Saturday, March 24, 2007

Photo Op: 15th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival










( Top: Pascal Atuma surrounded by cameramen; middle: from left, Bisi Sijuwade, Atuma and my daughter, Norshay; bottom: an African model.)












  1. (Atuma and nephew at the premier of "Hurricane in the Rose Garden")
    (From left, Norshay, Oris Erhuero, Sijuwade and friend. Bottom: Ambrose and publisher of African Connection Newspaper, Hon. Charles Fashola)




Monday, March 19, 2007

Diary: The 15th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival







The Ambrose Ehirim Files

Diary: The 15th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival

I was not sure if I would be attending this year’s Pan African Film and Arts Festival held at the Magic Johnson Theaters and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall until I bumped into Charles Anchang, publisher of The Immigrant magazine, who asked me how I was doing. “I’m doing just fine. What about this year’s film and arts festival, are you by chance covering any of the events? I asked, “And I hear it’s going to be some fine shows with Hollywood big score Forrest Whitaker opening the ceremony.”

“I hope to see you there, it’s going to be a big show, and we have to represent, you know!” Anchang concluded.

Of course, black actors and actresses have made a significant impact in all aspect of film making and the fine arts, especially now that Jennifer Hudson became an overnight sensation with that amazing, powerful musical “Dream Girls.” The movie gained much ground to snatch the Oscars for Hudson in her supporting role. Whoever could have imagined that after years of denial, Hollywood eventually would be doing the right thing? It took more than three decades after Sidney Poitier won the Best Actor award for “Lilies of the Field” in 1963 before Denzel Washington’s admission in “Training Day.” Sooner or later, Jamie Foxx would follow and this year’s Best Actor Award goes to…”Did I hear someone say Forrest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland?”

That’s right! Whitaker won and Hudson who was denied by American Idol took home Best Supporting Actress award. Congratulations, soul mates!

For the first time, Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry which is growing by the day, showed its presence at the festival. And for the first time, Nigerian films and its Diaspora premiered at the festival—“Abeni,” “Ada Ora,” “Amazing Grace,” “From Place to Plantation,” “Hurricane in the Rose Garden,” “The Narrow Path,” “Rag Tag,” and “Shoot the Messenger.”


JANUARY 31: Earlier, I have read the papers and digested what is important notably with the kind of African-related news one finds in the media and how it makes mockery of our democratic fabric. No one seems to be paying attention, though, particularly when for instance Nigeria’s Mathew Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo arbitrarily twisted democracy and the rule of law into something else declaring a sitting veepee’s seat irrelevant, null and void. Politics in Nigeria keeps getting nastier and nastier one begins to wonder if anything good will surface from that banana republic, like the jungle where the fittest survives.

OBJ wants to hold on to power at all cost. He is now a manipulator. The coward and Igbo hater does things his own way disrespecting the rule of law and teaching his political opponents some lessons he learned behind bars. Well, in one of the day’s papers, the story was that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be extending voter registration and the senate would amend its electoral act. That alone got thousands of residents running for another attempt at a registration you and I already know would be massively rigged. OBJ knows better!

Meanwhile, after reading all that blah, blah, blah and PDP-led regime handling of the affairs of state, I traveled to pick up my mail at the post office. Inside my mailbox, I found a letter from Senegalese born artist Djibril N’Doye inviting me to see his new line of painting and artworks. Before this mail, I have not composed myself to know exactly if I was prepared to deal with the traffic at the festival. Last year when I attended the festival, I encountered N’Doye for the first time. He had told me the origin of his work was based on interest and talent. He had been making sketches at a tender age of seven and was chosen by his school to represent in many competitions in his Lebou coast community in Senegal where he grew up.

And how did he get to this point exhibiting big shows in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Palm Springs, Tucson and many other big cities? I will come to that later.

FEBRUARY 1: As usual, I read the papers and digested what is important. Nothing else is new but the continuous squandering and stealing of public funds by the bandits who call themselves politicians. The case of the office of Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State was top on the headlines. The Gov. had squandered too much money he got confused on the state’s executive funny bookkeeping.

After reading the papers and perusing stories written by top-notch reporters, I took a tour to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall and discovered some traders and artists had begun to troop in to bargain for better spots. I called Obi Onyeador, an art collector and owner of African Treasures to remind him of an early bargain and positioning. He had already done that and said he hoped I would show up and see more artifacts on display. I assured him it’s a done deal. “I will be there, man!” That rubber stamped the assurance.

Later on that day and after hours, my daughter, a center at Morningside High School had deliberately missed the school bus so I could give her a ride to Culver City High School playgrounds for the ongoing winter tournament. I picked my daughter up and we drove to Culver City. While driving she flip flops her CD, ejects my Disco-Funk-era compilations and inserts her Hip-Hop songs I had no idea who’s playing. The Generation X Hip-Hop and all that meaningless lyrics of the day took us all the way.

On our way getting close to Culver City High, “oh, dad, I need some Gatorade,” she said. Apparently, some Gatorade is needed to boost her energy for the game. We stopped by Pavilions on Jefferson Blvd., got some Gatorade and continued our journey. We arrived at Culver High ahead of schedule, beating the school bus. She drops off and I was gone.

I drove back home to watch NFL Live telecast and analysis of Super Bowl XLI. Interesting indeed, I was not gunning for any particular team thus both teams having a black coach, and it doesn’t really matter who wins. However, a black coach will win the Super Bowl.

FEBRUARY 3: It’s Saturday morning and I have marked my calendar (or is it to do list?) to first go to Los Angeles Downtown Fashion District for a luggage. My brother travels the next couple of days and I have to pack some clothes and accessories (or is it okirika?) for my “Moses children” buddies in motherland. I did just that. Returning home, I walked straight to my study and surfed the web. I picked up a news story that says Transportation Minister Cornelius Adebayo disclosed in Abuja that the federal government would be spending a whopping N58b on a second Niger Bridge. Baloney! We’ve been hearing this for a long time.

There is nothing much to do but watch football analysis all day, and listen to some good music, too. I mean those vibes of new-new super heavy funk invented by Godfather of Soul James Brown.

FEBRUARY 4: My phone never stopped ringing, even though the film festival was all I thought seriously about. It wasn’t about the film festival that the calls kept coming in. It was all about black coaches, who wins the Super Bowl and vice versa. It was game day and never mess around with a bare-chested hot-dog-eating yank on Super Bowl Sunday. The day the fans go bananas. The day the stakes are high in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The day professional gamblers lick their fingers. The day fallible men fall for women of easy virtue that parades The Strip. Yes, it’s the day millionaires are made and hearts are broken.

After all said and done about Super Bowl XLI, Peyton Manning lifts the Vince Lombardi trophy and SBXLI enters the books making Tony Dundy the first black coach to win a super bowl and also the third coach to win a super bowl as coach and player. Nevertheless, I am still battling within my mind on the film festival coverage.

I left my house and drove down to Magic Johnson’s T.G.I. Friday’s to see what the football fanatics were doing. It’s amazing how this little community hangouts had been turned into another Hollywood. Girls, fancy cars and you name it. On arrival and typical of big game days, the entire place was crowded and loud. Everybody was talking. Super Bowl XLI is over and the Indianapolis Colts got it. The jam-packed place was not the right place for a gentleman, never minding the professional doormen and security guards who were sentry watching every move of the bad guys. For the disappointed Chicago Bears fans, they yelled “Rex Grossman sucks, man!” “Rex Grossman sucks, man!” It was party time.

I left Magic’s Friday’s without much ado for the much talked about Super Bowl jam in Hermosa Beach. An all white local ensemble reggae band was playing the gig at a beach club called The Lighthouse. Roots reggae was the theme and the vibe was good. Another perfect place that had me jumping to those early days of “Shanty Town/007,” “Trench Town Rock,” “Small Axe,” etc.

February 5: With OBJ’s upcoming doctored election he has already picked a successor, the tabloid press circulated that a do nothing World Igbo Congress (WIC) adopts Orji Kalu, Abia State Governor as Igbo presidential candidate, an event that made Imo Concorde Hotel look like a sold out rock concert. Chief Ralph Obioha abandons his Justice Party for Kalu to lead Nd’Igbo. Three Islamic Jihadists emerge as top-notch presidential candidates from the Jihadic sultanate states, while the Awoist abandoned the principles of Egbe Omo Oduduwa for campaigns and political parties not parallel to the principles of Awoism. Talk about a “do or die” uncertain election. Apologies, OBJ.

The front page of major Nigerian papers is becoming nasty and ugly with what the money-laundering rogue politicians had to offer to its vulnerable and gullible population. “Battle for PDP guber primaries shifts to courts,” wrote The Tribune indicating OBJ is choosing who he desires and axing those not loyal to him on the ground they don’t have enough credits and may have violated party rules and regulations. That’s Nigeria politics and the way it works in supposedly a democracy.

I am done with the news of the day. Once more, I took a tour of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. All the booths had been sold. The press and tourists were all over glancing at the stalls of African arts and accessories. The artifacts and costumes were regal.

At the south end corner of the mall, I encountered Onyeador who had told me “the festival is growing and growing every year, and I hope this year one would do better than the past.” With thousands of tourists and visitors a day, the film and arts festival is a buoyant marketplace of African culture for African Americans and Africans looking for trends. In all the years I have been attending the festival, I found this year’s event more interesting perhaps because of the line up of over 150 independent African films “now playing” at the Magic Johnson Theatres in the hub of “Black Township,” the Crenshaw Boulevard thoroughfare. Or, maybe, perhaps African Americans have paid their dues in Hollywood and the time is now for recognition.

FEBRUARY 8: The drama in AlaIgbo continues apace. Youths in Ebonyi State kills two policemen and abducts five in a civil unrest they blamed the state government for neglect in Onicha Local Government area of the state. The bad cop image EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) headed by OBJ’s puppet Nuhu Ribadu is in troubled waters for a mole found within OBJ’s kitchen cabinet targeted at disrupting the president’s choice of a possible presidential candidate in the April elections. Governors Chimaraoke Nnamani of Enugu State, Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State and George Akume of Benue State are charged at an Abuja tribunal for deliberately refusing to declare their assets on the basis it’s nothing but witch-hunt from the office of the presidency. Kalu’s presidential ambition swells when he said “A rallying point has been constituted and the people of the South East should not allow this opportunity to elude them. Igbos should mobilize themselves to ensure the realization of the project which they have clamored for since the end of the Nigerian civil war.” That’s the news summary.

First, checking my email, filmmaker and actor Pascal Atuma had sent me a notice reminding me of the premier of his new movie “Hurricane in the Rose Garden.” I took note of that since we have discussed that before. A year earlier, Atuma had talked me into being one of the executive producers. I wasn’t ready for such projects due to time factor and other engagements. One of the pleasures of shows and carnivals like the Pan African Film and Arts Festival is to be able to meet people from all walks of life, make new friends and take pictures. I check my cameras to see if there are no defects, and if everything is in order—films, batteries and the flash. My equipments are in order and I’m ready to go.

The big day is here. Forrest Whitaker declares the festival open at the Director’s Guild of America complex on Sunset Boulevard. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaroigosa speaks to commend African American filmmakers and artists whose contribution to the movie industry has provided jobs in many ways, created cultural awareness and reinvented Hollywood’s thinking of African Americans in the movies. Jeanette Ndhlovu, South African Consul-General in Los Angeles also encouraged Black filmmakers to keep telling a story from varied cultural perspectives in a world cultural awareness determines the fate of any community.

I watch the premier of “Rwanda Rising” presented by Ambassador Andrew Young and directed by C.B. Hackworth. This film is about the reconstruction of Rwanda, twelve years after the most blood-soaked event occurred in that decade in the continent’s history. Free education, building housing projects, foreign investments and modern shopping centers would uplift and transform a nation once demolished and plundered. A little bit tired, I missed the after-party with music by Gyedu-Blay Ambolley.

FEBRUARY 9: I slept well and I’m up for another day. I read the papers. Top of the headlines was Anna Nicole Smith, former Playboy pinup girl, actress and television personality who was famous for being famous, sporadically rich is found dead in her hotel room. The Nigerian tabloid press reports that Enugu State Governor Chimaraoke Nnamani is charged before an Abuja tribunal for allegedly owning about 172 houses. There is jubilation in Awka, capital of Anambra State as Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu in a unanimous ruling, ordered immediate reinstatement of Peter Obi as governor of Anambra State.


At about 6:15 in the evening, I drive through the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on the newly refurbished Washington Corridor and found the place packed with guests appearing much like a black tie event. Of course, it was, and how did I forget this? Gosh, how did I? I popped in anyway, and it was a Night of Tribute sponsored by AfricanAncestry.com, Urban Coffee Opportunities, Starbucks Coffee, Africa Channel and Courvoisier. Ambassador Andrew Young would be awarded Lifetime Achievement Award, Blair Underwood, Canada Lee Award; St. Clair Bourne, Pioneer Award; Regina King, Beah Richards Award and Councilman Herb J. Wesson, Community Service Award.

It’s “Friday night and just got paid,” remember that? “Yeah,” it’s Friday night and one must find a way to “cool down the pace.” I drive a couple of blocks heading towards north of Crenshaw Boulevard and landed at Dozie Ozoemena’s “Four Seasons Joint,” now becoming famous for its isi ewu, nkwobi and pepper soup. I ordered two wooden bowls of isi ewu at twenty bucks a piece. Ozoemena’s Joint is noted for having generous patrons who would declare everything to surplus into the night coupled with local politics

FEBRUARY 11: I read the papers and watch TV’s morning news. I checked Kenyan-born cultural and East African Musical analyst Steve Ntwiga’s http://ntwiga.net/blog site where I’m learning more on the origins of soukous and rumba music. It’s amazing what this gentleman has done on cultural relativism and musicology.

1:20 pm: I drive to Magic Johnson Theatres to see the documentary “Who’s Afraid of Ngugi?” I wanted to see the documentary because I read James Ngugi’s “Weep Not Child” while in high school without understanding what the subject-matter was all about. The documentary directed by Manthia Diawara was about the legendary writer’s return to Kenya after a prolonged self-imposed exile.

FEBRUARY 12: I read the papers and no news is good news nowadays. I drive to Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to interview Senegalese born fine artist and painter Djibril N’Doye. On arrival, he salutes and introduces his wife Mary Martin N’Doye to me. Born in 1953, in Bargny, Senegal and standing about 6 feet, N’Doye does about 18 art shows a year covering the Bay Area and Southern California.

Growing up in his Wolof tribe, he donated most of his work to friends until he turned 19 when he started studying the history of arts. In 1979 he won the first prize at an exhibition show in Rufisque, Senegal and said the real turning point in his work came in 1982 when he won the first prize at the Blaise Senghor Cultural Center in Dakar. His work was singled out for praise, and in 1984, his recognition led to a solo exhibit at the Daniel Sorano National Theater on the invitation of the information Minister Allasane Dialy N’Diaye who recommended a live telecast for the show. In 1992, he was invited for exhibition at the Mbowl Tourist Center. He did shows at Mbowl for more than three years. It was at the Mbowl shows that he met his wife Mary Martin, a visiting UCLA anthropologist who came on an excursion with a team of college professors and journalists. Mary spoke French fluently and after trade bargains; three quarter of his work was bought by the visiting group. Two years later, he married Mary and relocated to the United States.

His first show in the U.S. was at a coffee shop called Baba’s House in Sierra Madre, California where half of his work was sold. Now in his 9th year at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, N’Doye tells me he also plays African drums in a blues band with famous guitarist Yusef Olayitan. He loves soccer, too. “Back in the day, do you remember Police Football Club of Senegal?” I asked “Of course, I do. That was the best team in the 70s,” N’Doye said.

8:00 pm: I watch the documentary “Going into Exile” directed by Peter Se-Puma, a documentary about the Soweto uprising. South African Consul General Jeanette Ndhlovu and her two sisters discuss their brother’s death in that uprising and their decisions to leave the country.

FEBRUARY 13: In today’s news, OBJ continues to pursue his political opponents by way of using the bad cop image EFCC to gazette list of politicians who have been unable to come up with a clean slate in terms of their indictments. About 7,000 police men will be deployed by Anambra Police Command during the April elections to avoid the diversion of ballot boxes. Tell me about it, as if they don’t know who the winner is. The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, (rtd.) says the April elections had already being rigged by the PDP. The general will never learn that it’s all over.

I drive to Magic Johnson Theatres to see “Mo & Me,” a documentary directed by Roger Mills and Murad Rayani about the life of a photographer called Mohamed “Mo” Amin who photographed much of African history including the Ethiopian famine and the independence of Kenya and Ghana.

FEBRUARY 14: In the news, OBJ’s regime declares Atiku unfit to run for the April elections because of his indictment by the EFCC. Ralph Uwazuruike and the detained members of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) rejects OBJ’s federal government conditional release telling them to shove it, that they are ready to go to trial. What a way to go?

It’s Valentine’s Day and my daughter reminds me of “Hurricane in the Rose Garden.” I have told her about a month earlier that a friend of mine’s movie will be playing at the festival and we should be seeing it together. I took note since I have other errands and engagements to take care of during the day.

At about 3:45 pm, we took a tour of the festival and checked out the boutiques and other stores around the complex. Entering the theaters’ lobby, we purchased some popcorns and sodas after a long queue. The movie started a little bit behind schedule. The movie directed by Ime Etuk, his first in directing, and starring Pascal Atuma (“Only in America”), Tangi Miller (“Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Phantom Force,” “The Other Brother,” “Love & Other 4 Letter Words”), Aloma Wright (“The Gospel,” “Scrubs,” “Johnson Family Vacation”), Oris Erhuero (“Sometimes in April,” “Highlander: Endgame”), Hakeem Kae Kazim (“Hotel Rwanda”), Tanjareen Martin (“Johnson Family Vacation”) is about a marriage between two different cultures in a fast-paced career minded world.

Joseph (Pascal Atuma), a Nigerian immigrant who runs a medical practice office marries Sade (Tangi Miller), an attorney and corporate elite in a marriage vow of “till death do us part” conducted by Counselor Yun Choi (“Babershop”). Childless for five years, the couples were under pressure when Joseph’s mother (Aloma Wright) and brother, Warrior (Oris Erhuero) arrived from Nigeria to intensify the quest for the couple to start bearing children. Joseph’s mother and brother would not leave until Joseph produces a child; the mother would declare on the ground it’s an abomination to be childless in Nigeria. In a question and answer session after the movie, Atuma said the movie was inspired by a true story.

The photo op was great. My daughter was taking pictures all over. She stood next to Tangi Miller and she started asking questions about the movie and her future projects because she’s familiar with Miller on the big screen and other TV shows, and then said “Can we take pictures together?” “Sure, come on,” Miller said. And they kept talking and talking, and everybody started forming a group taking pictures as we kept walking the hallway of Magic Johnson’s Theatres talking about the movie and the festival, and how great it’s been so far.

Feeling Hollywood, we start talking about the Valentine premier after party. I was sent a special invitation by Olivia Entertainment and Atuma-Scroggins Productions at the Castle Ivar in Hollywood. I couldn’t attend the after party due to other engagements.

FEBRUARY 17: I had worked all night ripping and compiling cuts for my music project.

In today’s papers, the bigot Obasanjo tells PDP caucus his plans to arrest Atiku should the courts rules in his favor. INEC officials declare Igbo votes irrelevant in determining the fate of the forthcoming elections.

I was unable to see the U.S. premiere of “A Goat’s Tail” directed by Julius Amedume to commemorate Ghana’s 50th Independence Anniversary. However I made it to the after party called African Night at the PAFF Bistro. It was a hell of a jam session. Great African music. There was fashion parade and a whole lot of food and beautiful African women. The models were awesome. I walked the hallway and started exchanging pleasantries with folks I have not seen in years. It was really an African night as Nigerians, Ghanaians, Togolese, Sierra Leonean, Nigerians, Cameroonians, Kenyans, Liberians, South Africans and Africans from all walks of life graced the bash.

I walked through the bar and went backstage where it was all happening. I passed through Anchang as he said mildly “you missed the movie; I was expecting to see you.”

“Yes I did. I had other engagements. How was it anyway?” I said.

“Oh, man, it was a good movie. That’s why we have to always represent, you know,” Anchang says.

I tip-toed down to where the cameramen stood to start their shooting; and headed to the kitchen area so I could get a better view while taking my pictures. A few minutes later, I went to the stage area and bumped into Atuma who said I missed a good party, the Valentine’s Day after party in Hollywood. We discussed about his future projects and when he would commence work on his next movie.

FEBRUARY 19: The last day of the festival and the queue at both the theatre and the mall goes right round the complex. I noticed the people queuing at the theatre paid much attention to the banners and posters depicting African cultural awareness.

All the styles, all the glamour, all the artifacts, all the paintings, all the fun and all the movies made this festival an event to remember.


Diary: The 15th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival




The Ambrose Ehirim Files

Diary: The 15th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival


I was not sure if I would be attending this year’s Pan African Film and Arts Festival held at the Magic Johnson Theaters and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall until I bumped into Charles Anchang, publisher of The Immigrant magazine, who asked me how I was doing. “I’m doing just fine. What about this year’s film and arts festival, are you by chance covering any of the events? I asked, “And I hear it’s going to be some fine shows with Hollywood big score Forrest Whitaker opening the ceremony.”

“I hope to see you there, it’s going to be a big show, and we have to represent, you know!” Anchang concluded.

Of course, black actors and actresses have made a significant impact in all aspect of film making and the fine arts, especially now that Jennifer Hudson became an overnight sensation with that amazing, powerful musical “Dream Girls.” The movie gained much ground to snatch the Oscars for Hudson in her supporting role. Whoever could have imagined that after years of denial, Hollywood eventually would be doing the right thing? It took more than three decades after Sidney Poitier won the Best Actor award for “Lilies of the Field” in 1963 before Denzel Washington’s admission in “Training Day.” Sooner or later, Jamie Foxx would follow and this year’s Best Actor Award goes to…”Did I hear someone say Forrest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland?”

That’s right! Whitaker won and Hudson who was denied by American Idol took home Best Supporting Actress award. Congratulations, soul mates!

For the first time, Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry which is growing by the day, showed its presence at the festival. And for the first time, Nigerian films and its Diaspora premiered at the festival—“Abeni,” “Ada Ora,” “Amazing Grace,” “From Place to Plantation,” “Hurricane in the Rose Garden,” “The Narrow Path,” “Rag Tag,” and “Shoot the Messenger.”


JANUARY 31: Earlier, I have read the papers and digested what is important notably with the kind of African-related news one finds in the media and how it makes mockery of our democratic fabric. No one seems to be paying attention, though, particularly when for instance Nigeria’s Mathew Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo arbitrarily twisted democracy and the rule of law into something else declaring a sitting veepee’s seat irrelevant, null and void. Politics in Nigeria keeps getting nastier and nastier one begins to wonder if anything good will surface from that banana republic, like the jungle where the fittest survives.

OBJ wants to hold on to power at all cost. He is now a manipulator. The coward and Igbo hater does things his own way disrespecting the rule of law and teaching his political opponents some lessons he learned behind bars. Well, in one of the day’s papers, the story was that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be extending voter registration and the senate would amend its electoral act. That alone got thousands of residents running for another attempt at a registration you and I already know would be massively rigged. OBJ knows better!

Meanwhile, after reading all that blah, blah, blah and PDP-led regime handling of the affairs of state, I traveled to pick up my mail at the post office. Inside my mailbox, I found a letter from Senegalese born artist Djibril N’Doye inviting me to see his new line of painting and artworks. Before this mail, I have not composed myself to know exactly if I was prepared to deal with the traffic at the festival. Last year when I attended the festival, I encountered N’Doye for the first time. He had told me the origin of his work was based on interest and talent. He had been making sketches at a tender age of seven and was chosen by his school to represent in many competitions in his Lebou coast community in Senegal where he grew up.

And how did he get to this point exhibiting big shows in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Palm Springs, Tucson and many other big cities? I will come to that later.

FEBRUARY 1: As usual, I read the papers and digested what is important. Nothing else is new but the continuous squandering and stealing of public funds by the bandits who call themselves politicians. The case of the office of Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State was top on the headlines. The Gov. had squandered too much money he got confused on the state’s executive funny bookkeeping.

After reading the papers and perusing stories written by top-notch reporters, I took a tour to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall and discovered some traders and artists had begun to troop in to bargain for better spots. I called Obi Onyeador, an art collector and owner of African Treasures to remind him of an early bargain and positioning. He had already done that and said he hoped I would show up and see more artifacts on display. I assured him it’s a done deal. “I will be there, man!” That rubber stamped the assurance.

Later on that day and after hours, my daughter, a center at Morningside High School had deliberately missed the school bus so I could give her a ride to Culver City High School playgrounds for the ongoing winter tournament. I picked my daughter up and we drove to Culver City. While driving she flip flops her CD, ejects my Disco-Funk-era compilations and inserts her Hip-Hop songs I had no idea who’s playing. The Generation X Hip-Hop and all that meaningless lyrics of the day took us all the way.

On our way getting close to Culver City High, “oh, dad, I need some Gatorade,” she said. Apparently, some Gatorade is needed to boost her energy for the game. We stopped by Pavilions on Jefferson Blvd., got some Gatorade and continued our journey. We arrived at Culver High ahead of schedule, beating the school bus. She drops off and I was gone.

I drove back home to watch NFL Live telecast and analysis of Super Bowl XLI. Interesting indeed, I was not gunning for any particular team thus both teams having a black coach, and it doesn’t really matter who wins. However, a black coach will win the Super Bowl.

FEBRUARY 3: It’s Saturday morning and I have marked my calendar (or is it to do list?) to first go to Los Angeles Downtown Fashion District for a luggage. My brother travels the next couple of days and I have to pack some clothes and accessories (or is it okirika?) for my “Moses children” buddies in motherland. I did just that. Returning home, I walked straight to my study and surfed the web. I picked up a news story that says Transportation Minister Cornelius Adebayo disclosed in Abuja that the federal government would be spending a whopping N58b on a second Niger Bridge. Baloney! We’ve been hearing this for a long time.

There is nothing much to do but watch football analysis all day, and listen to some good music, too. I mean those vibes of new-new super heavy funk invented by Godfather of Soul James Brown.

FEBRUARY 4: My phone never stopped ringing, even though the film festival was all I thought seriously about. It wasn’t about the film festival that the calls kept coming in. It was all about black coaches, who wins the Super Bowl and vice versa. It was game day and never mess around with a bare-chested hot-dog-eating yank on Super Bowl Sunday. The day the fans go bananas. The day the stakes are high in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The day professional gamblers lick their fingers. The day fallible men fall for women of easy virtue that parades The Strip. Yes, it’s the day millionaires are made and hearts are broken.

After all said and done about Super Bowl XLI, Peyton Manning lifts the Vince Lombardi trophy and SBXLI enters the books making Tony Dundy the first black coach to win a super bowl and also the third coach to win a super bowl as coach and player. Nevertheless, I am still battling within my mind on the film festival coverage.

I left my house and drove down to Magic Johnson’s T.G.I. Friday’s to see what the football fanatics were doing. It’s amazing how this little community hangouts had been turned into another Hollywood. Girls, fancy cars and you name it. On arrival and typical of big game days, the entire place was crowded and loud. Everybody was talking. Super Bowl XLI is over and the Indianapolis Colts got it. The jam-packed place was not the right place for a gentleman, never minding the professional doormen and security guards who were sentry watching every move of the bad guys. For the disappointed Chicago Bears fans, they yelled “Rex Grossman sucks, man!” “Rex Grossman sucks, man!” It was party time.

I left Magic’s Friday’s without much ado for the much talked about Super Bowl jam in Hermosa Beach. An all white local ensemble reggae band was playing the gig at a beach club called The Lighthouse. Roots reggae was the theme and the vibe was good. Another perfect place that had me jumping to those early days of “Shanty Town/007,” “Trench Town Rock,” “Small Axe,” etc.

February 5: With OBJ’s upcoming doctored election he has already picked a successor, the tabloid press circulated that a do nothing World Igbo Congress (WIC) adopts Orji Kalu, Abia State Governor as Igbo presidential candidate, an event that made Imo Concorde Hotel look like a sold out rock concert. Chief Ralph Obioha abandons his Justice Party for Kalu to lead Nd’Igbo. Three Islamic Jihadists emerge as top-notch presidential candidates from the Jihadic sultanate states, while the Awoist abandoned the principles of Egbe Omo Oduduwa for campaigns and political parties not parallel to the principles of Awoism. Talk about a “do or die” uncertain election. Apologies, OBJ.

The front page of major Nigerian papers is becoming nasty and ugly with what the money-laundering rogue politicians had to offer to its vulnerable and gullible population. “Battle for PDP guber primaries shifts to courts,” wrote The Tribune indicating OBJ is choosing who he desires and axing those not loyal to him on the ground they don’t have enough credits and may have violated party rules and regulations. That’s Nigeria politics and the way it works in supposedly a democracy.

I am done with the news of the day. Once more, I took a tour of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. All the booths had been sold. The press and tourists were all over glancing at the stalls of African arts and accessories. The artifacts and costumes were regal.

At the south end corner of the mall, I encountered Onyeador who had told me “the festival is growing and growing every year, and I hope this year one would do better than the past.” With thousands of tourists and visitors a day, the film and arts festival is a buoyant marketplace of African culture for African Americans and Africans looking for trends. In all the years I have been attending the festival, I found this year’s event more interesting perhaps because of the line up of over 150 independent African films “now playing” at the Magic Johnson Theatres in the hub of “Black Township,” the Crenshaw Boulevard thoroughfare. Or, maybe, perhaps African Americans have paid their dues in Hollywood and the time is now for recognition.

FEBRUARY 8: The drama in AlaIgbo continues apace. Youths in Ebonyi State kills two policemen and abducts five in a civil unrest they blamed the state government for neglect in Onicha Local Government area of the state. The bad cop image EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) headed by OBJ’s puppet Nuhu Ribadu is in troubled waters for a mole found within OBJ’s kitchen cabinet targeted at disrupting the president’s choice of a possible presidential candidate in the April elections. Governors Chimaraoke Nnamani of Enugu State, Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State and George Akume of Benue State are charged at an Abuja tribunal for deliberately refusing to declare their assets on the basis it’s nothing but witch-hunt from the office of the presidency. Kalu’s presidential ambition swells when he said “A rallying point has been constituted and the people of the South East should not allow this opportunity to elude them. Igbos should mobilize themselves to ensure the realization of the project which they have clamored for since the end of the Nigerian civil war.” That’s the news summary.

First, checking my email, filmmaker and actor Pascal Atuma had sent me a notice reminding me of the premier of his new movie “Hurricane in the Rose Garden.” I took note of that since we have discussed that before. A year earlier, Atuma had talked me into being one of the executive producers. I wasn’t ready for such projects due to time factor and other engagements. One of the pleasures of shows and carnivals like the Pan African Film and Arts Festival is to be able to meet people from all walks of life, make new friends and take pictures. I check my cameras to see if there are no defects, and if everything is in order—films, batteries and the flash. My equipments are in order and I’m ready to go.

The big day is here. Forrest Whitaker declares the festival open at the Director’s Guild of America complex on Sunset Boulevard. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaroigosa speaks to commend African American filmmakers and artists whose contribution to the movie industry has provided jobs in many ways, created cultural awareness and reinvented Hollywood’s thinking of African Americans in the movies. Jeanette Ndhlovu, South African Consul-General in Los Angeles also encouraged Black filmmakers to keep telling a story from varied cultural perspectives in a world cultural awareness determines the fate of any community.

I watch the premier of “Rwanda Rising” presented by Ambassador Andrew Young and directed by C.B. Hackworth. This film is about the reconstruction of Rwanda, twelve years after the most blood-soaked event occurred in that decade in the continent’s history. Free education, building housing projects, foreign investments and modern shopping centers would uplift and transform a nation once demolished and plundered. A little bit tired, I missed the after-party with music by Gyedu-Blay Ambolley.

FEBRUARY 9: I slept well and I’m up for another day. I read the papers. Top of the headlines was Anna Nicole Smith, former Playboy pinup girl, actress and television personality who was famous for being famous, sporadically rich is found dead in her hotel room. The Nigerian tabloid press reports that Enugu State Governor Chimaraoke Nnamani is charged before an Abuja tribunal for allegedly owning about 172 houses. There is jubilation in Awka, capital of Anambra State as Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu in a unanimous ruling, ordered immediate reinstatement of Peter Obi as governor of Anambra State.


At about 6:15 in the evening, I drive through the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on the newly refurbished Washington Corridor and found the place packed with guests appearing much like a black tie event. Of course, it was, and how did I forget this? Gosh, how did I? I popped in anyway, and it was a Night of Tribute sponsored by AfricanAncestry.com, Urban Coffee Opportunities, Starbucks Coffee, Africa Channel and Courvoisier. Ambassador Andrew Young would be awarded Lifetime Achievement Award, Blair Underwood, Canada Lee Award; St. Clair Bourne, Pioneer Award; Regina King, Beah Richards Award and Councilman Herb J. Wesson, Community Service Award.

It’s “Friday night and just got paid,” remember that? “Yeah,” it’s Friday night and one must find a way to “cool down the pace.” I drive a couple of blocks heading towards north of Crenshaw Boulevard and landed at Dozie Ozoemena’s “Four Seasons Joint,” now becoming famous for its isi ewu, nkwobi and pepper soup. I ordered two wooden bowls of isi ewu at twenty bucks a piece. Ozoemena’s Joint is noted for having generous patrons who would declare everything to surplus into the night coupled with local politics

FEBRUARY 11: I read the papers and watch TV’s morning news. I checked Kenyan-born cultural and East African Musical analyst Steve Ntwiga’s site where I’m learning more on the origins of soukous and rumba music. It’s amazing what this gentleman has done on cultural relativism and musicology.

1:20 pm: I drive to Magic Johnson Theatres to see the documentary “Who’s Afraid of Ngugi?” I wanted to see the documentary because I read James Ngugi’s “Weep Not Child” while in high school without understanding what the subject-matter was all about. The documentary directed by Manthia Diawara was about the legendary writer’s return to Kenya after a prolonged self-imposed exile.

FEBRUARY 12: I read the papers and no news is good news nowadays. I drive to Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to interview Senegalese born fine artist and painter Djibril N’Doye. On arrival, he salutes and introduces his wife Mary Martin N’Doye to me. Born in 1953, in Bargny, Senegal and standing about 6 feet, N’Doye does about 18 art shows a year covering the Bay Area and Southern California.

Growing up in his Wolof tribe, he donated most of his work to friends until he turned 19 when he started studying the history of arts. In 1979 he won the first prize at an exhibition show in Rufisque, Senegal and said the real turning point in his work came in 1982 when he won the first prize at the Blaise Senghor Cultural Center in Dakar. His work was singled out for praise, and in 1984, his recognition led to a solo exhibit at the Daniel Sorano National Theater on the invitation of the information Minister Allasane Dialy N’Diaye who recommended a live telecast for the show. In 1992, he was invited for exhibition at the Mbowl Tourist Center. He did shows at Mbowl for more than three years. It was at the Mbowl shows that he met his wife Mary Martin, a visiting UCLA anthropologist who came on an excursion with a team of college professors and journalists. Mary spoke French fluently and after trade bargains; three quarter of his work was bought by the visiting group. Two years later, he married Mary and relocated to the United States.

His first show in the U.S. was at a coffee shop called Baba’s House in Sierra Madre, California where half of his work was sold. Now in his 9th year at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, N’Doye tells me he also plays African drums in a blues band with famous guitarist Yusef Olayitan. He loves soccer, too. “Back in the day, do you remember Police Football Club of Senegal?” I asked “Of course, I do. That was the best team in the 70s,” N’Doye said.

8:00 pm: I watch the documentary “Going into Exile” directed by Peter Se-Puma, a documentary about the Soweto uprising. South African Consul General Jeanette Ndhlovu and her two sisters discuss their brother’s death in that uprising and their decisions to leave the country.

FEBRUARY 13: In today’s news, OBJ continues to pursue his political opponents by way of using the bad cop image EFCC to gazette list of politicians who have been unable to come up with a clean slate in terms of their indictments. About 7,000 police men will be deployed by Anambra Police Command during the April elections to avoid the diversion of ballot boxes. Tell me about it, as if they don’t know who the winner is. The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, (rtd.) says the April elections had already being rigged by the PDP. The general will never learn that it’s all over.

I drive to Magic Johnson Theatres to see “Mo & Me,” a documentary directed by Roger Mills and Murad Rayani about the life of a photographer called Mohamed “Mo” Amin who photographed much of African history including the Ethiopian famine and the independence of Kenya and Ghana.

FEBRUARY 14: In the news, OBJ’s regime declares Atiku unfit to run for the April elections because of his indictment by the EFCC. Ralph Uwazuruike and the detained members of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) rejects OBJ’s federal government conditional release telling them to shove it, that they are ready to go to trial. What a way to go?

It’s Valentine’s Day and my daughter reminds me of “Hurricane in the Rose Garden.” I have told her about a month earlier that a friend of mine’s movie will be playing at the festival and we should be seeing it together. I took note since I have other errands and engagements to take care of during the day.

At about 3:45 pm, we took a tour of the festival and checked out the boutiques and other stores around the complex. Entering the theaters’ lobby, we purchased some popcorns and sodas after a long queue. The movie started a little bit behind schedule. The movie directed by Ime Etuk, his first in directing, and starring Pascal Atuma (“Only in America”), Tangi Miller (“Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Phantom Force,” “The Other Brother,” “Love & Other 4 Letter Words”), Aloma Wright (“The Gospel,” “Scrubs,” “Johnson Family Vacation”), Oris Erhuero (“Sometimes in April,” “Highlander: Endgame”), Hakeem Kae Kazim (“Hotel Rwanda”), Tanjareen Martin (“Johnson Family Vacation”) is about a marriage between two different cultures in a fast-paced career minded world.

Joseph (Pascal Atuma), a Nigerian immigrant who runs a medical practice office marries Sade (Tangi Miller), an attorney and corporate elite in a marriage vow of “till death do us part” conducted by Counselor Yun Choi (“Babershop”). Childless for five years, the couples were under pressure when Joseph’s mother (Aloma Wright) and brother, Warrior (Oris Erhuero) arrived from Nigeria to intensify the quest for the couple to start bearing children. Joseph’s mother and brother would not leave until Joseph produces a child; the mother would declare on the ground it’s an abomination to be childless in Nigeria. In a question and answer session after the movie, Atuma said the movie was inspired by a true story.

The photo op was great. My daughter was taking pictures all over. She stood next to Tangi Miller and she started asking questions about the movie and her future projects because she’s familiar with Miller on the big screen and other TV shows, and then said “Can we take pictures together?” “Sure, come on,” Miller said. And they kept talking and talking, and everybody started forming a group taking pictures as we kept walking the hallway of Magic Johnson’s Theatres talking about the movie and the festival, and how great it’s been so far.

Feeling Hollywood, we start talking about the Valentine premier after party. I was sent a special invitation by Olivia Entertainment and Atuma-Scroggins Productions at the Castle Ivar in Hollywood. I couldn’t attend the after party due to other engagements.

FEBRUARY 17: I had worked all night ripping and compiling cuts for my music project.

In today’s papers, the bigot Obasanjo tells PDP caucus his plans to arrest Atiku should the courts rules in his favor. INEC officials declare Igbo votes irrelevant in determining the fate of the forthcoming elections.

I was unable to see the U.S. premiere of “A Goat’s Tail” directed by Julius Amedume to commemorate Ghana’s 50th Independence Anniversary. However I made it to the after party called African Night at the PAFF Bistro. It was a hell of a jam session. Great African music. There was fashion parade and a whole lot of food and beautiful African women. The models were awesome. I walked the hallway and started exchanging pleasantries with folks I have not seen in years. It was really an African night as Nigerians, Ghanaians, Togolese, Sierra Leonean, Cameroonians, Kenyans, Liberians, South Africans and Africans from all walks of life graced the bash.

I walked through the bar and went backstage where it was all happening. I passed through Anchang as he said mildly “you missed the movie; I was expecting to see you.”

“Yes I did. I had other engagements. How was it anyway?” I said.

“Oh, man, it was a good movie. That’s why we have to always represent, you know,” Anchang says.

I tip-toed down to where the cameramen stood to start their shooting; and headed to the kitchen area so I could get a better view while taking my pictures. A few minutes later, I went to the stage area and bumped into Atuma who said I missed a good party, the Valentine’s Day after party in Hollywood. We discussed about his future projects and when he would commence work on his next movie.

FEBRUARY 19: The last day of the festival and the queue at both the theatre and the mall goes right round the complex. I noticed the people queuing at the theatre paid much attention to the banners and posters depicting African cultural awareness.

All the styles, all the glamour, all the artifacts, all the paintings, all the fun, all the costumes and make-ups, and all the movies made this festival an event to remember.

Ambrose Ehirim,
Los Angeles, CA