Pan African Film and Arts Festival kicks off in South L.A.

By Subrina Hudson
Associate Editor

The 21st Pan African Film and Arts Festival opened on Thursday at the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza giving residents and visitors in South LA a chance to view African art and watch films touching on the African and African-American community.

imageThe art festival inside the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

The film festival, hosted by Actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield, is the largest international Black film festival in the country and features a 10-day long art festival with over 100 established and emerging artists showcasing everything from fine art and fashion to home furnishings.

Viveca Mays has been an artist for over 30 years, and said it was her first time showcasing her work at the art festival. After joining Art 2000, a non-profit visual art association founded by Artist Charles Bibbs, Mays said she was invited by Bibbs to present her work along with several other artists in the association.

“It has been very good considering that this is a regular mall day and everybody is doing their regular shopping,” said Mays. “We’ve had a lot of traffic coming through, which is surprising because Mr. Bibbs said usually the first day is kind of the work day, setting up, but it’s been good.”

Artist Djibril N’Doye said he has participated in the art festival for ten years but did not present for the last three years. During that time, the film festival was shown at a theater in Culver City and the art festival remained inside the mall, leaving less visitors and potential customers.

imageArtist Viveca Mays’ artwork is open for the public to view and purchase. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

“This festival is important for this community and beyond because most of the theme of the films have a connection with Africa, African history and African culture and all the artists who are displaying their artwork also harken on the same subject…this is like family,” said N’Doye.

N’Doye, who is self-taught, creates his artwork with a ballpoint pen. Growing up in Senegal, his father could not afford to send him to an art school. So, N’Doye decided that he would teach and train himself.

He said his medium helps hims show that it doesn’t matter what an individual’s income is because art “is an open door to everybody.”

“It’s in your heat. It has a very high dimension and culture and history. This is building bridges across cultures,” he said.

imageArtist Djibril N’Doye with his artwork. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

The same goal was kept in mind for the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), according to Wyllisa Bennett, publicist for the Pan African Film Festival.

“We want to stay in the community, and the films showcase the work around the country and puts it in the heart of the black community,” said Bennett.

Films like the documentary “Red, White, Black and Blue,” which recently won “Best Documentary at the Idyllwild CinemaFest, will be available for visitors to watch at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills. “Red, White, Black and Blue” is just one of 154 films, representing 34 countries, that PAFF selected for this year’s film festival.

PAFF was founded in 1992 by award-wining Actor Danny Glover, Emmy-award winning Actress Ja’Net DuBois and Executive Director Ayuko Babu. The Pan African Film Festival is a non-profit corporation that looks to promote ethnic and racial respect through films and art.

For showtimes and tickets, click here.

Pan African Film and Arts Festival heads to South LA

Move over Academy Awards, because South LA will host an award show and film festival with just as much glitz, glamor, and prestige.

imageThe official logo of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival

The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) is set to kick off its 20th anniversary with star-studded festivities, beginning on Thursday, February 9. RAVE Cinemas at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza will show 158 films from all over the world, including from South Africa, to Rwanda, to Brazil, to Ghana, to Jamaica, to name a few.

The Los Angeles premiere of the film “Think Like A Man” will be the first event of the Festival. The film is based on the New York Times best-selling book by Steve Harvey and the film’s stars are expected to attend the premiere at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles.

Check out the movie trailer for “Think Like A Man.”

The PAFF is scheduled to end on February 20.

At the close of the festival, prizes will be award for Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature, and Best First Feature Film, as well as audience favorite awards. PAFF has selected 170 films representing 30 countries as well as 106 feature length films (narrative and documentaries) and 64 short films to contend for the awards.

Watch this fascinating exclusive interview with Nigerian actor-turned-producer, Hakeem Kae-Kazim (HOTEL RWANDA, “24”).

Besides a star-studded award show and movie premieres, PAFF will also incorporate dozens of programs such as a spoken word event, a student fest, children’s festival, and artist’s fest. There will also be intensive panels and workshops focusing on acting, film producing, writing, and movie marketing, distribution, and finance.

PAFF was established in 1992 by award-winning actors Danny Glover and Ja’Net DuBois and executive director Ayuko Babu. PAFF is America’s largest and most prestigious Black film and arts festival and is dedicated to promoting culture and racial tolerance through film, art, and creative expression.

Parking is free, but ticket prices differ for movie tickets, children’s festival, panels, and all other festival activities. Tickets can be purchased at RAVE Cinemas’s box office or online. Head over to PAFF’s official website to find out the entire film guide for the festival.

Interview video courtesy of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s website.

New owners give Magic Johnson Theaters a $12 million facelift

imageMore than 200 guests gathered at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza for the grand opening of a multi-million dollar new movie theater, replacing the former Magic Johnson Theater that closed last year.

The new theater, Rave Cinemas 15, is part of a $30 million renovation project to boost economic growth in and around the shopping center. The new operators plan to continue Johnson’s vision of economic development with high-quality facilities and local hiring practices. Councilmen Bernard C. Parks and Herb Wesson and actor Chris Tucker were in among the grand opening’s audience.

The yearlong renovation project employed approximately 800 construction workers. More than 1,000 people had attended a theater-sponsored job fair in May. Of the 100 theater employees hired, 80 are students from Crenshaw High School and Susan Miller Dorsey High School, and six of the 10 managers live nearby.

“It’s a local crew, especially in an area where many people may not have grown up with a localized theater,” said Jeremy Devine, vice president of marketing for Rave Motion Pictures. “Families like to go to the closest theater.”


The theater’s $12 million upgrade includes seven 3D screens, stadium seating and digital projection, and Devine suggested that the new facilities open the possibility to host future events such as the World Cup in 3D and the Pan-African Film Festival. For now, the theater is offering a free medium-sized popcorn to guests who attend a movie before July 4.

In addition to a thriving movie-going crowd, the company behind the project hopes to attract interest surrounding the theater and shopping center as well.

“This project is the anchor to the area in this corridor,” said Ken Lombard, president of Capri Urban Investors, which owns the mall. “As we’re able to take it up to a new level, tenants will begin to have a different attitude toward coming in and actually being part of this neighborhood.”


The company has been reaching out to local business owners, such as Big Man Bakes, a gourmet cupcake shop in downtown that has been featured on the Food Network’s “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay”.

“If we decide to be a part of this, it would be probably one of the first gourmet cupcake stores in an urban area like this,” said company founder and CEO William “Chip” Brown, who is in early talks with Capri to potentially bring his business into the shopping mall, which will begin major construction during July.

“I think what they’re doing here is obviously an economic stimulus, but it’s also making people feel like their neighborhood is valued,” Brown said.

Development for the mall is slated to include such retailers as Wal-Mart and Staples with an opening date in early 2012.

Photos by Lisa Rau
(Grand Opening of Rave Cinemas 15, dance performance by Debbie Allen Dance Academy)

OPINION: “Waiting for Superman” sparks polarized debate

By Leonard Isenberg for

(En español después: haz clic aquí)

On Monday night I went to the premiere of Waiting for Superman at Paramount Studios. Afterward I briefly talked with both Harlem Children’s Zone Geoffrey Canada and the film’s makers Davis Guggenheim and Lesley Chilcott at the reception following the screening. Apropos of being aware of my own lack of knowledge about public education reform on the macro American and multinational level, I keep coming back to the naive black and white polemics that seem to dominate the discussion of public education reform here in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Having been in the motion picture industry for many years prior to getting into education, I am well aware of how creativity can distort and manipulate emotions to justify something that in reality is quite different and maybe even reprehensible. I guess this is why I prefer the color gray which attempts to take the valid points from black and white positions to formulate a better and more comprehensive solution for what is wrong with public education. Of course, this tends to put me in the middle of a battlefield where I take fire from both sides, but that’s maybe why I’m a teacher and maybe also a reason for teacher tenure as a necessary shield against the reprisals for telling the truth that I am presently being subjected to by LAUSD.

Some thoughts that have occurred to me in the past and while I was watching the film on Monday that opens in L.A. tomorrow:

WHITE: PEAC/UTLA and organized teachers’ unions are starting a campaign to boycott the film, which to me is tantamount to Oedipus poking out his eyes because he didn’t like what he saw. Instead of addressing what Waiting for Superman is saying with specifics, the PEAC website and Not Waiting for Superman site talk in edspeak platitudes — just like LAUSD — about touchy-feely doing for the students. They offer no specifics to address the real and valid arguments Superman makes nor any timeframe in which they can and should be held accountable. This is a very dangerous tactic, because it isolates educators from a debate that will go on with or without their critically important input: an input that would surely impact public opinion, if corporate controlled media would ever allow it to be heard. Few outside of education with the social capital necessary to bring about change (Broad and Gates?) seem to be clueless as to what good teachers — the vast majority of the profession — know and deal with on a daily basis. Presently, teachers are too terrified of reprisals from either LAUSD or UTLA to speak out and tend to speak only among themselves where is serves little function besides group therapy.

Clearly, teachers’ unions blind defense of all teachers good or bad tends to undermine support for educators, but being in a constant state of siege seems to stop teachers’ unions from cleaning their own house at the same time as they are dealing with the latest attack on teachers from LAUSD with the tacit support of UTLA which sees the same negative treatment of its members and yet takes no unified action to stop it.

Leadership tends to reflect rank and file, which explains why this is taking place. In a society where teaching is not a profession where on average our best and our brightest come or tend to stay for more than 5 years, those that remain tend to pick risk aversive and self-interested union leadership that has more in common with top/down public school administration of LAUSD than their own rank and file. Job security in lieu of competence is clearly an attitude that must change as the Baby Boomer generation retires, if we expect to have a teacher corp capable of addressing the difficult problems we presently face.

BLACK: Waiting for Superman regrettably glosses over the fact that 1 in 5 charters does not do any better than public schools. It cites the $55 million that organized labor spends mostly on the Democratic Party to insure its Teflon status under law, but never addresses finally fixing the equally corrupt public education bureaucracies that would obviate the necessity for charters and any other “reforms” that in California remain by law under the control of clearly corrupt public school districts like LAUSD – the fox guarding the chicken coop. To borrow a phrase from Speaker Pelosi in the discussion of single payer health care, “It’s not on the table.” Waiting For Superman never opens this can of worms, since teachers and their unions are a much easier target.

While Guggenheim acknowledged before the screening the funding of the film from Gates, Broad, and Walton Foundations in the making of the film, neither he nor the film deal with the sub-primesque financial windfall that corporations can reap with charter schools given the state and federal tax benefits which would allow speculators in charters to double their money in 7 years and ultimately leave these charters loaded with debt in the same manner that they did in the recent subprime debacle where the state and taxpayers again would have to bail them out. Some estimates of the annual value of privatized public education is somewhere between $250 to $380 billion a year.

In addition, both Professors Diane Ravitch and Charles Kerchner point out in their recent books that it was the corruption of small charter-like schools at the turn of the last century that were the reason why big city school districts came into existence in the first place to have oversight in hopes of stopping these corrupt practices. Now, a century later, we are going down that same failed path with charter schools rather than fix the real political problem presently pervasive in much of our education system where there is no accountability for public school districts, teachers unions or the corporations that only seek to get rich by building profitable white elephants like the half-billion dollar Robert Kennedy school complex at the old Ambassador Hotel site.

Given my own lack of knowledge even as a person who lives within the failed public school reality, is it naive to believe that Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Davis Guggenheim’s agenda is possibly being dictated by the same long empowered reactionary forces of public education that were their only point of entry into the public education reform debate when they decided to get involved?

Several years ago, I attended a speech given by Patti Stonesifer, then president of the Gates Foundation and in attendance were all the LAUSD Board members, Steve Barr of Green Dot, and many others seeking the charter privatization model that clearly has the collateral effect of destroying costly teachers and their unions as well as teaching as a profession.

UTLA has always boycotted these events and yet past presidents Day Higuchi- and his wife-, John Perez, and A.J. Duffy have no problem going to work for LAUSD after they term out. While I am a firm supporter of unions, whether it be the taxi union I was in in NY, the IATSE in L.A., or UTLA in which I remain a member until… I have never been in a union that wasn’t corrupt, which gives me pause in looking to them to spend my $60 a month dues for anything that even remotely approximates my self-interest or the self-interest of my students. Hell, I cannot even be sure if they will vote for arbitration in my own case against LAUSD or allow me to be fired without raising a finger.

In the final analysis and with a clear awareness of the pitfalls that taking money from Broad, Gates, and the Waltons (Walmart) represents, I think those depicted in Waiting For Superman finally deserve to have their rights to a quality public education addressed in an open dialogue between all factions on this subject. That messy and presently subverted process is what democracy is supposed to be about, if we care to have one. As film maker Michael Moore recently said, “Democracy is a participatory sport.”

El lunes por la noche fui al estreno de Esperando a Superman en los Estudios Paramount. Después me habló brevemente con los dos Harlem Children’s Zone Geoffrey Canada y Davis Guggenheim and Lesley Chilcott Soy muy consciente de cómo la creatividad puede distorsionar y manipular las emociones de justificar algo que en realidad es muy diferente y tal vez incluso censurables. Supongo que es por eso que prefiero el color gris, que trata de tomar los puntos válidos de las posiciones en blanco y negro para formular una solución mejor y más completa de lo que está mal con la educación pública. Harlem Children’s Zone Geoffrey Canadá y los productores de la película de Davis Guggenheim y Lesley Chilcott en la recepción después de la proyección. A propósito de ser consciente de mi propia falta de conocimiento sobre la reforma de la educación pública en la América y multinacionales a nivel macro, sigo volviendo a la polémica en blanco y negro ingenua que parecen dominar la discusión de la reforma de la educación pública aquí en Los Ángeles y en otras partes. Después de haber estado en la industria del cine durante muchos años antes de entrar en la educación, Por supuesto, esto tiende a ponerme en medio de un campo de batalla donde tomo el fuego de ambas partes, pero eso es quizás por eso soy un maestro y tal vez también una razón para la tenencia de maestro como un escudo contra la necesaria represalias por decir la verdad que actualmente estoy siendo objeto por el LAUSD.

Algunos pensamientos que me han ocurrido en el pasado y mientras yo estaba viendo la película el lunes:

BLANCO: PEAC/UTLA y “los sindicatos de docentes organizadas están comenzando una campaña para boicotear la película, que para mí equivale a Edipo que sobresalen los ojos, porque no le gustaba lo que veía. En lugar de abordar lo que espera de Superman está diciendo con la especificidad, la página web PEAC, y no esperar para hablar sitio Superman en lugares comunes como edspeak LAUSD acerca delicado – feelly haciendo por los estudiantes que no tienen detalles de la dirección y válidos argumentos reales Superman hace ni ninguna calendario en el que pueden y deben rendir cuentas. Esta es una táctica muy peligrosa, ya que los aislamientos educadores de un debate que continuará con o sin su importante aportación crítica, una entrada que seguramente impactaría la opinión pública, si los medios controlados por las empresas cada vez le permitiría a ser oído. Pocos fuera de la educación con el capital social necesario para lograr un cambio – Broad y Gates? – Parecen tener idea de lo que los buenos maestros – la gran mayoría de la profesión – conocer y tratar a diario. En la actualidad, los profesores están demasiado aterrorizados como de represalias por parte de cualquiera de LAUSD o UTLA para hablar y tienden a hablar sólo entre ellos mismos en el que se sirve pequeña función, además de la terapia de grupo.

Es evidente que los sindicatos de docentes de defensa ciega de todos los profesores bueno o malo tiende a socavar el apoyo para los educadores, pero estar en un constante estado de sitio parece que deja de sindicatos de docentes de la limpieza de su propia casa en el momento mismo en que se trata de la última ataque a los profesores de LAUSD, con el apoyo tácito de UTLA que ve el mismo trato negativo de sus miembros y sin embargo, no adopta ninguna medida unificada para detenerlo.

El liderazgo tiende a reflejar bases, lo que explica por qué esto está ocurriendo. En una sociedad donde la enseñanza no es una profesión donde en promedio la mejor y más brillante nuestros venir o tienden a permanecer por más de 5 años, los que se quedan tienden a tomar riesgos dirigencia sindical aversivo e interesada de que tiene más en común con la parte superior / por administración de la escuela pública de LAUSD que su propio rango y archivo. La seguridad del empleo en lugar de competencia es claramente una actitud que debe cambiar a medida que la generación Baby Boomer se retira, si esperamos a tener una corp maestro capaz de abordar los difíciles problemas que nos enfrentamos.

NEGRO: A la espera de Superman lamentablemente pasa por alto el hecho de que sólo 1 de cada 5 cartas no hace nada mejor que las escuelas públicas. Cita los $ 55 millones que los trabajadores organizados gasta principalmente en el Partido Demócrata para asegurar su condición de teflón bajo la ley, pero nunca direcciones finalmente fijar la educación pública corruptas burocracias igual que obviaría la necesidad de cartas y otro tipo de “reformas” que en California siguen siendo por la ley bajo el control de los distritos escolares públicos claramente corruptos como LAUSD – el zorro cuidando el gallinero. Para tomar prestada una frase de Nancy Pelosi en la discusión de servicios sanitarios sencillo, “No está en la mesa”. Waiting For Superman nunca se abre la caja de Pandora, los docentes y sus sindicatos ya son un blanco mucho más fácil.

Si bien reconoció Guggenheim antes de la proyección de la financiación de la película de Gates, Broad, Walton y Fundaciones en la realización de la película, ni él ni la oferta de cine con la primesque financieros extraordinarios-sub de que las empresas pueden obtener con las escuelas charter en el estado y beneficios fiscales federales que permitan especuladores en las cartas de duplicar su dinero en 7 años y finalmente se eliminan estas cartas cargadas de deuda de la misma manera que lo hicieron en la debacle subprime recientes donde el Estado y los contribuyentes una vez más tendría que rescatarlos. Algunas estimaciones del valor anual de la educación pública privatizada está en alguna parte entre $ 250-380 billion un año.

Además, tanto los profesores Diane Ravitch y Charles Kerchner señalan en sus libros recientes que se trataba de la corrupción de los pequeños, como las escuelas charter, en los albores del siglo pasado que fueron la razón por la cual grandes distritos escolares de la ciudad comenzó a existir en primer lugar que la supervisión con la esperanza de detener estas prácticas corruptas. Ahora, un siglo después, vamos por ese mismo camino no con las escuelas charter en lugar de solucionar el problema político real actualmente dominante en gran parte de nuestro sistema de educación donde no hay rendición de cuentas de los distritos de escuelas públicas, los sindicatos de profesores o las corporaciones que sólo buscan para enriquecerse mediante la construcción de elefantes blancos rentables, como el medio de millones de dólares escuela complejo Robert Kennedy en el antiguo Hotel Embajador sitio.

Teniendo en cuenta mi propia falta de conocimiento, incluso como una persona que vive dentro de la realidad de las escuelas públicas no, es ingenuo creer que Bill Gates, Eli Broad, y la agenda de Davis Guggenheim es que puedan ser dictadas por el mismo tiempo las fuerzas de poder reaccionario de la educación pública que eran su único punto de entrada en el debate de reforma educativa pública cuando decidieron implicarse?

Hace algunos años, asistí a una charla dada por Patti Stonesifer, entonces presidente de la Fundación Gates y estuvieron presentes todos los miembros de la Junta del LAUSD, Steve Barr, del Punto Verde, y muchos otros que buscan el modelo de privatización carta que claramente tiene el efecto colateral de destrucción de los docentes y sus sindicatos costosos, así como la enseñanza como profesión.

UTLA siempre ha boicoteado estos eventos y, sin embargo los ex presidentes Día Higuchi y su esposa-, Juan Pérez, AJ Duffy y no tienen ningún problema en ir a trabajar por LAUSD después de que fuera plazo. Aunque soy un firme partidario de los sindicatos, ya sea el sindicato de taxistas estaba en en Nueva York, el IATSE en Los Angeles, o UTLA en el que siendo miembro hasta el … Nunca he estado en un sindicato que no era corrupto, lo que me da que pensar en recurrir a ellos para pasar mis 60 dólares por mes cuotas por cualquier cosa que ni remotamente se aproxima a mi propio interés o el propio interés de mis estudiantes. Demonios, ni siquiera puede estar seguro de si van a votar por el arbitraje en mi propio caso contra LAUSD o permitir que yo sea despedido sin levantar un dedo.

En el análisis final y con una clara conciencia de las dificultades que sacar el dinero de Broad, Gates y los Walton (Walmart) representa, creo que las descritas en Esperando a Superman finalmente se merecen tener sus derechos a una educación pública de calidad dirigida a un diálogo abierto entre todas las facciones en este tema. Eso desordenado y actualmente subvertido proceso es lo que la democracia se supone que se trata, si nos importa tener uno. Como el cineasta Michael Moore dijo recientemente, “La democracia es un deporte participativo”.

Photos courtesy of Paramount.