LOS ANGELES – An award-winning rapper, singer-songwriter and actress, Niatia “Lil Mama” Kirkland has been tapped as the celebrity host of the Pan African Film Festival. Recognizing the influence and impact of the hip hop culture in music, television and film, Lil Mama was selected to preside over the festival’s Spoken Word Fest. With the theme of “Music in the Rhymes,” the event will feature some of the best poets and spoken word artists from around the country, showcasing their best spits and rhymes. Spoken Word Fest will be held during the run of the festival on Sunday, February 9 at 7 p.m., located at the Bridge in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles.
Lil Mama received rave reviews for her star-making turn as Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez in VH1's biopic "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story," which chronicles the rise of the best-selling, Grammy Award-winning R&B girls group of all time. The television movie was the highest-rated original cable movie of 2013, and nabbed two NAACP nominations, including one for "Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Because of Lil Mama’s authentic portrayal, she was invited to perform with the original members, “Chilli” and “T-Boz” at the 2013 American Music Awards.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Lil Mama burst on the pop culture scene in 2008 with her debut album, VYP – that is, “Voice of Young People” -- scoring two Top 10 hit records on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Her single "Lip Gloss," landed on Rolling Stone’s list as one of the Best 100 Songs of 2007. She’s been nominated for various awards, including two BET Awards for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, an MTV Video Music Award, and several Teen Choice Awards. In 2007 and 2008, she nabbed the Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer Song and Choice Rap/Hip-Hop Track for her hit singles “Lip Gloss” and “Shawty Get Loose,” respectively. Audiences also know Lil Mama as a judge for seven seasons on MTV's popular dance competition show "America's Best Dance Crew."
PAFF, America's largest and most prestigious Black film festival, will take place February 6-17, 2014 at the new Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. For more information about the festival and SpokenWord Fest, visit www.PAFF.org.
Along with Lil Mama, the festival is happy to announce a roster of veteran actors who will serve as celebrity jurors to judge the films in competition. This year, PAFF has selected a total of 179 films, representing 46 countries -- that is, 41 feature-length documentaries, 23 short documentaries, 56 narrative features, and 59 narrative shorts as well as 11 webseries in the new category of New Media. The festival will hand out prizes for Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature and Best First Feature Film as well as audience favorite awards at the close of the festival.
ROSTER OF CELEBRITY JURORS FOR THE PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
Vanessa Bell Calloway – actress, producer
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Vanessa Bell Calloway is a veteran actress of stage, television, and film who’s earned eight NAACP Image Award nominations. She’s best known for a plethora of roles, including box-office, smash hits, “Coming to America,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Biker Boyz,” “Love Don’t Cost A Thing,” “The Inkwell,” “Crimson Tide,” “The Brothers,” “Cheaper By The Dozen,” “The Temptations,” as well as the lead female role, voiced in the animated feature “Bebe's Kids.” She can be seen in three indies, currently out on DVD – that is, “The Last Fall,” “The Under Shepherd” and “The Obama Effect.”
Michael DeLorenzo -- actor, director
Michael DeLorenzo is a veteran of the stage and screen with more than 25 years of experience in the entertainment industry. A native of Bronx, New York, he attended New York’s famous High School of the Performing Arts. Prior to acting, he began his career as dancer, performing with Tina Ramirez's Ballet Hispanico, the School of American Ballet (SAB) and the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet with a final tenure at the New York School of Ballet. Interestingly, he was one of the dancers in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” music video. A knee injury propelled him into acting, with his first breakout role in Dick Wolf’s urban drama “New York Undercover.” His television credits include “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: New York,” “The Ghost Whisperer,” “Crossing Jordan” and “Resurrection Blvd.”
Erica Gimpel -- actress, singer, songwriter
Erica Gimpel will forever live in the hearts and minds of audiences as Coco Hernandez on the television series, “Fame.” A native New Yorker, interestingly, Gimpel was a junior at New York City’s famed School of the Arts when she was cast in the role of Coco. She became an international star with platinum soundtracks and sold-out concerts around the world. Her other television credits include “True Blood,” “Criminal Minds,” “Grey’s Anatomy,’ “Nikita,” “Rissoli & Isles” and “Veronica Mars” – just to name a few. On the big screen, she’s appeared in the Oscar-nominated short film, “Tuesday Morning Ride,” as well as “Smoke,” “The King of New York,” and “No Such Thing.” She recently filmed “Romeo and Juliet in Harlem,” opposite Harry Lennix and Aunjanue Ellis, directed by Aleta Chappell.
Jimmy Jean-Louis – model,
Haitian-born actor, Jimmy Jean-Louis grew up in the slums of Petion-Ville, Haiti until the age 12, when he moved to Paris, and segued from a model to an international movie star. In Africa and throughout the Caribbean, he’s one of the most recognizable actors in the Diaspora. Taking on one of the most significant roles of his career, Jean-Louis portrays Haitian Revolution leader in the epic film, “Toussaint L’ Ouverture.” His stirring portrayal of the military leader has garnered him many awards on the film-festival circuit. In 2011, he received a Best Actor nod for his role in “Sinking Sands” from the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), i.e. the African Oscars. His film credits include “Tears of the Sun,” “Hollywood Homicide,” “Phat Girlz,” “Diary of a Tired, Black Man,” “Sinking Sands,” and “One Night in Vegas.”
Dawnn Lewis – actress, singer
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Dawnn Lewis is a multi-talented and multi-faceted artist as a Grammy Award-winning singer, multiple ASCAP & BMI award-winning songwriter and actress. Although she’s best known for the role of Jelessa Vinson on the hit NBC show, “A Different World,” Lewis also composed the show’s theme song with Bill Cosby and Stu Gardner, and sang it for the show’s first season. Her television credits include “The Soul Man,” “CSI: Miami,” “One Tree Hill,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Nash Bridges,” “Spiderman,” “Girlfriends,” and “Hanging With Mr. Hooper.” Lewis has a recurring role as Dr. Knapp on the award-winning daytime series “Days of Our Lives.”
Tanjareen Martin – actress, producer
Tanjareen Martin, a native of Inglewood, Calif., runs Citric Cinema Inc., and produced the award-winning web series "The Celibate Nympho Chronicles." She is a series regular on “Zane’s the Jump Off,” airing Fridays on Cinemax and appeared in two sitcoms executive produced by Bentley Kyle Evans – namely, “Family Time” and “The Rev.” On the big screen, she’s appeared in "Johnson Family Vacation," “Miss March,” “Love for Sale,” “Hurricane in a Rose Garden” and “Something Like a Business.”
Nicki Micheaux – actress
The consummate character actor, Nicki Michaeux has guest starred in some of television’s most celebrated dramatic series. Whether she’s the tortured, drug-addicted sister of fellow police officer Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick) on “Six Feet Under;” the fearless, undercover detective Trish George on “The Shield;” or the sexy temptress on the acclaimed Showtime series, “Soul Food,” Micheaux delivers a noteworthy performance every single time. For four seasons, she portrayed the independent and supportive wife and mother on the ABC Family series, “Lincoln Heights.” Next up: she’ll appear in the feature film, “The Trials Of Cate McCall,” opposite Kate Beckinsale. Born is Detroit, an Army brat, Michaeux has lived in many cities throughout the country, but considers Houston, Texas home.
Dorian Missick – actor
No stranger to the stage, film or television, the New Jersey-born and New York raised, Dorian Missick is a true artistic Renaissance man. Missick just wrapped up a successful season five on TNT’s hit cop-drama series “Southland” where he played Detective Ruben Robinson. Other television credits include, “Haven,” "The Cape" and “Six Degrees.” Look for Missick in an upcoming episode of BET’s “Being Mary Jane;” plus, he just landed the lead role of Jay Favors in an untitled HBO comedy. On the big screen, Missick has appeared in “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Lucky Number Sleven” as well as indie darlings, “Big Words,” “Things Never Said,” and “Mooz-lum.” This summer, Missick wrapped on the Jerry Bruckheimer thriller “Beware The Night,” portraying Gordon, a Bronx cop who attempts to solve strange crimes.
Issa Rae – writer, actress, producer
Raised in Potomac Maryland and Los Angeles, Issa Rae is an award-winning writer, director and producer. With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Rae's web content has garnered more than 20 million views and close to 140,000 subscribers on YouTube. In 2012, Rae made the Forbes 30 Under 30 Entertainment List and won the 2012 Shorty Award for Best Web Show for her hit series "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl." In addition to “Awkward Black Girl,” Rae has created other web series, including “Dorm Diaries” “Ratchet Piece Theatre, “The F Word.” Her hands are pretty full, developing a new television show, called “I Hate LA Dudes,” with Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy, “Scandal,” “Private Practice”) for ABC and a half-hour comedy for HBO with Emmy-winning writer/producer Larry Wilmore.
Vanessa Williams -- actress
Born and raised in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, Vanessa Williams attended New York's famed High School of Performing Arts, and earned a bachelor's degree in theatre and business from Marymount Manhattan College. She landed one of her first acting roles on “The Cosby Show” before heading to Los Angeles, and setting up residence on the Fox hit show, “Melrose Place,” as the first and only main African American character. An award-winning actress, Williams is best known for her roles as Rhonda Blair in “Melrose Place” and the sassy Maxine Chadway on Showtime’s “Soul Food,” which nabbed her an NAACP Image Award. Her television credits include “Raising Izzie,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” Lincoln Heights,” “Cold Case,” “Murder One,” “Chicago Hope,” “NYPD Blue,” “Living Single,” and the “Cosby Show” – just to name a few. On the big screen, she’s appeared in “A Woman of Color,” “Mother,” “Punks” and “New Jack City.”
AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS … PAFF is the grant recipient of the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. The festival thanks the generous support of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and RAVE Cinemas as well as the Organisation Internatinale de la Francophonie. For more information, visit www.PAFF.org.
ABOUT THE PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
Gearing up for its 22nd anniversary, the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF), is America's largest and most prestigious Black film festival. Each year, it screens more than 150 films made by and/or about people of African descent from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Latin America, Europe and Canada. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country.
PAFF was founded in 1992 by award-winning actor Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon” movie franchise), Emmy Award-winning actress Ja’Net DuBois (best known for her role as Willona in the tv series, “Good Times”) and executive director, Ayuko Babu, an international legal, cultural and political consultant who specializes in African Affairs. PAFF is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through the exhibit of films, art and creative expression.
The goal of PAFF is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images, help to destroy negative stereotypes and depict an expanded vision of the Black experience. PAFF believes film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time, serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.
For more information, please visit www.PAFF.org or call (310) 337-4737.