A night of icons, trailblazers, rising stars, pioneers, and if I do say so myself beautiful people was what the 22nd Annual Pan African Film Festival 'Night of Tribute' assembled in collaboration with the African American Film Critics Association Award Ceremony; such an electrifying feeling to be amongst the best of the best in the African American Film & Entertainment Industry! This year, PAFF had selected a total of 179 films, representing 46 countries in which categories such as, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature, and Best First Feature Film, as well as, audience favorite were awarded. Originally founded in 1992 by award-winning actor Danny Glover ("The Color Purple", "Lethal Weapon" movie franchise), Emmy Award-winning actress Ja'Net DuBois (best known for her role as 'Willonia' in the TV series, "Good Times"), and executive director, Ayuko Babu, an international legal, cultural, and political consultant who specializes in African Affairs, PAFF has perpetually promoted the ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through exhibition of films, art, and creative expression. The largest and most prestigious Black film festival definitely held up to its accolades with this years honorees!
Jeff Clanagan, recipient of the 'Pioneer Award'
Jeff Clanagan, president and CEO of CodeBlack Enterprises, a division of LionsGate, has definitely cemented his and his company's place in history with his unprecedented partnership with Lionsgate producing phenomenal projects, some which are, "Barack Obama: The Man and His Journey", "Why we Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy", directed by Robert Townsend, made-for-TV movie adaptation of the book 'Let the Church Say Amen' by renowned fiction author ReShonda Tate Billingsley, and a gospel soundtrack plus stage play simultaneous with "Amen", which will be actress Regina King’s feature directorial debut. All those accolades made it easy for PAFF to award him with the Pioneer Award.
Obiageliaku: "What does 2014 symbolize for you and Code Black Enterprises?"
Jeff: "2014 for me is a year of change, really what I'm focused on is building a global business. On of the challenges that we have for black films and black film makers is that there is no business overseas. So we just tested the water last year with Kevin Hart's film, which did very well in the UK and so one of the things is that I want to establish business in South Africa and London. Those are my two objectives this year is to create businesses in those two territories.
Obiageliaku: Kudos and Congrats to those great objectives, with such a phenomenal and I'm quite sure demanding goal, were you able to fit in any upcoming films we can look forward to…?
Jeff: Yeah, I have two projects coming out! Movie called 'Repentance', coming out February 28th, which is a thriller with Forest Whitaker, Sanaa Lathan, Anthony Mackie, and Mike Epps. Then I've got another movie coming out the first week of April, which is 'Frank and Alice' with Halle Berry.
Roz Stevenson, recipient of the 'TrailBlazer Award'
Roz Stevenson, now retired, was the epitomy of the definition of Trailblazer! Former president and CEO of Roz Stevenson Public Relations (RSPR) in Los Angeles, she specialized in motion picture publicity and promotions targeting the African-American market & with more than 30 years experience garnered over 100 film projects, such as "American Gangster", "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins", "Transformers", "Norbit", "Are We Done, Yet?", and "Ray"…just to name a few, definitely making a positive impact on the studio’s motion picture releases hence why she received the TrailBlazer Award!
TeQuan RichMond, recipient of the 'Canada Lee Rising Star Award'
TeQuan RichMond, from daytime to breakout film role, has earned the Canada Lee Rising Star Award! We've seen him grow up on ABC’s Daytime Emmy winning soap opera, "General Hospital", to now take on a role so gripping, opposite Isaiah Washington, as one of the two Beltway snipers that terrorized the Washington, DC area in 'Blue Caprice'. He encompasses all that a rising star should, versatility, good looks, charisma, and a humble nature!
Emayatzy Corinealdi, awarded the PAFF's Beah Richard Rising Award. Her film credits include "In the Morning", "The Nanny Express", and "Addicted", set for release with LionsGate this year/2014
Emayatzy Corinealdi, 2012 Gotham Award for Breakout Actor as 'Ruby' from critically acclaimed film, "Middle of Nowhere", directed by Ava DuVernay and with two nods from the Independent Spirit Awards and the NAACP Image Awards, this beautiful woman captivating her audience certainly merits receiving the Beah Richard Rising Award!
Obiageliaku: Congrats on your award tonight…with all the different types of roles you've mastered thus far, what historical or iconic role do you either see yourself portraying or wish to portray in your career?"
Emayatzy: "I really, really, really want to tell the story of Bessie Coleman**, THAT is a story I want to do, more than anything else when it comes to something historical. I think her story is so amazing.
Obiageliaku: Did you know either prior to or during your career that you aspired to tell her story?
Emayatzy: "It was something that I realized in my career, when I really started to read her story, maybe about five years ago and then it came back up recently. It's something that I think, her story, needs to be told and would love the opportunity for me to be able to do that!
**Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman was an American civil aviator. She was the first female pilot of African American descent and the first person of African-American descent to hold an international pilot license.
Charles Dutton, recipient of the 'Lifetime Achievement Award'
Charles Dutton, two time, Tony-nominated and multiple Emmy award-winning actor and director of stage, television, and film is indisputably deserving of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dondré Whitfield, three-time Emmy nominee and two Soap Opera Digest Awards for his role on the ABC Daytime drama All My Children, as well as, featuring in the Cosby Show and appearing in many television series, including The Jamie Foxx Show, Martin, and Girlfriends. Current role he played Coach MacIntyre on the ABC family drama Make It Or Break It.
Obiageliaku: "What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future, any current projects in the works?"
Dondré: Yes! I've created a vehicle called 'Mandate' that's a transformative show for men! Its way past time we start dealing with our brothers and their struggles, giving them the kinds of tools they need to be the men they should to be for their wives, children, and their community."
Ja'Net DuBois, Emmy Award-winning Actress, best known for her role as 'Willonia' in the TV series, "Good Times"
Obiageliaku: "What steps should African American Female Actresses of today take with the current societal pressures to make it in the Film and TV industry?"
Ja'Net: "Well, you know what? That's like the question of life! My theory is this, if you can dream it, you can see it, and visualize it…it can happen! That's it…I was a ghetto girl, I mean I had a dream, a thought, and knew I could do something! It was in here, in me, and I kept it and kept it up because it was nothing else to give me any hope and now I'm here with you!"
Salli Richardson Whitfield, 2014 AAFCA Awards Show Co-Host has appeared in more than 20 films, including "Antwone Fisher," "I Am Legend," "Biker Boyz," "Low Down Dirty Shame," and "Black Dynamite", just to name a few, making her a renowned and loved veteran actress of television and film
Obiageliaku: "What are your expectations for 2014?"
Salli: "Well, there are so many but happiness with my family and continuing to do great projects. I've been very lucky to do things Im always proud of…
Obiageliaku: What steps have you taken towards those expectations and what can we look forward to from you this year?
Salli: I have a show I am developing, already at a network, so really hope to get that off the ground, and we are really close to being in our next step towards achieving that. I am ready to go and I am enjoying myself…It's all about planting and creating our own products!
Robert Townsend, actor, comedian, film director, and writer is known for films acted and produced "The Five HeartBeats," acted and executive producer "The Parent 'Hood," co-executive producer "Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy," exceeding any medium he touches
Obiageliaku: "As a veteran for being in, writing, and producing great TV and Films, what can we look forward to enjoying from you this year?"
Robert: "I finished a movie called, 'Playin' for Love', shot in miami, currently looking for distribution. It's a film that I directed and co-wrote with several writers and in it is Salli Richardson Whitfield!"
Lou Gossett Jr.
Best known for his Academy Award-winning role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, and his Emmy Award-winning role as Fiddler in the 1977 ABC television miniseries Roots
Isaiah Washington, award-winning actor, “Blue Caprice,” “Blackbird,” “Grey’s Anatomy”, and one 2014 PAFF's esteemed presenters for the night
Obiageliaku: First off, kudos on 'Blue Caprice' and all that you've accomplished thus far…
Isaiah: Thank you!
Obiageliaku: What is your opinion on the speculations of a 'Black' 'Murder She Wrote', as have been implied…Octavia Spencer, multi awarding winning actress best known for her role as Minny, in the 2011 film 'The Help', taking over Angela Lansbury's successful reign, as Jessica Fletcher, on the show?
Isaiah: Well, whenever we put 'Black' in front of whatever we are doing it's setting up a pejorative! I do know my history in Hollywood, that Black Hollywood was created as such or as inside joke by self infection. I don't know, in my opinion, to be a 'Black' actor or 'Black' anything is serving us…I think that it's clear we are a people of color throughout the African diaspora and before we were 'Black', we were people…beautiful people and my goal is not to deny or not include our blackness but in comparing to a very successful show like 'Murder She Wrote', why does it have to be a 'Black' 'Murder She Wrote'? Why can't it just be another 'Murder She Wrote' or inspired by the show…
Obiageliaku: …yes, just as some speculated their would be a 'Black Bond' and Idris Elba not only silenced the rumor of that in the works but also expressed the same feelings in regards to specifying race within a role or title when no other race does that….
Isaiah: …yes, exactly! You know, what I was able to achieve as far as my image and what I wanted to portray alongside my fight in this town, I finally won. What I'm most proud of is my role in Grey's Anatomy, when I walk this planet and go around the world, no one says 'Oh wow, you played that Black Doctor on that show!" They say Dr. Burke, Isaiah Washington, or more importantly Mr. Washington and I think I am more comfortable in that framework, as opposed to someone going, 'Oh wow, you are a very good black doctor on that show!'
Obiageliaku: Now since that is still being expressed today, even though we have supposedly moved on from that, do you think we can truly transition or that it is still a hard set imagery we will always have to work against?
Isaiah: There were a lot of monikers and terminology that had to be used to build ourselves as a group of people to secure ourselves in a very lethal and challenging time. In my opinion, it's a carrier we are holding on to that is familiar but I am hoping and praying we get to a place where we understand we are human beings, first and foremost…collectively powerful!
Orlando Jones, 2014 AAFCA Awards Show Host, comedian, Film and TV actor currently starring in Fox hit Series, Sleepy Hollow, as well as, Adult Swim's hit new series, Black Dynamite, and wife Jacqueline Staph
Salli Richardson Whitfield and husband, Dondré Whitfield
Had the great pleasure of meeting iconic, Lou Gossett Jr & Bill Duke
Honored to have been in the presence of the incomparable Tasha Mack and the vivacious Emayatzy Corinealdi! Women of today and tomorrow