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The Pan African Film Festival promotes Black History Month and cultural diversity

The many annual film festivals in southern California speaks to the diverse nature of the communities living here. The yearly Pan African Film Festival, celebrating the Black History Month, each February showcases films that articulate the black narrative. It is one among many festivals---notably, Los Angeles Film Festival, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles----just to name a few. “We are all part of a human family,” says Ayuko Babu executive director of the Pan African Festival, “so each group of us, each race, each nationality, and each ethnic group brings their truth about humanity to the table.”

The Pan African Film Festival, a major Los Angeles event during the Black History Month, opens Wednesday, February 10. In 18-years, the festival has successfully interwoven black contemporary and historical experiences into its cinematic showcasing, and often initiates dialogue on today’s challenges---such as, Darfur and Neshoba, a Mississippi County, searching justice four-decades later after three civil right activists’ deaths. “We try to bring those peoples stories that you read about in the paper every day to life,” says Babu. “You begin to have a more sophisticated understanding of their story----my story,” he notes and that comprehension conveys the complex nature of the black narrative.

The Festival that runs for a week, also speaks to matters that concern America. “People have read about Darfur many, many times, they hear about Darfur in the news”, and the feature film on Darfur says Babu, gives the audience, “a chance to see all the issues, who the people are, what the battle is about.” Over the years, these types of films have broadened the Festival’s appeal beyond Africans and African-Americans, so that today about 15-20-percent of the audience are white, Asian and Latino.

On specifics, Babu recalls the film on Albert Schweitzer, by a Cameroonian filmmaker--Le Grand Blanc de Lambaréné or the Great White man of Lambaréné. The film was an African perspective on the work of this noble prize laureate and a great humanitarian. Dr. Schweitzer worked in colonial Gabon, Central Africa. “We had about 300-400 people showed up, who were older white people in their, 90s, 80s,70s, 60s, who had been friends of Albert Schweitzer Foundation, and had supported his work in Africa for many, many years. They all came out to see this film. We didn’t even know”, he said that such a group existed in southern California.

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