2023 PAFF offers a wealth of little known but powerful Black History features and shorts films

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Chevalier Opening Night feature, Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars as Joseph Bologne, Le Chevalier de Saint- George. It is a disservice to refer to Bologne as the Black Mozart, when it was he who taught Mozart during the latter’s visit to Paris to learn the art of the string quartet, of which Saint-George was one of the earliest creators. St. George, as concert master, also commissioned Joseph Haydn to compose his Six Paris Symphonies in 1786 for St. Georges’ orchestra. (Photo: PAFF)

The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) 2023 comes roaring back Feb. 9-20 in Los Angeles after three years of restricted programming due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PAFF’s administrative staff urges all its patrons and stakeholders to “Reimagine PAFF,” and return to that point in cultural history where three deeply committed Black visionaries found themselves three decades ago.

Ayuko Babu, Danny Glover, and the late Ja’Net Dubois envisioned a global celebration to honor “the telling of the universal African story in our own image and imagination,” a necessary task that a white Hollywood would never allow, said Marc Brogdon, PAFF Director of Marketing, in his welcoming overture to the 2023 festivities.

“In 1992, the Pan African Film and Arts Festival was established to become the international beacon for the Diaspora arts community to showcase African stories and preserve the cinematic creativity of Pan African Culture,” Brogdon said. “Thirty-one years have passed since that soulful spark of invention. And today, the fire of ingenuity is rekindled to serve an emerging generation.”

Over 150 films from 40 countries, in 19 languages, including 50 World and 22 North American Premieres, along with live comedy acts, poetry, and discussions with filmmakers and artists. PAFF 2023 will host its renowned fine arts show featuring over 100 established and emerging fine artists and quality craftspeople from all over the Black Diaspora.

IKEA, the world’s largest furniture merchandiser based in the Netherlands, and PAFF have collaborated for the second year to create the All Artists Have a Seat at the Table exhibition. IKEA, along with specifically chosen world-renowned Black artists, will debut their one-of-a-kind artwork featuring IKEA furniture at PAFF’s star-studded red carpet Opening Night gala at the Directors Guild of America on Feb. 9. The full exhibition will be on display for the public Feb. 10-20 during the PAFF ArtFest at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.


PAFF proudly celebrates its 31st season of international Black cinema and extraordinary African art exhibits at the world-famous Baldwin Hills Theater complex in Los Angeles. Beginning with the Opening Night Feature, Chevalier, from Disney’s Searchlight Pictures on Feb. 9 at the Writer’s Guild Theatre in Hollywood proper, the subsequent 11 days are full of cinematic and artistic bliss and at least 150 different vistas on a sometimes-unfamiliar world of art and culture. More details on Chevalier are included below.

Another gem anticipated among the 80-plus feature films being offered is the advent of Facebook Wunderkind Dewayne “Kountry Wayne” Colley in Strange Love, the festival Centerpiece set for Wednesday, Feb. 15. Kountry Wayne Colley is making his debut on the wide screen after 5 years of unquestioned success on Facebook with 7 million followers and three million on Instagram. Kountry Wayne takes on the role of Deshawn Green, a sexually underprivileged husband, married to Megan (Marquita Goings), who works as a phone sex operator against Deshawn’s wishes, pleasing her male callers with her erotic talk, while leaving her man sexually starved.

Deshawn comes upon an enticing deal to buy an older house very cheaply with the hope that the new (old) house will restore the couple’s marital bliss. He learns early on, however, that the house is haunted and there’s no way Megan will get turned on in her new digs. A couple of friendly ghosts, nevertheless, promise Deshawn a rather spooky substitute for what Megan isn’t putting down. 

Benita Jacques’s 102-minute documentary on African rediscovery titled Africa, Cradle of Humankind and Modern Civilisations (Afrique, Berceau de l’Humanité et des Civilisations Modernes) is one of those movies that typify what large-scale cultural undertakings like PAFF find necessary to tie the many loose ends together and to serve as a reminder of what the show is all about. Jacques’ work, completed in 2022, seeks to reframe the truth of the African Diaspora from the point of view of the African peoples who were so savagely abused by the Europeans, the Arab Muslims, and the Americans while being torn away from their homelands. The murderers and marauders have sought to command all features of the reporting of the Black Apocalypse of which they were the evil and unfit parents and should no longer be given the pen to report the dreadful history. Jacques makes a grand effort at restoring the rights of people to report their own truths.


In the short film category, Cynthia Saint-Fleur, the Haitian-French woman of many talents – actor, director, producer, writer, musician, among others – returns to the PAFF screening rooms as the co-star of Director Alberick Tode’s Le Successeur (The Glass Ceiling), an intense drama of a Black French businessman (Alberick Tode) who relies on his lawyer-sister (Cynthia Saint-Fleur) to protect him from the ravenous white wolves who are only concerned with reaping the profits from the failing company’s treasury while the Black man takes all the heat, even spending a month in jail on false charges.

Cynthia Saint-Fleur was a contender for the best actress award in a short narrative back in 2018 for her starring role in Dom Fred’s supernatural drama Soulmates.

Another short film worthy of keeping an eye on is the exciting second episode of Biking While Black, Director Yolanda Davis-Overstreet’s follow-up on her quest in 2021 to discover how safe Black lives really are who opt to bicycle their way around Los Angeles.

This second episode, Biking While Black: Continuing To Ride Through Decriminalization, Disenfranchisement and Gentrification, expands upon the 9-minute short film and dialogue by incorporating more narratives that dig deeper into the solution-based storytelling. It also features the actions being taken by some of the leading Black bicyclists and BIPOC community-based organizations who are paving new roads to tackle the myths, the community safety conditions in Los Angeles, and celebrating Black joy on two wheels.


To begin his story, it is imperative to reveal that Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier of Saint-Georges was a Black knight (un chevalier) in service to the king and queen of France. His life’s story is the Opening Night Piece of PAFF 2023, and what a befitting prize this is for Black History Month.

Chevalier is directed by Stephen Williams and stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Samara Weaving, and Lucy Boynton. The film was written by Stefani Robinson with music by Kris Bowers and has the blessings of the Disney studios.

Here is the story of a Guadaloupean-French composer and virtuoso violinist, and well-trained expert fencer, so well-trained that he was granted knighthood in the king’s circle of guardsmen. Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges (Kevin Harrison Jr.), was the son of a beautiful Senegalese African captive and the spawn of French plantation owner Georges Bologne. Bologne’s true story brings to the center of the screen characters like Mozart, French Queen Marie Antoinette, and the explosive powers of the French Revolution as mere co-stars in this drama of Black history’s first early modern superstar.

His father, Georges Bologne, a planter on Guadeloupe Island, sent him to France to be trained by the renowned maître d’armes Texier La Boëssiere. He graduated as one of the best fencers in Europe and was appointed Gendarme de la Garde du Roi (the king’s guard).

Very frequently referred to as the Black Mozart (Le Mozart Noir), the Chevalier de Saint-Georges was contemporaneous with the greatest composer-performers, such as Mozart, Haydn, Salieri and the many lesser-known musicians and artists of Austria and France, during the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It is a disservice to and diminution of Bologne’s talent and legacy to label him a Black Mozart. With his wide range of superior talents and his ability to create musical forms that Mozart sought to learn from him, it would be more fitting to call Mozart the white Joseph Bologne rather than the other way around. Bologne was 11 years older than Mozart, who was born in 1756.

The situation is comparable to the distorted folk-blues music legend that somehow it was Woody Guthrie who made Leadbelly’s career, when in reality it was Leadbelly who took the completely unknown folk guitarist-singer Woody Guthrie, put him on his radio show in New York City, and took him on tours with him to many of his well-established venues. Woody Guthrie was white, Leadbelly was Black.

Musical genius, however, was just one of the many superior talents that the young mulatto from the Caribbean Isle of Guadaloupe had in his armory.

“No one in history was as talented in so many areas as Saint-George,” the author Walter E. White said. “For a time, he was the greatest fencer in the world. He was an exceptional violinist and along with his teacher, Gossec, he pioneered the composition of the string quartet. Even Mozart came to Paris to study this new form of music. Saint-George was an unequaled equestrian, an exceptional marksman, and an elegant dancer. The wealthy copied the way he dressed, and the common people admired him as he walked through the streets and whispered his name. He was a true Renaissance man and a ‘super star’ in the Paris of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.”

Bologne was one of the earliest creators of the string quartet musical form. And Mozart ventured to Paris to study composition of the string quartet under Saint Georges.

Standard music histories attribute the creation of the string quartet to Joseph Haydn, the Austrian “father” of many musical forms. But Musicologist Richard Hickman disagrees, saying, “At this time, other composers than Haydn were writing works conforming to these ‘modern’ criteria, and Haydn’s earlier quartets did not meet them. Although he (Haydn) may still be considered the ‘father’ of the ‘Classical’ string quartet, he is not the creator of the string quartet genre itself.”

Mozart did meet with Bologne in Paris, but because Mozart’s mother became sick and died in Paris, Mozart entered a period of gloom and doom. Critic Jessica Duchen said Mozart became insanely envious of St. George.

“Mozart loathed Paris,” Duchen said. “So, while Mozart was at rock bottom – mourning (his mother’s recent death in Paris), lonely, fighting the language, and finding promised payments for commissions failing to materialize – he would have encountered, under the same roof, Saint-Georges, who at 33 was exotic, brilliant, established, at ease, popular with the ladies, and close to the queen. Everything Mozart was not.” 

Actually, Haydn worked for St. Georges beginning in 1781. At that time, St. George was concertmaster and director of the orchestra formed by a masonic lodge that was called Le Concert de la Loge Olympique. He was a conductor of the large orchestra of combined professionals and amateurs and in 1784 was authorized to commission Haydn to write six symphonies known today as Haydn’s “Paris Symphonies.”

When the French Revolution began in 1789, Saint-Georges embraced it for its repudiation of the racism and racist laws that were institutionalized in France. Saint-Georges embraced the Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. In June 1791, the French Parliament recruited volunteers from the entire French National Guard. Saint-Georges was the first person to sign on in Lille. (Note that Lille is the hometown of actress-director Cynthia Saint-Fleur.)

In 1792, Le Chevalier joined the Garde Nationale with the rank of captain. Later that year, he was appointed colonel and brigadier general of the Légion nationales des américains et du Midi, which became known as La Legion de Saint-Georges. Bologne died in Paris in 1799, enjoying his music throughout his last days.


PAFF is America’s largest and most prestigious Black film festival and PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live action and animation short films.

Each year, 10,000 students and their teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District and other surrounding school districts and cities attend a free program showcasing films dealing with issues important to youth.

Before and after the screenings, speakers working in areas related to the subject matter of the films conduct positive and interactive discussions with the students.

For ticket and program information, go to: paff.org.

Republish This Story

Copy and Paste the below text.

2023 PAFF offers a wealth of little known but powerful Black History features and shorts films

By Earnest McBride
February 13, 2023