The Pan African Film and Arts Festival brought in more than 35,000 people from around the world to view films and showcases on display throughout the mall.

Photo by Brian W. Carter

Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza brings the best for Black History Month

The 22nd annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival came to a close this weekend but definitely saw a large influx of foot traffic throughout the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The festival brought in more than 35,000 people from around the world to view films and showcases on display throughout the mall.

As the centerpiece of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw’s Black History Month programming, the event has a long-established history at the mall: in 1996, the Magic Johnson Theaters first hosted the Pan African Film Festival as part of its annual Celebration of African American Heritage. The festival has grown over the years to its current prominence, featuring screenings of globally acclaimed films, crafts produced by hundreds of fine artists and shows by award-winning comedians and spoken word performers.

This year’s Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) ran from Thursday, February 6 through Monday, February 17 with a lineup that included 179 movies from 46 countries. A culmination of PAFF took place in the form of Filmmakers’ Award Brunch at close of the festival, including Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature and Best First Feature Film, as well as audience favorite awards.

The film festival kicked off with an opening night gala for the Los Angeles premiere of the acclaimed South African film noir, “Of Good Report,” directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. Other special events included the world premiere of “About Last Night” by Steve Pink on February 11th and “Blackbird” by Patrick-Ian Polk on closing night. Local film enthusiasts also enjoyed this year’s PAFF Special Presentations, which included lectures by Emmy award-winning actor and director, Charles Dutton on February 8 and nationally renowned artist/social commentator, Ise Lyfe on February 14.

This year’s PAFF Institute, featured a variety of panels and workshops about issues in the African film industry. Topics for discussion included images of slavery in film, the rebirth of black cinema and even an actor’s workshop. In addition, the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa hosted “South Africa Day” on February 15, commemorating 20 years of democracy in that country with screenings of two films that address social issues in South Africa, as well as a luncheon and forum discussion.

Across the promenade within the mall, more than 100 established and emerging artists of African heritage showcased fine art, sculpture, and photography, unique crafts, home furnishings, jewelry, and designer fashions and accessories.

A spoken word and poetry performance by some of the world’s hottest spoken word artists also took place on February 9, featuring award-winning rapper, singer/songwriter and actress, Lil’ Mama, who most recently served as a judge on the reality television series “America’s Best Dance Crew.” As part of “PAFF Presents LOL” the next day, February 10, some of the city’s finest up-and-coming comedians performed the next day at an improv comedy show.

“Baldwin Hills Crenshaw prides itself on serving as a gathering place and cultural resource for our neighborhood and for the entire city of Los Angeles, something that’s best illustrated each year during the annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival,” said Sharron King, general manager of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw. “We’re proud to host this well-loved event and to celebrate the heritage and achievements of the African diaspora as part of the worldwide celebration of Black History Month.”

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