January 31, 2013
By Kenneth Miller
Last September Ayuko Babu was at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference sitting in the audience of a panel discussion about African films.
He unquestionably has such an astute resume that would have qualified him to lead the panel, but on this day Babu was just listening and taking notes and in the room of just roughly a dozen was one of the crowd.
As renowned and revered as Babu is, perhaps his greatest human quality is that of humility which is why the 20th annual Pan African Film Festival has earned a reputation of being among the best in the world.
When the festival unfolds from Feb. 9th through Feb. 20th in Baldwin Hills at the Rave Theatres and the Baldwin Hills Mall it will not just be reflective of harnessing a vision that Babu shared with his good friend and accomplished actor Danny Glover and Emmy Award winning actress Ja’Net DuBois, but also one the Crenshaw community can embrace.
“This is a place where people come from across the planet with all of their stories. For Black folks in Los Angeles it is a God sent experience of going around the world in 10 days without having to purchase an airline ticket,” Babu told the Sentinel in an exclusive interview.
He founded the PAFF in 1992 with a goal of elevating the importance of independent filmmaking and establishing a platform for people of color to tell their stories on the big screen.
This year the festival comes on the heels of the highly controversial Oscar nominated film ‘Django Unchained’ that sparked an outpouring debate about slavery and the dreaded N-word.
“Each year is different and an opportunity for voices to come out and tell our stories,” added Babu.
While not specifically referring to ‘Django’, Babu explained that stories of film are always something new, ours are intimate, but the world of creativity is unlimited.
Babu attempts to explore and reveal through the festival “Our” story from more than 150 films, shorts ad documentaries, reflective of Africans from throughout the continent of Africa and America.
They come from Jamaica, Canada, Soweto, Nigerian, South Africa and more, but that language as depicted in their stories on film is directly from the chorus of the heart, with a trumpeting spirit that captures the soul.
When asked which films were creating the buzz for this year’s festival, Babu said,” It’s hard to say, but there is a documentary about Iceberg Slim produced by Ice T that clarifies the mystery of what he was all about.”
He also pointed to a couple of others such as ‘Home Again’, as a film good for Blacks to see and ‘Otelo Bernie’, a film about South Africa and the liberation of South Africa centered abound an integrated surfing team.
“Until we begin to understand and tell our ancient stories it will be difficult for us to see where we are going,” Babu offered.
The PAFF is a non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring more than 1000 students from local middle schools and high schools to attend the festival.
Each weekend during the festival there will be a children’s festival from 10am-12pm for kids’ ages 4-12 where story telling will take place. It’s free to the public.
A jazz concert will be held at the Baldwin Hills Mall that will also be free, and for those in the film business or who aspire to be in films there will be workshops and opportunities to meet filmmakers, producers and distributors.
There are also the massive arts that will be available for purchase throughout, paintings, beads, jewelry and the like.
As Babu would say it best, there is just no excuse to miss it…