The Pan African Film Festival opens today – February 9th – and will run through the 22nd of February. The aim of the festival, which claims the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country, “is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images, help to destroy negative stereotypes and depict an expanded vision of the Black experience.”
The Centerpiece of the festival will be the world premiere of Russ Parr’s The Undershepherd. An impressive cast features in the film, including Isaiah Washington, Robinne Lee, Bill Cobbs, Malinda Williams, Clifton Powell, Elise Neal, Lamman Rucker and Vanessa Bell Calloway, who will come to the festival and host a Q&A after the world premiere. Closing Night will show the world premiere of Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day, a thriller by Neema Barnette, with Blair Underwood, Sharon Leal, Nicole Beharie, Pam Grier, Bishop T. D. Jakes, who will all also be present for a Q&A following the screening.
Additionally, several important people will be given special honors by the Pan African Festival. Actress Loretta Devine will be honored with a Lifetime Acheivement Award on a special Night of Honor, where seven other honorees will be inducted for various significant contributions to film across the African diaspora.
The 20th festival will screen 158 films from 36 countries including the Americas (in particular, a number of Caribbean films), Africa, and Europe. In addition to the film screenings, the festival includes spaces and venues to celebrate and promote visual art, spoken word, and comedy. Many panels and workshops will punctuate the event, organized under producing, acting, writing, and marketing in cinema.
Danny Glover, Ja’Net DeBois, and Ayuko Baby founded the Pan African Film Festival in 1992 and dedicated the festival “to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through the exhibit of films, art and creative expression”.