By Shirley Hawkins
Thousands will be flocking to the 22nd Annual Pan African Film Festival, which kicks off on Feb. 6th and continues through the 14th.
The largest and most prestigious Black film festival in the country, the two-week premier event will be held at the Rave Theater at the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles and will showcase 172 films representing 46 countries.
Some of the films represented in the film festival come from Argentina, Brazil, Bahamas, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States.
Executive Director Ayuko Babu, along with “Of Good Report” South African writer/filmmaker Jahmil X. T. Qubeka, actress Petronella, and “My Zaphira” Burkina Faso filmmaker Apolline Traore, recently appeared on the KJLH Front Page radio show to discuss their films.
“Of Good Report,” the festival’s opening night film, is about Parker, a mysterious high school teacher who is assigned to a rural school and becomes drawn to a gorgeous young girl. He becomes increasingly obsessed with the girl after he discovers that she attends the school where he teaches.
The girl goes missing, prompting a female detective to investigate the incident which fuels Parker’s unstable, dangerous behavior. “Of Good Report” stirred controversy in South Africa by being the first film to be banned in apartheid South Africa. The film will also be screened on Feb.9th and the 17th.
“’Of Good Report’ is an exciting, unusual ground breaking film,” said Babu. “It tells a tale of what happens to real smart kids who become teachers and go out in the African countryside.” Babu added that the scenario depicted in the film echoes recent news events of teachers placed in positions of authority who abuse the students in their care. “They’ll send a teacher to Compton or Inglewood who might be a little unstable,” he noted.
“The film tackles gender based violence and the degeneration of culture,” added Qubeka, who said the film is a modern-day, classic film noir. “I didn’t just make the film just for South African audiences. It’s a universal story with universal themes.”
“There aren’t many opportunities for young women in these rural areas,” pointed out Petronella, who plays the 16-year-old female student in “Of Good Report.” “Being a young black woman in Africa, it’s what you make of it. We don’t have full opportunities. Gender violence is everywhere in this world and people need to be aware of it.”
Zaphira, who lives in a village deeply mired in tradition, dreams of a better life for her daughter. When she sees a fashion magazine, she decides her daughter will become a model, despite her daughter’s resistance and the disapproval of the whole village. “I explore the psychology of the mother,” said Traore.
Traore said that the story closely mirrors her own struggles to become a filmmaker.
“The important message in this film is that parents must oblige their children to be what they want,” she said. “This woman pushes her child to do what she wants. I had to fight my father to become a filmmaker,” Traore revealed. “Sometimes parents need to listen to their kids so that they will not be miserable in the profession their parents have chosen for them.
“My father did not want me to be in the film industry because he felt there was no future in it. He was paying for my studies. I had to convince him that I could make a living as a filmmaker and I was very lucky. Today, he is very proud of me.”
Traore said there is still a struggle for women in her country to make films. “Being a woman filmmaker is difficult,” she said. “They don’t take us seriously in my country. It’s easier for the government to give money to a man instead of a woman. But we’re fighting, and were getting there slowly,” said Traore, whose film won best achievement for lighting.
“Young girls in Inglewood and Compton look at magazines like Essence and Ebony who want to become models, so this movie sheds light on that topic,” Babu added.
“My Zaphira” will be shown on Feb. 11, 14 and 16th.
The 22nd Annual Pan African Film Festival is being held at the RAVE Cinemas, 4020 Marlton Avenue in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. For a full schedule of dates, times and ticket information, visit paff.org.