevalier directed by Stephan Williams, writer and producer Stefani Robinson.      

   As part of this year’s Pan African Film & Arts Festival there are over 150 films from 40 countries, in 19 languages, including 50 World and North American premieres. Of the films selected for the festival, 39% are helmed by female, queer or non-binary filmmakers. The fine arts exhibition features over 100 established and emerging fine artists and quality craftspeople from all over the Black diaspora. A diverse, multi-cultural crowd perused the eclectic mix of original art to suit a range of personal tastes. The exhibition and sale include paintings, sculpture, ceramics, fashion, jewelry, home décor and African artifacts.    

    The theme of this year’s festival is 2023 PAFF Reimagined to inspire and appeal to a new generation of filmmakers and moviegoers.   

     In celebration of Black History Month, the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) and IKEA collaborated for the second year to create All Artists Have a Seat at the Table exhibition. In partnership with IKEA, world-renowned Black artist from PAFF created fine art with IKEA furniture as part of the All Artists Have a Seat at the Table exhibition. The goal is to establish, preserve and present “imaginative stories” – and to keep the expressions of Black art vibrant and alive. These artists were asked to create a visual representation of the rich history and culture that has shaped the Pan African Film & Arts for the past three decades using IKEA’s IVAR chairs and their INGO table.      

  The wonderful artists featured in the exhibition were Porter Ayayi Olanrewaju from Nigeria; Aziz Diagne from Senegal;  PeQue Brown from America; Marvin Obasogie Aimiuwu from Nigeria; Sandra Zebi from Brazil; Yendi Serwaa from America; and Sylvia “Gbaby” Cohen from America.

Chair designed by Sylvia “Gbaby” Cohen (Photo: Ricky Richardson)

Tabitha Brown (Photo: Ricky Richardson)

Friday, February 10th, at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, PAFF ArtFest Opening Reception was held on the first floor in PAFF Institute (formerly Forever 21).    

     The opening of the PAFF ArtFest at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, IKEA presented a panel discussion about art, livable furniture with the artists featured in the exhibition, along with Andrew Alcantar, IKEA’s Communication & Interior Design Manager. Lauren MacKay served as moderator. The artists discussed their creative process and spoke about the chair that they designed and its title.    

    A reception followed the discussion. Gloria Simington of Ms. Glo’s Catering showed up and showed out with her creative masterpiece of a Grazing table, a sumptuous display of colorful, delightful and delicious, edible art. Ms. Glo took the concept of a charcuterie display to another level.    

    PAFF ArtFest featured over 100 established and emerging fine artists and quality craftspeople from all over the world. With cultural aesthetic that is rooted in Africa, and its diaspora, featured artists presented their creative works using oil on canvas, plastic, wax, wire, leather & more.      

  Let the binge travel through the diaspora begin by way of cinema. Friday, a hilarious screening of What Had Happened Was… The Herbert and Cleofis was the first movie I saw.  12 years after completing his 1940’s screwball comedy featured film debut, director Bobby Huntley reunites with his cast to discuss the unreleased film that almost was. The audience and I enjoyed how the director was able to pivot from a featured film to a documentary film with material from his unreleased film. This would be an excellent educational tool for first time filmmakers and those in film schools. This movie aligns with the film festival theme PAFF 2023 Reimagined-Experience a new story.   

Leading Ladies Crushing It Panel on the Red Carpet (Photo: Ricky Richardson)

     PAFF Institute featured many engaging, entertaining and educational panel discussions. Leading Ladies Crushing It is one of many panels taking place throughout the festival. Moderator Sheryl Underwood (The Talk) walked the Red Carpet with the panelist, Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery); Tichina Arnold (the Neighborhood); Paula Newsome (CSI: Las Vegas); Meta Golding (Rabbit Hole); and Shinelle Azoroh (Swagger).       

  Actress, New York Times Best Seller, Social Media Influencer, & host of YouTube Originals “Tab Time”, Tabitha Brown walked the Red Carpet after joining the kids at children’s fest for an up and close & personal meet & greet for autographs and pictures opportunities, resulting in memorial moments and priceless smiles.     

   Santos- Skin on Skin: Seven- time Grammy nominated John Santos is a “keeper of the Afro-Caribbean flame.” The movie is rich in musical performances, Santos links rhythms of his ancestors to contemporary struggles of identity and social justice. The film consists of stellar musicians Eddie Palmieri, Omar Sosa, John Galloway and Orestes Vilató to name a few.    

    The next great movie that I saw was Music is My Life-Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The remarkable story of the late Dr. Joseph Shabalala, the leader of South Africa’s multi-Grammy award-winning group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The film featured previously unseen archival footage and music and includes exclusive interviews with the Shabalala family, and many famous people, such as Oprah Winfrey, Paul Simon Whoopi Goldberg to name a few. The film celebrates the magnitude of Shabalala’s musical influence and his strong rooted musical traditions in the local styles of Isicathamiya and Mbude, a hidden gem of South African culture. This musical excursion capturing Joseph’s musical and spiritual journey illuminates how a young man from a rural village called Ladysmith in 1960’s South Africa, came to conquer sold-out shows and become a worldwide musical visionary. Teane Maseko, composer and one of the team members who worked on the film participated in a Q&A following the screening. This just in, Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be in Los Angeles next week, Friday, March 3rd, for a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall followed by a tour across the United States. This is a perfect time to see and hear this awesome group perform live in concert in an amazing concert venue.    

    Music aficionados were out in force to view some engaging and entertaining screenings. Theatres were packed for Music is My Life- Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo; Born in Chicago; Fantastic Negrito: Have You Lost Your Mind; God Said Give “Em Drum Machines; Hargrove; Kansas City Dreamin’; Little Richard: I Am Everything; Santos- Skin to Skin.     

   Attendees at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival enjoy a wide array of panels during the PAFF Institute that covered many aspects of the entertainment industry, special events and programs consisted of StudentFest; Saturday Morning Children’s Festival; PAFF SpokenWord; PAFF LOL-Comedy Night; Word Onna Street Live + Afterparty; Black Hollywood: Reimaging Iconic Movie Moments by Carell Augustus; Black on Black: Discussion and booksigning with Eboni K. Williams; Meet & Greet: Kountry Wayne; Senior Connections; Fashion Show and the Filmmaker’s Awards Brunch.     

   Additional highlights featured special presentations of Wayward Waters: Black Cinema & The Atlantic Overview in association with LACMA’s Aspect Ratio film education program. Stocker Street Creative (SSC) project in Baldwin Hill returned for a second year in a row as a platinum sponsor of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival. Stocker Street Creative Gallery and Salons held engaging industry panel discussions and screenings on the second floor of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. SSC is building a state –of-the-art creative space in the heart of Los Angeles’ black creative community where Black creative can tell their stories authentically. PAFF believes film and art can lead to a better understanding, and foster communication between people of diverse culture, races and ethnicities in an entertaining way while serving as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times,” stated Marc Brogdon, head of Marketing at PAFF.      

  Stay in the know. Visit for more information about future screening of movies from 2023 PAFF at local theatres or on the various streaming platforms. Sign up for their newsletter for information about upcoming PAFF Institute panels and possible screenings. You the moviegoers owe it to yourself to stay connected with PAFF on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Hot off the Press, PAFF Virtual Encore includes movies that were sold out during the festival as well as movies that won awards during the PAFF Awards Brunch. Encore movies will be screened for the next five weeks.