Denver Pan African Film Festival

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Denver Pan African Film Festival

Date Observed: Last week in April
Location: Denver, Colorado

The Denver Film Society and the Starz Entertainment Group co-sponsor the week-long Denver Pan African Film Festival each April. Held at Colorado's state capital, the festival hosts local, national and international visitors who gather at this award-winning competitive showcase and educational exchange about black filmmaking.

Historical Background

Long before there were Pan African film festivals or motion pictures of any kind, the term "Pan Africanism" has signified the idea that Africans and Africans of the diaspora, wherever they are located, share a common history and culture and should unify in efforts to gain equality through social, political, and economic power. These concepts were expressed at the First Pan African Congress in London in 1900, and also at similar congresses in other countries later in the century.

Since the early 1900s in the United States, Pan Africanism has found a voice through nationalists, such as Marcus Garvey, and through such art forms as literature, music, dance, and films. (See also African Film Festival; African World Festival in Detroit, Michigan; African World Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; DanceAfrica; Ghanafest; Marcus Garvey's Birthday; Odunde Festival; and Pan African Film & Arts Festival).

Creation of the Denver Festival

The first Denver Pan African Film Festival was held in 2000 and was organized under the auspices of the Pan African Arts Society, a Denver metro area non-profit organization that focuses on cultural arts as a means to bring about social change. Founder Ashara Saran Ekundayo calls herself an "activist artist," and she established the festival in order to showcase feature films, shorts, documentaries, videos, and other art forms from the African diaspora to prompt dialogue on social issues.


The Denver Pan African Film Festival extends a full week in April each year. Dozens of films from around the globe - North and South America, Europe, the Caribbean - are screened throughout the week. Juries present awards such as the SoulSpirit Award, given to a film director, producer, or actor whose work raises the social consciousness of audiences and prompts people to be socially responsible or to become activists. In 2005, the SoulSpirit Award went to Don Cheadle, an actor who merges his art with social justice issues. At the 77th Annual Academy Awards, he was a nominee for best actor for his lead-role performance in Hotel Rwanda (2004).

The Denver festival also includes workshops, panel discussions, and an educational youth fest. In 2006, an African marketplace was added to garner exposure of black fine art craftsmanship.

Contacts and Web Sites

Denver Film Society 1725 Blake St. Denver, CO 80202 303-595-3456

Pan American Arts Society/Denver Pan African Film Festival/Café Nuba 909 Park Ave. W. Denver, CO 80205 303-298-8188; fax: 303-298-8804

Further Reading "Daring, Fresh Films Featured at Pan African Festival," press release, April 10, 2002. . Dernerstein, Robert. "Award, Family Await Cheadle in Denver." Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), April 29, 2005. columnists/article/0,2777,DRMN_23962_3740612,00.html. Kennedy, Lisa. "A Festival Filled with Powerful Moments.", November 25, 2005. . "Pan Africanism." In Encyclopedia of Black America, edited by W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007
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