By Dwight Brown
NNPA Film Critic/Travel Writer

The 22nd annual Pan African Film Festival (http://www.paff.org) ran from February 6th to the 17th. 177 feature films, docs, shorts and web series screened daily at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza’s Rave Cinemas in Los Angeles.

Locals and out-of-towners gathered to honor black films that will premiere in theaters around the country over the upcoming year, or will be available on VOD, DVD or at colleges, or libraries.

The festival dates back to 1992, when the founders, Danny Glover, Ja’net DuBois (Good Times) and Ayuko Babu, felt a need to celebrate African heritage. Today Babu remains its hands-on Executive Director. You can feel his presence on every film in the festival.

The 2014 Award Winners

BEST FEATURE NARRATIVE = “Of Good Report” – Winner

“Confusion Na Wa – Jury Recognition

BEST SHORT NARRATIVE = “Freedom Road” – Winner

“Sketch” – Jury Recognition

BEST DOCUMENTARY = “Freedom Summer” – Winner

“Small Small Things” – Jury Recognition

BEST DIRECTOR – FIRST FEATURE = “The Forgotten Kingdom” – Winner

“Felix” – Jury Recognition

Noteworthy films…

About Last Night (**1/2) Kevin Hart, the hardest working man in show business, plays a dapper Casanova who’s dating a turbulent lady (Regina Hall) who is as passionate and sexually ravenous as he. Michael Ealy portrays a more sensitive man who falls for an executive (Joy Bryant) he wants to cohabitate with. Fussing, fighting, make-up sex and broken hearts ensue in a decent romantic comedy that’s filled with chuckles thanks to the cast and the uproarious dialogue.

Between Friends (Ithala) (**) Old college friends reunite seven years after graduation at a swank game lodge in South African. Group dynamics hit a fever pitch when a jealous younger brother reveals that his brother had an affair with another woman in the group. The older sibling’s girlfriend is not amused, and neither is the woman in question. Uh-oh. Plays like a Sub-Sahara soap opera with haughty individuals who aren’t that likable. Lacks authenticity, but is devilishly fun to watch.

Blue Caprice (***) Based on the Beltway Sniper killings, this chilling thriller stars Isaiah Washington as a diabolical, bloodthirsty psychopath who enlists a young impressionable, wayward teen (Tequan Richmond) in the murder spree that shocked the nation. Writer/director Alexandre Moors doesn’t spare the details in this grisly, haunting piece of cinéma vérité where brutal violence is as common as rain. Washington’s portrayal of the cold-blooded lead is so damn scary.

Go For Sisters (**1/2) In this crime drama a parole officer (Lisa Gay Hamilton) tries to find her missing son who is thought to be in a border town and involved in crime. She reconnects with an old neighborhood friend (Yolonda Ross), a recovering addict, and implores her to be a guide. John Sayles’ overly written drama focuses too much on dialogue and not enough on advancing the story. Hamilton and Ross create tense emotions. Edward James Olmos also stars.

The New Black (***) Marriage equality or defense of marriage? Civil rights or sacred rights? The state of Maryland votes on a hotly contested “Question 6” proposition that would affirm or deny gay couples’ right to marry. The influence and opinions of the Black church, preachers, religious right, gay movement and civil libertarians are debated. Director/producer Yoruba Richen thoroughly investigates a topical subject that divides the Black community. A thought-provoking documentary.

Of Good Report (***) An enigmatic teacher (Mothusi Magano) gets hired at a rural South African high school. A flirtation with a coquettish coed leads him down a path of no return. This very understated film noir was shot in black and white and told very methodically with a strange blend of reality and fantasy. Written and directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, this piece of art was a bold Opening Night Film choice that won Best Feature Narrative.

PAFF is the cornerstone of Black History Month in Los Angeles. Every year, it opens the door to L.A.’s thriving Black community.

For a full listing of 2014 films go to: http://www.paff.org/filmfest/

Visit  Dwight Brown at www.DwightBrownInk.com.

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