Giving sound bites to clamors of media hounds about how much they’re “looking forward to seeing the film” or “how much they respect the talents of the filmmakers and actors” is just par for the course for these types of events. However, their well-wishes and kind words do have honest degrees of sincerity.
Perhaps because, they themselves stand in the same “shackled footprints” as their contemporaries – all vying for an opportunity to showcase their talents and their works in a business, in the words of one attendee, that “doesn’t really want us, but they tolerate us.”
Established in 1992 by Hollywood veterans Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon”), the late Ja’Net DuBois (“Good Times”), and Ayuko Babu, PAFF executive director, the Pan African Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has remained dedicated to the promotion of Black stories and images through the exhibition of film, visual art, and other creative expression.
For over 30 years, PAFF has been the international beacon for the African diaspora film and arts communities. This is what their website says, and if you ask anyone who has ever been to an event, this is what it does.
“I’ve been to a lot of film festivals, but this one is the truth,” said Teresa, an attendee at opening night. “It’s always so well organized, they bring quality films, and the event is always so well done.”
And one truth that surprised many during the opening awards ceremony was the inspirational appearance of respected and thriving actor Jonathan Majors (“Creed III,” “Quantumania,” “Lovecraft Country”). He was being honored with the PAFF Canada Lee Award presented by Glover, Babu and fellow actor Thomas Q. Jones (“P Valley,” “Luke Cage,” “Being Mary Jane”).
It has unfortunately become common for many celebrities, when they reach a certain plateau in their careers, to send a proxy to receive awards at Black events. But, Jonathan Majors showed up – and he showed up in a major way.
Sharing anecdotes from his life about his journey to where he is today, the support of family, a good Christian upbringing, and the importance of community – the African American community.
Mayor Karen Bass also gave an official welcome, stating that she’s been a long-time supporter of the PAFF.
Some other known faces in the audience included, Brandee Evans (“P Valley,” “David Makes Man”), Walter Fauntleroy (“Tyler Perry’s the Oval”), Pooch Hall (“The Game”), and Jimmy Jean-Louis (“Claws,” “Phat Girlz,” “Heroes”).
The film screening during opening night of the PAFF was the period piece, “Chevalier.” It is inspired by the incredible story of composer Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.
The son of an enslaved African woman and a French plantation owner, Boulogne (Kelvin Harrison Jr. in a tour de force performance) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer.
The film’s director Stephen Williams, writer and producer Stefani Robinson, the composer of the original score Kris Bowers, and musical performances producer and arranger Michael Abels were all in attendance.
One viewer found the film problematic because they wanted to see more of Boulogne as “the French Revolutionist,” and less of the romantic aspects of the film. Although overall, he enjoyed the film and called it “a good watch.”
Another audience member found the film to be “refreshing and positive.” “There’s so much ‘trauma porn’ out there it was great to see a historical figure who had a little more control over their destiny,” said the viewer.
For more information on the Pan African Film Festival, additional screenings and events visit https://www.paff.org.