2021 Pan African Film Festival takes on virtual platform

The 29th annual Pan African Film Festival is set to take place on Feb. 28 through March 14 as it’s taking a dramatic shift in a virtual setting due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the change of format, the event is expected to see a larger audience this year.

Ayuko Babu, PAFF executive director and an international legal, cultural, and political consultant who specializes in Pan African Affairs,  believes that the recalibration will provide a unique experience for audiences and give PAFF the opportunity to increase the event’s awareness to a global scale.

“Virtual or in-person, we remain dedicated to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance of films, art, and creative expression,” Babu said.

Babu added that award-winning actor and festival co-founder Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon,” “The Color Purple”) has been tapped to serve as this year’s celebrity ambassador and will help shed light on both the festival line-up and PAFF’s legacy.

: “The Water Man” is set to kick off the 29th Annual Pan African Film Festival. Photo Courtesy of the Pan African Film Festival
“The Water Man” is set to kick off the 29th Annual Pan African Film Festival. Photo Courtesy of the Pan African Film Festival

Since its inception in 1993, PAFF is known as both the largest Black film festival and largest Black History Month cultural event in the United States, featuring over 200 Black films and 100 artists from around the world.

PAFF is dedicated to helping up-and-coming Black storytellers all over the world developing and identifying their voices in an industry that doesn’t always provide a great understanding of diversity or address the important issues of the past and present.

“We showcase the broad spectrum of creative works and films by visionaries who highlight the diverse stories of Black America, Africa, and the global Black Diaspora,” PAFF stated on their webpage.

Out of over 900 submissions from 83 countries, this year’s event will have over 200 films from 45 countries and in 43 languages and feature 84 female directors and 15 LGBTQ+ directors.

Furthermore, PAFF will feature four Academy Award Best Foreign Film submissions: “The Milkmaid” (Nigeria); “Ther Fisherman’s Diary” (Cameroon); “The Letter” (Kenya); and “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection” (Lesotho).

Prior to the pandemic, the festival is usually held at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. However, this year will be operating through Envoi; a Black-owned cloud-based platform that manages, distributes, and monetizing content.

“Through our partnership with PAFF, we are enabling filmmakers to get their content in front of a global audience and directly monetize their creative work without giving up ownership, distribution rights or first-person customer data,” Envoi CEO Nicholas Sokes stated in a joint press release with PAFF.

PAFF will kick off opening night with “The Water Man,” directed by David Oyelowo, at 6:30 p.m.  For information on tickets please visit the PAFF website

Featured image: “The Water Man” is set to kick off the 29th Annual Pan African Film Festival. Photo Courtesy of the Pan African Film Festival

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