America’s largest black film festival just wrapped 12 days of screenings and handed out accolades to several films from Africa. Joël Karekezi’s drama, “The Mercy of the Jungle,” about two Rwandan soldiers separated from their military unit at the beginning of the Second Congo War, received a Best Feature Narrative Award, while a Best First Feature Narrative Award went to director Yuhi Amuli’s Ugandan film “A Taste of Our Land” which explores the Chinese influence in African countries.
Held from February 11 – 23 at the Cinemark 15 Theaters in Los Angeles, the festival showcased 225 films, representing 52 countries in 26 languages and handed out a variety of juried prizes, including a Best Short Narrative Award which went to “White Gold,” a South Africa project directed by Luke Bradford. There was a tie for the Programmers’ Best First Feature Narrative Award which went to the Nigerian film “Coming From Insanity,” directed by Akinyemi Sebastian Akinropo and Zimbabwe’s “Gonarezhou: The Movie” directed by Sydney Taivavashe.
Now in its 28th year, PAFF also honored the late actress and co-founder Ja’Net Dubois, best known for her role as Willona in the TV series “Good Times, who passed away during the festival.
The prizes renamed in her honor went to Joel Zito Araújo’s documentary “My Friend Fela” about the life of legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, which is told from the perspective of his longtime friend Carlos Moore. The documentary received the Ja’Net Documentary Award and Lineo Sekeleoane’s South African rom com “Zulu Wedding” was given the Ja’Net First Feature Narrative Award.
By Samantha Ofole-Prince