Pan African Film Festival Press Screenings
Thank you for your interest in this year's Pan African Film Festival taking place virtually February 28 through March 14.
Below, please find this year's films being offered during our press and industry screenings taking place from February 8 through February 12. All of our press screenings will be virtual.
Please review the selection and complete the application to let us know what films you would be interested in seeing.
- If you have any questions or need more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pan African Film Festival
Festival Public Relations
African America (South Africa, US/97min/Feature/Narrative/World Premiere)
Director: Muzi Mthembu
Upon discovering her acceptance into Julliard, Nompumelelo, a cynical South African, embezzles funds from her workplace and abandons her fiancé to live out her Broadway dream in New York City, only to discover that the U.S.A. is not as welcoming as she had dreamed. But there she learns about true love, true happiness, and true citizenship.
Back of the Moon (South Africa/96min/Feature/Narrative/U.S. Premiere)
Director: Angus Gibson
The date July 28, 1958. Tomorrow, legions of police will force the residents of Gerty Street, Sophiatown out of their homes and they will be trucked to a desolate township, ten miles outside of Johannesburg. Badman, an intellectual and the leader of the most powerful gang in Sophiatown, lives life on his own terms in this crazy, cosmopolitan, half-demolished ghetto on the edge of Johannesburg. The gorgeous Eve Msomi, a torch-singer on the brink of an international career, is giving her last concert in the local hall before she travels to London. Refusing to face the bleak reality of Black South African life, Badman has decided that when the police come, he will not move and will fight to the death for his home. But fate thrusts Eve, whom he has loved from a distance, into his orbit. A stylishly beautiful film with a great soundtrack that captures the mood, the violence and yes, the beauty in apartheid South Africa.
Awards: Best South African Feature Film, Durban International Film Festival 2019
Barakat (South Africa/98min/Feature/Narrative/U.S. Premiere)
Director: Amy Jephta
How does a family move on after the death of a father? That is the question at the heart of South Africa’s first Muslim film in Afrikaaps.When matriarch Aisha Davids decides to accept a marriage proposal, she devises a plan to break the news to her four sons over Eid. The only problem is that the two eldest sons have been at loggerheads since their father passed away and refuse to be in the same room at the same time. Her big reveal is spoiled when the boys hear via the grapevine about their mother’s pending nuptials and come together to voice their disapproval of the match. Now it’s up to Aisha, her fiancé, and her daughters-in-law to bring the sons around to her way of thinking using the one thing they can all agree on – the barakat, an Arabic word meaning blessings. This is a story about celebrating life, culture, and the importance of family.
Caged Birds (US/87min/Feature/Narrative/World Premiere)
Director: Fredrick Leach
Jordan Lucas is an affluent, Black high school senior counting down the days until college. He’s constantly bullied and lacks the confidence to stand up for himself. When his prideful cousin, EJ, is humiliated by a white bully, Blake, he recruits Jordan and Kevonte, a bussed-in student from the other side of the tracks, to play a robbery prank on Blake. When the prank goes bad, the three boys struggle to avoid being caught. In the process, they are each forced to confront the personal demons that come with being Black in the suburbs.
Executive Order (Brazil/94min/Feature/Narrative/West Coast Premiere)
Director: Lázaro Ramos
Set in a dystopian near future in Rio de Janeiro, a lawyer sues the Brazilian government for reparation of all descendants of African slaves in the country. The authoritarian government responds by signing an executive order sending all Black citizens to Africa as an excuse to repay the debts of slavery. Citizens are measured by their skin color, hunted and exiled to Africa against their will. While the army and police enforce the law, he enlists his uncle to find his wife, a doctor who has gone missing, and joins an underground movement. The three of them fight the madness that has taken over the country and spark a resistance that inspires the nation. EXECUTIVE ORDER is the directorial debut of one of Brazil’s most acclaimed actors, Lázaro Ramos.
Maya and Her Lover (US/106min/Feature/Narrative/World Premiere)
Director: Nicole Sylvester
Maya Trudeau, a single woman in her thirties, is in the midst of an emotional crisis. She is educated, financially stable and completely disillusioned with life. An introvert, she lives vicariously through her best friend and wasting time online. That is, until she takes a lover, Kaseem, a 22-year-old pizza deliveryman big on ideas, but short on execution. His game is clumsy but endearing. Maya is flattered that such a young man is into her. He’s edgy and a little bit dangerous, but to Maya’s surprise, she likes it - a lot.
Red Pill (US/87min/Feature/Narrative/World Premiere)
Director: Tonya Pinkins
Set over Halloween weekend 2020, this political thriller follows six friends as they head into “red” country to canvas white women to vote. They are armed with idealism and determination, but they should have brought heavy artillery. As they explore the creepy house they booked for the weekend distressing clues indicate that they should get out of there, but they decide to stay. They should have brought heavy artillery.
The Fisherman's Diary (Cameroon/143min/Feature/Narrative)
Director: Enah Johnscott
Twelve-year-old Ekah is inspired by the story of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner - Malala Yousafzai. She is determined to go to school in a village of fishermen where the education of a female child is considered to be a taboo. Her burning drive and determination to break this old adage gets her embroiled with her father's past experience with female education.
Awards: Best Screenplay, AMAA 2020
The Ghost and the House of Truth (Nigeria/63min/Feature/Narrative/L.A. Premiere)
Director: Akin Omotoso
Set in Lagos, Nigeria, the film follows Bola Ogun, a single mother and dedicated counsellor who brokers reconciliation sessions between convicts and their victims. But when her 10-year-old daughter Nike goes missing after school, Bola finds herself in the role of vigilante, thanks to an ineffectual justice system who are unable to move forward with their enquiries. Her only hope is to find answers through her closest ally – the feisty pregnant Police Inspector Folashade who is nicknamed ‘stainless’ for her strength, resilience and skilled precision in The Child Protection Unit of Lagos. What follows is a tenuous chase across Lagos to catch her child’s ‘abductor.’
Awards: Best Editing, AMAA 2020
The Milkmaid (Nigeria/136min/Feature/Narrative/U.S. Premiere)
Director: Desmond Ovbiagele
A Fulani milkmaid confronts religious extremists in rural Sub-Saharan Africa in a quest to locate her missing sister, but efforts to recapture her disrupted past prove complicated. Nigeria’s submission for the Best International Feature Film Oscar.
Awards: Best Film, AMAA 2020; Best Nigerian Film, AMAA 2020; Best Make-up, AMAA 2020
This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lesotho/120min/Feature/Narrative/ Premiere)
Director: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese
In the mountains of Lesotho, Mantoa, an 80-year-old widow eagerly awaits her son’s return from working in the South African mines, only to learn of his demise instead. Yearning for her own death after the loss of her last remaining family member, she puts her affairs in order and makes arrangements to be buried in the local cemetery. Her careful plans are abruptly upset by the news that provincial officials intend to resettle the village, flood the entire area, and build a dam for a reservoir. Mantoa finds a new will to live and resolves herself to defend the spiritual heritage of the community. Lesotho’s submission for the Best International Feature Film Oscar 2021
Awards: Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking, Sundance; Best Director, AMAA 2020; Best Cinematography, AMAA 2020; Best Costume Design, AMAA 2020
41st and Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers (U.S./120min)
Director: Gregory Everett
41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers, winner of the 2010 Pan African Film Festival's Audience Favorite Documentary, features exclusive interviews from Black Panther party leaders Geronimo Ji Jagga, Elaine Brown, and Kathleen Cleaver, retired Los Angeles City Councilmember and former L.A.P.D. Police Chief Bernard Parks. The film was the first part of a documentary series by filmmaker Gregory Everett that follows the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense from its glorious Black Power beginnings through to its tragic demise. The film explores the Black Panther ethos, its conflict with the L.A.P.D. and the U.S. Organization, and the events that shaped the complicated and often contradictory legacy of the L.A. chapter.
Using exclusive interviews with former Black Panther Party members along with archival footage detailing the history of racism in Los Angeles, including the Watt's Uprising, 41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers, has been called the most in-depth study ever of the murders of L.A. Chapter founder Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter and John Huggins at U.C.L.A. The documentary includes first-hand accounts of the Party's formation as told by the original surviving members and eyewitness accounts of the murders at U.C.L.A. Also featured in the film are former Black Panther members Ericka Huggins, Roland & Ronald Freeman, Wayne Pharr, Jeffrey Everett, Long John Washington, US Organization member Wesley Kabaila, U.C.L.A. Professor Scot Brown, and Bernie Morris, oldest brother of Bunchy Carter.
Awards: PAFF Audience Favorite Documentary 2010
Finding Sally (Ethiopia, Canada/78min/Documentary/U.S. Premiere)
Director: Tamara Dawit
The incredible story of a 23-year-old woman from an upper-class family who became a communist rebel with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party. Idealistic and in love, Sally got caught up in her country’s revolutionary fervor and landed on the military government’s most wanted list. She went underground and her family never saw her again. Four decades after Sally’s disappearance, Tamara Dawit pieces together the mysterious life of her Aunt Sally. She revisits the Ethiopian revolution and the terrible massacre that followed, which resulted in nearly every Ethiopian family losing a loved one. Her quest leads her to question notions of belonging, personal convictions and political ideals at a time when Ethiopia is going through important political changes once again.
Firestarter - The Story of Bangarra (Australia/96min/Documentary/U.S. Premiere)
Director: Wayne Blair, Nel Minchin
Featuring authentic storytelling, mesmerizingg technique and deeply moving and spectacular performances, combined with inimitable soundscapes, candid interviews and a treasure trove of archival footage, this beautifully executed film evidences why Bangarra Dance Theater developed from a little-known Indigenous dance group into one the nation’s most powerful cultural institutions. Historically important, Firestarter explores the loss and reclaiming of culture, the burden of intergenerational trauma and crucially, the extraordinary power of art as a messenger for social change and healing. Taking the viewer through Bangarra’s birth and spectacular growth to where it is now entering its 4th decade, this historically important film recognizes Bangarra’s early founders, telling the story of how three young Aboriginal brothers – Stephen, David and Russell Page – turned the newly born dance group into one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies.
Awards: Feature Documentary Award and Inaugural Change Award, Adelaide Film Festival 2020; Best Documentary, Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts Awards
Fresh Guide To Florence with Fab 5 Freddy (Italy, US, UK/60min/Documentary/U.S. Premiere)
Director: David Shulman
A revelatory and iconoclastic look at 15th and 16th century Italian Renaissance art through the eyes of hip hop legend and art lover Fab 5 Freddy. Amidst rockstar artists such as Michelangelo and powerful patrons such as the Medicis Fab discovers groundbreaking images of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society in artworks which have fallen through the cracks of art history and been neglected by art historians. Included in Fab 5 Freddy’s revelations are the story and images of Alexandro de Medici, known as the Black Prince who ruled Florence from 1531-37.
Hollywood's Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story (US/57min/Documentary)
Director: Royal Kennedy Rodgers, Kathy McCampbell Vance
Nicknamed “Architect to the Stars,” African American architect Paul R. Williams had a life story that could have been dreamed up by a Hollywood screenwriter. Orphaned at the age of four, Williams grew up to build mansions for movie stars and millionaires in Southern California. From the early 1920s until his retirement 50 years later, Williams was one of the most successful architects in the country. His list of residential clients included Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. And his name is associated with architectural icons like the Beverly Hills Hotel, the original MCA Headquarters Building and LAX Airport. But at the height of his career Paul Williams wasn’t always welcome in the restaurants and hotels he designed or the neighborhoods where he built homes because of his race. “Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story” tells the compelling, but little known story, of how he used talent and perseverance to beat the odds and create a body of work that can be found from coast to coast. Narrated by Courtney Vance with appearances by Paulette Washington and Karen Hudson, Williams' grandaughter.
I am Samuel (Kenya/70min/DocumentaryWest Coast Premiere)
Director: Pete Murimi
Samuel grew up in the Kenyan countryside, where tradition is valued above all else. He is close to his mother but his father, a local pastor, doesn’t understand why he isn’t married yet. After moving to Nairobi, Kenya's capital, in search of work and a new life, Samuel falls in love with Alex and finds community and belonging. Their love thrives despite the fact that Kenyan laws criminalize anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+. Despite threats of violence and rejection, Samuel and Alex move between their co-existing worlds, hoping to win acceptance in both.
Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend (US/92min/DocumentaryWorld Premiere)
Director: Ryan Matthew Polomski, Dean Prator
RAYMOND LEWIS: L.A. LEGEND tells the true story of the mythical basketball legend from Watts California who was blackballed as a rookie from the NBA in the early 1970s following an ugly contract dispute with the Philadelphia 76ers. The film features exclusively uncovered archival footage dating back over 50 years, along with a deep array of over 45 personal interviews that tell the incredibly strange and heartbreaking tale of a once-in-a-generation talent who was shunned by a game he was destined to dominate. Part historical recovery, part deep personal excavation, the film takes the viewer on a moving ride through one of the sport’s least known, but perhaps most incredible personal journeys of all time. Steeped in the unique history and imagery of South Central Los Angeles and the tumultuous civil rights movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, L.A. LEGEND offers a unique reflection of the racial justice movements happening today in both sports and U.S. society. Featuring interviews with Dr. Harry Edwards, Jerry Tarkanian, Reggie Theus, Sonny Vacarro, Lorenzo Romar, Michael Cooper, Gene Shue, Pat Williams.
Softie (Kenya, US/95min/Documentary/ West Coast Premiere)
Director: Sam Soko
Boniface “Softie” Mwangi has long fought injustices in his country as a political activist. Now he’s taking the next step by running for office in a regional Kenyan election. From the moment Boniface decides to run, telling his wife, Njeri, in passing with a hesitant laugh, he responds to each challenge with optimism. But running a clean campaign against corrupt opponents becomes increasingly harder to combat with idealism alone. And Boniface soon finds that challenging strong political dynasties is putting his family at risk. Should country really come before family, as he’s always believed?
Awards: World Cinema - Documentary Editing, Sundance 2020
The Letter (Kenya/83min/Documentary/West Coast Premiere)
Director: Maia Lekow, Christopher King
Filmed with a gentle pace and incredible closeness, The Letter is an intimate family portrait that ascends into a dramatic climax of Shakespearean proportions. Karisa’s city-life is interrupted when his 95-year old Grandmother back home is called a witch. Returning to his rural village to investigate, he finds a frenzied mixture of consumerism and Christianity is turning hundreds of families against their elders, branding them as witches as a means to steal their ancestral land. As Karisa balances delicately between his disputing aunties and uncles, the love for his Grandmother and her fearless spirit must overcome the imminent danger of the accusations against her. With an original score composed by director Maia Lekow, the inevitable universal theme of how land is divided when an elder dies is entangled by the chaotic mixture of traditions of the past with the newly imposed influence of western religions. The understated power of women and resilience of family and community shines above all else, despite the growing threat of greed and inter-generational alienation. Kenya’s submission for the Best International Feature Film Oscar 2021
Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me (US/82min/Documentary/L.A. Premiere)
Director: Abby Ginzberg
Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me tells the complex story of Representative Barbara Lee, a steadfast voice for human rights, peace and equality in the U.S. Congress who cut her teeth as a volunteer for the Black Panther Party and was the lone voice in opposition to the broad authorization of military force after the September 11th attacks. In 2001, she issued a prescient warning in the House of Representatives: “Let us not become the evil we deplore,” and today she continues that clarion call. An all-star cast including Senator Cory Booker, Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commentator Van Jones, actor Danny Glover, and author Alice Walker all share insights about what makes Barbara Lee unique as a public servant and as a truth-telling African American woman.
Awards: Audience Award, American Docs, American Film Festival 2020, Wroclaw, Poland
Uprooted - The Journey of Jazz Dance (Canada, France, UK, US/95min/ Documentary/L.A. Premiere)
Director: Khadifa Wong
Jazz in movement and music is ever-evolving. As jazz dance celebrates its many interpretations, it pays homage to its lineage. Its history and artistic roots in the expression of enslaved peoples strengthen the art form, turning its practice into a metaphor for resistance and a struggle for acceptance. The rapid kaleidoscope of movement and music in Uprooted speaks more clearly than any artificial narrative, setting testimonials from dedicated practitioners of jazz dance against a linear examination of American history.
Awards: Best of Fest Feature, Dance on Camera Film Festival 2020, New York
African American Shorts
Black Lady Goddess (US/25min/Webseries/Narrative)
Director: Chelsea Odufu
Black Lady Goddess is a satirical afro-futuristic series set in the year 2040 when humans on earth now have a connection to their creator in outer space. It follows the life of a young activist by the name of Ifeoma Johnson who is coming into her own in a time when humans have not only found out that God is a Black Woman, but after reparations have been issued in the amount of $455,000 to each person of African descent. The first season showcases the chaos that unfolds following this development. Black Lady Goddess emerges as a symbol of the end of White Supremacy and privilege and as a pillar of strength and power to women and people of color around the world.
Director: Natalie Jasmine Harris
On the eve of her cotillion ball, a young Black girl grapples with her queer identity and questions her purity.
Smell of Summer (US/22min/Short/Narrative)
Director: Kris Wilson
On the first day of summer vacation, three 10-year-old boys venture through their Philadelphia neighborhood trying to find some excitement.
The Cypher (US/15min/Short/Narrative)
Director: Letia Solomon
A young black freestyle rapper in Philadelphia must confront his sexuality when he finally gets the chance to perform on the big stage.
Awards: Outstanding Director, USC 2020 First Look Faculty Award
The McHenry Trial – Don’t Judge a Kid by Their Hoodie (US/30min/Short/Narrative)
Director: Ken Sagoes
A young and brilliant academic phenom who not only passes the bar exam at age 14 but finds himself defending his homeless father on a murder charge when few believe he is innocent. He faces a shrewd law firm, an old school segregationist judge, and an arrogant prosecutor who is preparing to celebrate his 50th consecutive case win.
#WeAreDyingHere (South Africa/25min/Short/Narrative)
Director: Shane Vermooten
A chronicle of the journey of three soldiers forced to survive in a war that they did not choose. As the war against women rages around them, they attempt to find solace to process their pain under the constant threat of their enemy lurking in the shadows. #WeAreDyingHere engages directly with the violent culture of harassment, abuse, rape and femicide, it is a necessary pause, an exhale and insight into the experience of living as a woman.
Director: Anastasia Sima
Athens, Greece 2020. Quarantine days. Daphne, a young singer, decides to break down the wall that separates her from her annoying neighbor.
Awards: Audience Award National Competition – 43d Drama International Short Film Festival 2020
The Moon and Me (Australia/12min/Short/Narrative)
Director: Kalu Oji
Kelechi’s world seems to be falling apart. Her family has been forced to move from her childhood home and to add to the chaos we’re also experiencing one of the strangest natural phenomena to date with the moon being stuck still in the sky for three days. When the power cuts out and strange things start happening, she decides to go for a walk around the town she once knew so well. After a moment of clarity, she realizes that the unknown may not actually be as scary as she had once thought…
Till Death Do Us Part (Póki śmierć nas nie rozłączy ) (Uganda, Poland/24min/Short/Narrative)
Director: Dolores Vunda
A Ugandan woman fights against her husband’s desire to marry a second woman. Her journey gets harder when she figures that she is the only one in the family standing against the law that the culture still holds.
Two Single Beds (UK/16min/Short/Narrative)
Director: William Stefan Smith
In Doncaster, a dead-end comedy night is underway. It’s miles from home for Jay and June, two comedians amongst the line-up. When Jay prolongs his flirtatious post-show drinks with June he misses his last train home, forcing a more intimate exploration of himself than expected. Can he resist the temptation to escape his reality for a night or stay faithful to the growing number of people waiting for him at home? The two London comedians struggling with their own demons find refuge in each other.