Los Angeles’s Pan-African Film Festival is currently in effect (February 10-17). I have a long-lasting love-hate relationship with it. On the one hand, their website (despite improvements this year) remains hard to navigate, is rife with typos, incomplete information and omissions. In other words, it’s inexcusably bad. How about a calendar, folks?
In addition, every year I take issue with the selection of films. The programmers have a very odd definition of “Pan-African.” Last year was the worst, with the focus on the African diaspora coming at the expense of even a single African feature. Thankfully, this year there are several African features but still some questionable choices. It’s nice to see films about Africa’s many-but-usually-ignored non-black people, such as Finemachiyamoché, about Moroccan Jews, and Florida Road, starring members of South Africa’s sizable south Asian population. On the other hand, Forgotten Bird of Paradise, about Papua is, regardless of its possible merits, an embarrassing example of the organizers’ colorist, transracialist equation of African-ness with pigmentation rather than actual African ancestry. The inclusion of an Iranian film, The Stoning of Soraya M., is a real head-scratcher. Are they equating Islam with African-ness now? Another odd choice is Darfur, directed by German hack Uwe Boll (BloodRayne 3, House of the Dead, Postal Zombie Massacre and other garbage).
And finally, this year the festival has been re-located from its natural home, the black cultural capital of LA — Leimert Park — to the mostly white Westside neighborhood of Culver City.
Nonetheless, for all its short-comings, the Pan-African Film Festival is still always worth checking out. Since New Yorker Films went out of business and as long as Criterion continues their policy of not releasing African films, the festival offers one of the few opportunities for many of these films to be seen.
Examples of the “Pan-African” Documentaries include the shorts: Amilcar Cabral, Anomaly, Beyond Breast Cancer, Cred, Ebony Goddess, Filling the Gap, Haiti – The Sleeping Giant, Haplitim, Inside Buffalo, Lesa Terry and the Women’s Jazz Orchestra, Migration of Beauty, The Monk & the Mermaid, On the Grind, Punta Soul, Roots of Reggae and Share and Share Alike, as well as the full-length films: Beauty of the Flight, Ben Ingram vs the State of Mississippi, Cinderella, Wolves & One Prince Charming, Freedom Riders, Go-Bama, The Good Fight, Hearing Radmilla, Motherland, Neshoba, Nou La Toujou, Other Side of the Water, Soul Power, Soundtrack for a Revolution, Tambores de agua – un encuentro ancestral, Via Anelli, Vietnam – American Holocaust and Why Us?
The “Pan-African” shorts are: Amazon Women, Angel Wings Brown, BFF, Brothers Incorporated, Calling My Children, Click, Cuts, Enter the Preacher, Entertainer’s Eulogy, Garrett’s Gift, Good Intentions, The Impressions Live, Johnny B. Homeless, Jerusalem, The Journey of Henry Box Brown, Letters from Home, Nose Candy, Omar Saved from Cheating, Operation Small Axe, Paper Mouse, Pastor Stuart, Performance, Popous and the Kids He Loves to Hate, The Phone Call, Raglin Tales, Someone Heard My Cry, That Other Voice, Three Faces of Evelyn, Undisclosed and Watts and Volts.
My American Nurse 2 trailer
As for the African documentaries, there are a healthy number. Most of the following documentaries aren’t African productions but do deal with African subject matter: The Carnival of Kwen (Burkina Faso), Ceux de la colline (Burkina Faso), Contract (Cape Verde), A Day Without Mines (Sierra Leone), The Little Princess and the Sand School (Mali), Nollywood Babylon (Nigeria), Pour le meilleur et pour l’oignon (Niger), Pride of Lions (Sierra Leone), Rwanda – Beyond the Deadly Pit, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, Stolen (Western Sahara), Sweet Crude (Nigeria), Toumast – Guitars and Kalishnikovs (Mali/Niger), Tu n’as rien vu a Kinshasa (Congo) and Yesterday (Guinea).
There are a lot of African shorts this year, including many from countries not widely recognized for their films, like Kenya, Namibia and Sierra Leone… along with the usual suspects like Nigeria, Mali and South Africa. They are Black Mampatile (South Africa), Charity (Sierra Leone), Cries at Night (Namibia), Filtha (South Africa), Florida Road (South Africa), Family (Sierra Leone), Father Christmas Doesn’t Come Here (South Africa), A History of Independence (Mali), Killer Necklace (Kenya), Lula (Congo), Patterns (Nigeria), Sellam and Demetan (Morocco), Still Moving (South Africa), Three and half lives of Philip Wetu (Namibia), Weakness (Kenya), Yolanda (South Africa) and Youth – Sorie and the Meat (Sierra Leone).
As stated earlier, a year after a Pan-African Film Festival without a single African feature, this year there are thankfully a healthy number of African features. Thanks to an over-reliance on Nigeria and South Africa and a complete absence from Africa’s artistic powerhouses Egypt, Mali and Senegal, most of the films look like populist commercial fare rather than high art. They are Aldewolem (Ethiopia), Cindy’s Note (Nigeria), Coeur de lion (Burkina Faso), Finemachiyamoché (Morocco), From a Whisper (Kenya), Gugu & Andile (South Africa), Mah Saah-Sah (Cameroon), My American Nurse 2 (Nigeria), Nothing But the Truth (South Africa), The Okra Principle (Nigeria), Red Mistake (Ethiopia), Soul Diaspora (Nigeria), Soul Sisters (Nigeria) and A Sting in a Tale (Ghana).
The Okra Principle trailer
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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