Pan African Film & Arts Festival

Pan African Film & Arts Festival

Pan African Film & Arts Festival

Date Observed: February
Location: Los Angeles, California

The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) is designed to promote cultural and racial tolerance and dialogue through film and other art forms. Held in Los Angeles, California, each February, the festival presents works by people of the African diaspora from the Americas to Europe to the Caribbean.

Historical Background

Film festivals occur every month of the year in the United States, and often these events showcase films that seldom, if ever, appear in mainstream movie theaters. Black film festivals are no exception, and they have been occurring since the 1980s, usually presenting work created, produced, directed, and acted by people of African descent (see also African American Women in Cinema Film Festival; African Film Festival; American Black Film Festival; Denver Pan African Film Festival; and Hollywood Black Film Festival).

The driving force behind the Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles is Ayuko Babu. He is founder and executive director of PAFF and got involved because of his political interests and cultural activities. He has called himself "a product of the '60s" - a member of the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Pan African Movement, and the Black Student Alliance in Los Angeles that helped establish black studies programs.

Some of Babu's cultural activities included a trip accompanying Stevie Wonder to Nigeria for the 1977 Black Festival of Art and Culture. He also worked with African governments to bring African films to the United States as a way to inform U.S. blacks about international issues. A major effort was rallying the black community to urge the U.S. government not to lift sanctions on South Africa, thus helping to rid that country of apartheid.

Creation of the Festival

The first Pan African Film & Arts Festival was held in February 1992, when public funding became available for cultural activities. In 1995 the Magic Johnson Theaters opened at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, and the festival moved to that location.


The Pan African Film & Arts Festival is scheduled in February as an African- American History Month event. It is the official black history celebration in Los Angeles, and it is also considered one of the most important cultural festivals in the city. The festival focuses on the creativity of people of African heritage and presents more than 100 films from Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, and Canada. The films include documentaries, features, and shorts.

During the festival, there is an Artist Market with a fine art show along with exhibits of crafts and wearable art. Poets, storytellers, and musicians also appear. Workshops and panel discussions for beginning filmmakers are held, and a studentfest and childrensfest offer opportunities for young people from Los Angeles schools to view age-appropriate black films. A highlight of the festival is the Night of Tribute when individuals are honored for their lifetime achievements. In 2006 actor Louis Gossett Jr. received the top honor, the PAFF Lifetime Achievement award.

Contact and Web Site

PAFF Headquarters 3775 Santa Rosalia Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90008 323-295-1706; fax: 323-295-1952

Further Reading

Rampell, Ed. "Ayuko Babu" (interview). Los Angeles City Beat, February 10, 2006. .
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007
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