Filmmakers and Studios Continue to Embrace the Vital Role PAFF Plays as a Key Platform for Reaching Black Audiences and Premiering Black Films
LOS ANGELES – The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) continues to be the premiere International Black Film Festival to “Inspire” indie filmmakers and showcase Black cinema from around the world. This year’s festival is bigger and better than ever with three red carpet world premieres including the Opening Night film A Hip Hop Story, starring Affion Crockett, Cedric the Entertainer, Lil Rel Howery, and Wayne Brady, the powerful Ethiopian war film, For the Love of the Motherland which will screen as the festival’s Centerpiece, and closing out the festival will be the star studded Mario Van Peebles directed film Outlaw Posse with a cast of who’s who including film director Mario Van Peebles, Edward James Olmos, Cedric the Entertainer, M. Emmet Walsh, DC Young Fly, and Whoopi Goldberg.
For 12 days PAFF will take over the Crenshaw District and make it the center of Black Entertainment in Los Angeles by bringing some of Hollywood’s top Black actors, producers, directors, and influencers to the Cinemark Baldwin Hills and XD Theater.
PAFF is at the forefront of a growing trend of recognition and appreciation for the impact of Black film festivals. Filmmakers and studios are increasingly prioritizing the premiering of their films at these culturally driven festivals. This shift underscores the significance and importance of such festivals in celebrating diversity and amplifying Black voices in the world of cinema.
PAFF’s Centerpiece screening will feature the red carpet world premiere of Ethiopia’s For the Love of the Motherland on February 15, at the Directors Guild of America. This cinematic blockbuster is set to be the most expensive film to ever come out of Africa, with over 30,000 film extras, cutting edge special effects, and breakthrough action sequences.
Hayelom from the Tigray region in Ethiopia is deeply in love with Lielt from Ethiopia’s Amhara region. When Tigrai militants invade the Amhara region, he joins the militants and she joins the Ethiopian defense force, causing their love to face an expected turn. For the Love of the Motherland is an epic film of love and war.
“The film’s writer John Steinbeck said that all war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal and everyone, including me, agrees with his quote,” said the film’s director Theodros Teshome.
He continued, “But what if a country is attacked from within? What if the unity of the people of that country is in danger? This film is about soldiers of Ethiopia who were forced to take sides for whom they should die for the motherland or their region. More than 600,000 were sacrificed to satisfy the needs of some greedy politicians and the world misunderstood what was going on in Ethiopia just three years ago. As a filmmaker and citizen from this poor country, I have the responsibility to share the real story behind the war.”
The second film in director Mario Van Peebles’ Posse trilogy series Outlaw Posse will close out PAFF on February 18 at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills and XD.
In 1908 Chief returns from years of hiding in Mexico to claim stolen gold hidden in the hills of Montana. In his quest, he reunites an ensemble of fresh and familiar faces – together they fight off Angel, whose rationale to the gold leaves a trail of deception and dead bodies.
“America’s race-ocracy seems to be making an ugly comeback with teacher censorship, legislative obstruction, and voting rights under renewed attack,” explained Mario van Peebles. “Of course, during the turn of the century women of any color were not allowed to vote and men of color could be jailed and their homes burned just for exercising their right to vote or even own land. As our characters say in Outlaw Posse, “When the laws are unjust, the just are outlaws!” That said, the Wild West was not only brutal, it was also multicultural with approximately one out of every three or four cowboys being Black. As such, I wasn’t drawn to the reductive, traditional, whitewashed westerns, and I didn’t want to make a black western that was “reactive” to those pictures either. I was excited by the idea of seeing all of us. This, in some ways, mirrors the colorful diversity I grew up with in my own crazy family. I wanted to tell a father-son story inspired by the Johnny Cash song, “a boy named Sue,“ and informed by my own experiences as both a son and a father. To keep it grounded, I tapped my own actor kid, Mandela, to play my on-screen son – much like my own father did with me in Sweet Sweetback. If America is a melting pot, then I wanted to cook this cinematic gumbo with laughter, love, and jalapeños.”
Outlaw Posse stars Mario van Peebles, Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer, John Carrol Lynch, Neil McDonough, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, DC Young Fly, and Cam Gigandet. The star filled cast is expected to hit the red carpet in support of the film.
Black film festivals, like PAFF, have evolved into dynamic platforms that not only celebrate the rich tapestry of Black culture but also serve as launching pads for compelling and thought-provoking stories that resonate with global audiences. The decision to premiere films PAFF reflects a deeper understanding of the unique opportunities they provide for both established and emerging filmmakers.
“PAFF continues to offer an environment where stories rooted in African and African-American experiences are not only embraced but celebrated,” said PAFF co-founder Ayuko Babu. “This cultural relevance ensures that films resonate with their intended audience while reaching new and diverse viewers.”
He continued, “Filmmakers recognize that premiering their work at festivals like PAFF allows for meaningful interactions with engaged and passionate audiences who appreciate the power of storytelling. These interactions provide valuable feedback and foster connections between creators and their supporters.”
PAFF general manager Asantewa Olatunji added, “Premiering at a Black film festival can significantly increase a film’s visibility and attract the attention of distributors, industry professionals, and critics. This can lead to wider distribution opportunities, securing a larger audience base.”
This year’s film festival features over 200 films from 54 countries, in 28 languages, including 68 World and 25 North American premieres. Of the films selected for the Festival, 49% are helmed by female, queer or non-binary filmmakers. Tickets and passes are on sale now at paff.org.