It’s a fantastic time for the arts – specifically Black art – in our city of Atlanta right now. Last night marked the start of the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF and, for Atlanta, PAFF-ATL) at the beautiful and historic (and beautifully historic) Plaza Theatre. According to the festival’s official site, PAFF is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the celebration and promotion of films, art and creative expressions of artists of African descent. It has been held in Los Angeles since 1992 and Atlanta since 1998 and has premiered top Black films including Free Angela And All Political Prisoners, Love & Basketball and Blackbird. As a working professional, film/TV fanatic and former film student, I was over the moon about attending this festival as a member of the press. Regrettably, this is the first festival I have gone to since I graduated from college a few years ago. However – already – from the first night, I can honestly say this is the most positive experience I have had at a film fest. The support for the filmmakers/artists and their respective casts and crews is undeniable and goes further than just showing recognition for the sake of celebrating a celebrity. From the festival organizers to the film stars themselves, the event is largely void of ego and is instead full of a common appreciation for the art of filmmaking and the goal of presenting people of color in a positive, thought-provoking and/or game-changing light that is noticeably absent in mainstream film. For example, directors Amma Asante (Belle) and Diego Luna (Cesar Chavez), still in the midst of receiving acclaim for their own movies, were quietly in attendance to view and support the first screening.
The opening night red carpet event featured a screening of director Deon Taylor’s Supremacy and a Q&A with Taylor and star Danny Glover. The film, based on a true story, is the tale of a paroled White supremacist who, along with his girlfriend, murders a policeman on his first day out of prison. The couple then proceeds to break into a house of a Black family and take the family hostage. (Yes, it’s as terrifying as it sounds). Over the course of the night, several psychological struggles ensue between the couple, the family itself – including a relative on the police force that investigates the murder and hostage situation, and on several individual levels. As a thriller, Supremacy excels in keeping its audience clutching its collective pearls, but it also succeeds in showcasing the triumph (and defeat) of the human spirit.
Danny Glover is, of course, fantastic throughout, but truly shines brightest when his character is forced to interact with with the supremacist one-on-one. Evan Ross (ATL), Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher, Sparkle, Notorious), Lela Rochon (Any Given Sunday, Waiting To Exhale), and Anson Mount (Across The Universe) also give great performances. The Q&A at the conclusion of the screening was an educational and inspirational experience. During the session – which ran over due to an abundance of questions from the eager viewers – the audience learned that the film not only received a standing ovation at the Festival de Cannes, but also was the fasting selling film for distribution at the LA Film Festival. It should also be noted that the film was made for a smooth $1 million – pennies and nickels in Hollywood – and was shot in an impressive 19 days. What
may be is even more impressive is the fact that director Deon Taylor is a self-taught filmmaker.
In addition to the fantastic environment of the Pan African Film Festival, the red carpet screening of Supremacy made opening night one to remember and served as an example of the accomplishments and potential that Black-directed/produced/starred film has and will continue to reach.
Khylen will be at PAFF all weekend long! To talk more film, some music and/or upcoming concerts, you can tweet her on the Twitter RIGHT CHEA.
– Khylen Steward, CBS Local