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Hollywood turns out for Pan African Film Festival

February 17, 2011 |  3:07 pm

Tamala Jones and Kevin Hart Actors, filmmakers and other invited guests converged on the Culver Plaza Theatre in Culver City on Wednesday for the opening of the Pan African Film Festival, which this year features 121 films from 31 nations. Actor Nate Parker of "The Great Debaters" hosted the first screening, "35 and Ticking," a film by radio personality Russ Parr.

Before joining the crowd, Parker said he credited his recent discovery of his Cameroonian ancestry as one reason he wished to participate in the festival. "This event celebrates African Americans and African connections," he said. "It’s an opportunity to promote films that matter socially, as well as entertain, and a way to counter and break down negative stereotypes of black people in films."

"I wouldn't miss this for the world," said Julie Dash, whose directing credits include "The Rosa Parks Story," adding, "I'm an avid, passionate filmmaker and fan." In fact, she said, she recently headed up the international jury for a film festival in Kerala, India.

Kiara Jones, who directed the short film "Men or Mice," praised the festival as a way to connect with audiences. "Everything is digital now so people can watch films on iPhones and laptops," she said. "The festival is important because we’re still making films that deserve to be projected on a big screen and seen by an audience. The audience reaction is part of the movie-going experience."

Also among guests were the opening film’s cast members Meagan Good, Luenell, Aaron D. Spears, Kym Whitley, Nicole Ari Parker, Tamala Jones, Kevin Hart, Clifton Powell, Keith Robinson and Dondre Whitfield. The festival continues through Feb. 23.

-- Ellen Olivier

Photo: Actress Tamala Jones and actor and comedian Kevin Hart. Credit: Hiltron Bailey