The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) recently celebrated its 26th year, showcasing over 150 films throughout the course of the event’s 11 days. Okayplayer, who serves as a media partner with PAFF, was in attendance and checked out a number of the films the event had to offer. Below, we’ve chosen some of our favorites, with films touching on everything from the Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) first black basketball player to indie comedies about black sisterhood.
Here’s Okayplayer’s eight favorite films from PAFF 2018.
1. Triumph, The Untold Story of Perry Wallace (directed by Rich Gentile)
A compelling documentary centered around Perry Wallace, a black man who was the first to play basketball under an athletic scholarship in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), attending Vanderbilt University from 1966 to 1970. Director Rich Gentile uses Wallace’s story to not only honor a man who paved the way for black basketball stars that came after him but to provide an insightful and captivating commentary on race and sports.
2. The Rape of Recy Taylor (directed by Nancy Buirski)
Director Nancy Buirski tells the story of the rape of Abbeville, Alabama’s Recy Taylor in 1944. Just as poignant as it is engaging, the documentary uses Taylor’s assault to offer a commentary on slavery’s everlasting effects on black and white people in America, as well as how such incidents were a catalyst for significant protests during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
3. Giants of Africa (directed by Hubert Davis)
Masai Ujiri, the first African-born General Manager for a major North American sports team (the Toronto Raptors), has dedicated the past several years to creating basketball camps for African teenagers. Giants of Africa documents Ujiri’s journey as he chooses a number talented teen boys from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda to be a part of his camp. In the process, viewers learn of the hardships certain teens endure living in Africa and how basketball serves a greater purpose to them than just a sport.
4. Canal Street (directed by Rhyan Lamarr)
An indie drama that deals with the intersections of faith and race, Canal Street finds Bryshere Y. Gray (Empire) portraying Kholi, a black Chicago teen who, through a series of unfortunate events, may live the rest of his life in prison if his father can’t prove his innocence. Gray is joined by a noteworthy cast that includes Mykelti Williamson (Fences), Mekhi Phifer, and Jamie Hector (The Wire) to name a few. Director Rhyan Lamarr utilizes them to their fullest, telling a story that seamlessly comments on prejudice, the American justice system, and more.
5. The Counter: 1960 (directed by Tracy Twinkie Byrd)
Tracy Twinkie Byrd‘s directing debut (she’s served as a casting director for the past 27 years, working on films such as Fruitvale Station and Southside With You), The Counter: 1960 is a short drama that finds three black students transported to a lunch counter in the ’60s. Actress Ashley Jackson, as well as actors Jerod Haynes and Etienne Maurice, are the movie’s main stars, as the trio explores the ways racism has changed from the civil rights movements to now.
6. The Honest Struggle (directed by Justin Mashouf)
Sadiq Davis served 25 years in prison before finally being released back to the Southside of Chicago, the same streets that led to his incarceration. Hopeful and poignant, director Justin Mashouf tells Davis’ story — from gang chief to Muslim convert — while commenting on America’s mass incarceration epidemic, and criminalization of communities of color.
7. Maynard (directed by Sam Pollard)
The first black Mayor of Atlanta (and the first of any major Southern city), Maynard Jackson encountered both failures and successes throughout his three terms. But in taking on such a role Jackson served as a pioneer for the black political figures that would come after him. Director Sam Pollard is straightforward in Maynard, but the narrative remains engaging from beginning to end. With appearances from Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson (no relation), and Al Sharpton, as well as some of Jackson’s family, the documentary captures the drive, humor, and intellect of a man whose impact deserves to be known beyond Atlanta.
8. The Magnificent Life of Charlie (directed by Bobby Huntley)
In this indie comedy director Bobby Huntley tells the story of Charlie (Kortnee Price), a woman who’s grieving the death of her sister Brandy (Ashley S. Evans). However, her grieving process begins to concern her closest friends Kayla (Lailaa Brookings) and Keturah (Nikki Lashae), as the pair takes note of her unconventional habits following Brandy’s death. Using Atlanta as the film’s backdrop, Huntley’s Life of Charlie offers a comedic but bittersweet narrative celebrating black sisterhood and all that comes with it.
Brooks People (directed by Shahari Moore)
Bodega (directed by Donna Augustin and Talibah L. Newman)
Social Media: Instagram