LOS ANGELES – The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) is proud to announce its highly anticipated Spotlight Screenings lineup for 2024. As a premiere celebration of African and African diaspora cinema, PAFF, taking place in Los Angeles February 6-19, in Los Angeles, continues to shine a light on extraordinary talents and remarkable storytelling.
PAFF’s Spotlight Screenings have long been a hallmark of the festival, showcasing exceptional films that captivate and inspire audiences. This year’s selection promises to be no exception, offering a diverse array of thought-provoking and entertaining movies that explore various aspects of African and African diaspora experiences.
PAFF aims to foster cross-cultural dialogue, showcase untold stories, and amplify diverse voices through the power of cinema and the arts. With its Spotlight Screenings, the festival invites audiences to explore the rich tapestry of African and African diaspora cultures, histories, and experiences on the big screen.
“We are thrilled to present this year’s Spotlight Screenings, which exemplify the heart and soul of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival,” said Ayuko Babu, Executive Director. “These films not only entertain but also educate, enlighten, and challenge us to see the world through different lenses. We invite everyone to join us for this incredible cinematic journey.”
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.
Highlights of the Spotlight Screenings at PAFF this year include (films listed in alphabetical order, for exact dates and times, please check film guide):
A Hip Hip Story
Hip Hop culture is in a crisis! A pioneer of the culture joins forces with a few of rap music’s elite performers to attempt to save Hip Hop. Exciting and hilarious, this film also offers relevant social commentary on the state of Hip Hop culture. Directed by Damaine Radcliff with an original screenplay by Affion Crockett.
Cast: Affion Crockett, Damaine Radcliff, Jevin Smith, Johnollie Nelson, Cedric The Entertainer, Damien Dante Wayans, Lil Rel Howery, Wayne Brady, Lil Mama, and Norm Nixon, Jr.
Director: Damaine Radcliff
Screenwriter: Affion Crockett
Producer: Affion Crockett, Damaine Radcliff, Charlie Mack, and Talitha Watkins
Presented by: Color Creative
Being BeBe: The BeBe Zahara Benet Documentary
Immigrating from Cameroon, where Queerness is criminalized, a young man finds his purpose through performance and eventually becomes the very first winner of iconic reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Marshall Ngwa (aka BeBe Zahara Benet) came to the US in pursuit of education and discovered his gifts in the art form of drag. Filmed over 15 years, the documentary parallels Marshall’s fight to maintain the trajectory of his career alongside a deep connection with his traditional African roots and family.
Country: USA, Cameroon
Cast: Marshall Ngwa aka BeBe Zahara Benet
Director: Emily Branham
Producer: Emily Branham, Marc Smolowitz, Jonathan Goodman Levitt
Sponsored by: Gilead
Bob Marley: One Love
Bob Marley: One Love celebrates the life and music of an icon who inspired generations through his message of love and unity. On the big screen for the first time, discover Bob’s powerful story of overcoming adversity and the journey behind his revolutionary music. Produced in partnership with the Marley family and starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as the legendary musician and Lashana Lynch as his wife Rita, Bob Marley: One Love is in theatres February 14, 2024.
Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton, Tosin Cole, Anthony Welsh, Michael Gandolfini, Umi Myers, Nadine Marshall
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Screenwriter: Frank E. Flowers, Terence Winter, Zach Baylin
Producer: Robert Teitel, Ziggy Marley, Rita Marley, Cedella Marley
Presented by: Paramount Pictures
GENIUS: MLK/X follows both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) and Malcom X (Aaron Pierre) from their formative years, where they were molded by strong fathers and traumatic injustices, to their rich, parallel stories as they shaped their identities and became the change they wished to see in the world. The docudrama series offers an intimate look into their complex lives as husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, taking them off the iconic T-shirts to show their humanity. GENIUS: MLK/X brings their wives, Coretta Scott King (Weruche Opia) and Betty Shabazz (Jayme Lawson), who are often portrayed as peripheral figures, to the forefront and shows them as formidable equals of the Movement. Episodes will explore the moments between the monumental historical events we’ve come to know and shine a light on how each leader and those closest to them questioned their resolve and decisions as they navigated the rigors of balancing a public persona with a private life. While King and X met only once and often challenged each other’s views, neither would have been as successful without the other. Q&A to follow with director.
Director: Director X, Joe “Jody” Williams
Executive Producer: Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Raphael Jackson, Jr., Damione Macedon
Presented by: NATGEO
Best International Feature Film Submission for the 2024 Oscars – Sudan
Wracked by guilt after covering up a murder, Mona — a northern Sudanese retired singer in a tense marriage — tries to make amends by taking in the deceased’s southern Sudanese widow, Julia, and her son, Daniel, into her home. Unable to confess her transgressions to Julia, Mona decides to leave the past behind and adjust to a new status quo, unaware that the country’s turmoil may find its way into her home and put her face to face with her sins.
Subtitle Language: English
Cast: Eiman Yousif, Siran Riak, Nazar Gomaa
Director: Mohamed Kordofani
Screenwriter: Mohamed Kordofani
Producer: Amjad Abu Alala, Mohamed Al Omda
Executive Producer: Lupita Nyong’o
Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Film
An epic immigration Odyssey through the dangers of the Sahara desert, the horrors of the detention centers in Libya, and the perils of the sea, as well as, unexpected joys, as two teenagers travel from Dakar to Europe.
Language: French, Wolof
Country: Italy, Belgium, France
Cast: Seydou Sarr, Moustapha Fall, Issaka Sawagodo, Hichwm Yacoubi, Doodou Sagna, Khady Sy, Venus Gueye, Cheick Oumar Diaw
Director: Matteo Garrone
Screenwriter: Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Andrea Tagliaferri
Producer: Matteo Garrone, Paolo Del Brocco For Rai Cinema
Executive Producer: Alessio Lazzareschi
Sponsored by: The Black Alliance for Justice Immigration (BAJI)
In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Walt Disney Animation Studios teams up with Pan-African comic book entertainment company, Kugali, for an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. This exciting coming of age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, Hamid Ibrahim and Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos. The exciting new series will debut only on Disney+ on February 28.
Cast: (voice actors) Simisola Gbadamosi, Dayo Okeniyi, Femi Branch, Siji Soetan, Weruche Opia
Director: Olufikayo Ziki Adeola
Screenwriter: Adeola and Halima Hudson
Producer: Christina Chen
Presented by: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Kugali
West Coast Premiere
Based on the true story of Kemba Smith, a sheltered college student who falls in love with a man, only to learn he is a drug kingpin who leads her down a path of abuse and manipulation, placing her in the middle of the government’s “war on drugs,” and ultimately landing her in federal prison.
Cast: Nesta Cooper, Siddiq Saunderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Michelle Hurd
Director: Kelley Kali
Screenwriter: Christine Swanson
Producer: Rob Pfaltzgraff, p.g.a. ; Lana Link, p.g.a. ; Stacey Parks, p.g.a.
Executive Producer: Kemba Smith, Nick Reid, Maureen Guthman, Constance Orlando
Presented by: BET+
Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes
The story of musician Max Roach, whose far-reaching ambitions were inspired and challenged by the inequities of the society around him. His stunningly diverse seven-decade career marked him as one of the great musical artists of the 20th century—and a pioneering cultural activist—at times when the nation was steeped in racism. Viewers follow Roach across a rich and complicated life, days of now-legendary achievement and also deep personal struggle, and the price he paid for his outspoken views. Commentary by Max Roach, Quincy Jones, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Sonny Rollins.
Cast: Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Questlove, Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Sonny Rollins, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Abdullah Ibrahim, Randy Weston, and more.
Director: Sam Pollard, Ben Shapiro
Executive Producer: Michael Kantor
Respect My Crown: The Rise of African American Women In California Politics
With who’s who interviews from the worlds of politics, community activism, organized labor, and the judicial system, this is a 170-year herstory chronicling the struggles and sacrifices of Black women seeking equity while battling race and gender barriers in pursuit of equality and political power in the State of California.
Cast: Joy Atkinson, Hon. Karen Bass, Hon. Diana Becton, Hon. Mia Bonta, Hon. Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, Hon. Tasha Cerda, Hon. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, Faith Culbreath, Hon. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Hon. Brenda Harbin-Forte, Kellie Todd Griffin, “Sweet” Alice Harris, Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Hon. Heather Hutt, Hon. Jackie Lacey, Hon. Barbara Lee, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Areva Martin, Esq., Hon. Tina McKinnor, Hon. Holly J. Mitchell, Celestine Palmer, Hon. Jan Perry, Hon. Treva Reid, Hon. Laura Richardson, Hon. Deborah Robertson, Hon. Emma Sharif, Hon. Racquel Vasquez, Amelia Ashley-Ward, Hon. Acquanetta Warren, Charisse Bremond-Weaver, Yvonne Wheeler, Hon. Lori Wilson
Director: Pamela Bright-Moon
Screenwriter: Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Alisa Bass Covington, Pamela Bright-Moon
Producer: Alisa Bass Covington, Pamela Bright-Moon
Executive Producer: Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute
Sponsored by: Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute
Sacred Soil: The Piney Woods School Story
Sacred Soil: The Piney Woods School Story is a documentary film set against the culturally historical backdrop of one of America’s oldest Black boarding schools. This film amplifies the journeys of several Piney Woods School students and staff members, providing a never-before-seen window into the ever-evolving, complex layers of the school and its students. Vividly, yet beautifully Sacred Soil: The Piney Woods School Story captures the emotional, physical, and mental tolls required to be young, Black, and educated in America by honoring the students’ perspectives of themselves and their school.
Country: United States
Director: J.J. Anderson
Executive Producer: Kelley L. Carter, Marc Jordan, J.J. Anderson, Jason Aidoo
Presented by: Andscape
Sense & Sensibility
A period adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. After a change in circumstances, Marianne is torn between two men, while Elinor longs for a man beyond reach.
Country: United Kingdom, Ireland, Bulgaria
Cast: Deborah Ayorinde, Bethany Antonia, Victor Hugo, Akil Largie, Martina Laird, Victoria Eanoye, Dan Jeannotte
Director: Roger Bobb
Executive Producer: Tia Smith
Courtesy of: Hallmark
Sing! Fight! Sing! Fight! From LeRoi to Amiri
A first-person account of the life & work of revolutionary poet, playwright, jazz critic and intellectual Amiri Baraka, co-founder of the Black Arts Movement which changed and affects the concepts and boundaries of Black art to this day. Appearances by Amiri Baraka, Coyt Leroy Jones, Asha Bandele, Allen Ginsberg, Hettie Jones, Sekou Sundiata, Quincy Troupe, Marvin X.
Cast: Amiri Baraka, Coyt Leroy Jones, Asha Bandele, Allen Ginsberg, Hettie Jones, Sekou Sundiata, Quincy Troupe, Marvin X.
Director: Colin Still
Producer: Colin Still
Sponsored by: Cal State University, Los Angeles
Sistahs Getting Well
Two African American women from separate worlds find each other while battling deadly diagnoses of chronic disease—rampant among 50% of Black women. Along their healing journey deep friendship develops revealing lifegiving wisdom and the truth of the root causes of this epidemic: Injustice in a toxic culture. Their arduous journey through grief, heartbreak and a monstrously profitable, addictive, and discouraging system ultimately connects them to healers around the world. Join their triumphant story. Be inspired by the movement it celebrates.
Cast: Jacqueline Glass, Michelle Salters, Brandi Harvey, Jacqueline Burke, Dr. Neal Bernard, Dr. Baxter Montgomery, Chef Babette
Director: Devon Curry
Screenwriter: Jacqueline Glass
Producer: Anthony Bove
Executive Producer: Jacqueline Glass
The Orchestra Chuck Built
In 2016, the League of American Orchestras conducted a study that revealed a shocking statistic: only 1.8% of the professional orchestra workforce in the US is Black. From an old church rec room in the inner city of Los Angeles, former lawyer-turned-conductor Chuck Dickerson is on a mission to change that. Through ICYOLA – The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles — the largest majority Black orchestra in the country — Chuck is creating life-changing opportunities for his community that did not previously exist. The Orchestra Chuck Built is a loving portrait of a tireless mentor and a testament to the transformative power of music. Screening includes a live performance by the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.
Director: Christopher Stoudt
Producer: Maryann Garger, Bob Logan, Brainz Prasad, Ryan Suffern
Executive Producer: Ryan Harris, Michael Becker
Co-Producer: Laurie Klugman
Cast: Chuck Dickerson