paff.jpgLocation: Los Angeles, CA

Dates: February 8 – 19, 2007

Way back in preschool we were taught that February is known for three things: Valentine’s Day, Leap Year and Black History Month. You most likely heard stories of great figures in African American history such as Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass or Jackie Robinson. But February also means its time for Los Angeles’ Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF), now in its fifteenth year.

A lot has happened since that first festival—most notably the Rwandan genocide of just 12 years ago. “To see the progress that has been made in such a short period of time is an uplifting testament to the human spirit and its ability to heal,” says PAFF director of programming, Asantewa Olatunji. Which is why the festival has chosen the documentary Rwanda Rising as its opening feature. “We feel that the reality of Rwanda is in keeping with our mission here at PAFF, which is to present positive and realistic images of people of African descent.” Golden Globe winner (and odds-on Oscar favorite) Forest Whitaker will be this year’s celebrity host.

So this February, for the price of seeing one generic blockbuster, you can instead check out some of this year’s most-thought provoking works, courtesy of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival. “Like every other group of people, black people come in all varieties,” explains Olatunji, “We just want to expand on the varieties depicted.”

If you’ll be around Los Angeles’ Magic Johnson Theatres from February 8 – 19, check out for a full list of events.

Sound Off: Wildly popular and successful black actors and moviemakers are only now becoming a more common occurrence in Hollywood. Who of this group would you say is the most underappreciated? Let us know in the comments section!

Photo: PAFF founder Ayuko Babu poses with Forest Whitaker at last year’s event.