The Pan African Film Festival aims to correct misconceptions about African and Caribbean countries

Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"We have films from all over the world," said Olatunji. "From the South Pacific, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the U.S., Canada ... wherever there is a community of black people that are making films about themselves."

In addition to expanding the length and scope of the festival, the content of the films has evolved too.

"When we first started, most of the stories were very negative stories," said Ola-tunji. "They were stories about gangbangers or about the pimps and prostitute idiom. Now we are seeing far more diverse stories."

She attributes the increase in diverse stories in part to the digital revolution.

"When we first started, films were on 35mm," she said. "There was no such thing as streaming. So now we have so many different places to see film, which has really encouraged the creation of so much more product. And with that product comes that diversity of story."

An emergence of diversity in roles for black actors in Hollywood has also done a lot to move the culture forward.

"In terms of the black experience and the black footprint, we have so many new actors in Hollywood that come from someplace else," she said.

She points to the festival's closing night film "The Forgiven," where Forest Whitaker, who is African American, portrays South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as one example. "We have 1/8Brit3/8 Idris Elba playing an African American, and 1/8'Star Wars' actor3/8 John Boyega playing a person from outer space! So we do see that black people are now in these more diverse roles than we saw in 1992."

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The festival will open with the world premiere of Alfons Adetuyi's "Love Jacked" and close with the U.S. premiere of director Roland Joffe's "The Forgiven," starring Whitaker and Eric Bana. It will also host the L.A. premiere of Kareem Mortimer's "Cargo" on Sunday at 6:35 p.m. Other highlights include Samuel D. Pollard's documentary "Sammy Davis Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me" (Saturday at 4:35 p.m., Sunday at 6:25 p.m. and Feb. 19 at 6:15 p.m.) and "Jimmy Jean-Louis Visits Tijuana," a documentary on the city's Haitian community (Sunday at 6 p.m. and Feb. 16 at 4:10 p.m.).

With the success of films like "Girls Trip" and "Get Out" and anticipation for "Black Panther" and "A Wrinkle in Time," black cinema is having a moment.

Olatunji agreed. "This is absolutely a period of time that black film, black stories, black art is being valued. ...

"It's been too long that everybody has gone to the movies and just accepted the European reflection. Everybody wants to see what is going on in the world, and everybody wants to see that reflection of ourselves."

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