A Kaleidoscope of Continents : Inaugural film festival highlights beauty of pan-African experience

Los Angeles is the world’s film capital, yet few movies made or shown here capture the diversity of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean or even black America. But now Los Angeles is hosting the first Pan African Film Festival--a kaleidoscope of colors, cultures and continents.

The festival, which runs through Thursday at the Laemmle’s Sunset 5 theaters, showcases more than 40 films by black directors from four continents. The stories include universal movie themes: love, mystery, biography, ambition, conflict and grief. There are also typical African themes: the overthrow of colonial governments, the clash between modern values and traditional values, and tales of gifted artists.

In “Sarraounia,” a 19th-Century African queen leads her people against French invaders in what is now Niger.

In Ghana’s prize-winning “Heritage Africa,” an African leader embraces all that is English before finally accepting his true identity.


In “Lord of the Street,” a black yuppie gives in to the corruption of the streets of Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast.

There is something to suit nearly every taste, including movies today for families with children. To attract an audience as diverse as the actors, the organizer, Ayuko Babu, has offered free seats to Asian groups, particularly Koreans, and to Latinos. And, to encourage more minorities to make movies, the festival offers discussions with filmmakers, actors and technicians.

For most Americans, the face of Africa belongs to a starving Somali child or a stoical Nelson Mandela. The Pan African Film Festival offers diversity and universality--with complexity.