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Farafina Magazine Presents: Charles Mayaki at the 2009 PAFF Festival

Day 3

The third day of PAFF kicked off with a panel discussion on Notorious, a movie about the life of Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G. Moderated by journalist Farai Chideya, the panel was made up of producer Bobby Teitel, writers Cheo Hodari Coker and Reggie Blythewood, and casting director Twinkie Byrd.

Scene from Notorious

Scene from Notorious

The fast-paced discussion benefitted from the many nuggets brought to the table by Cheo Hodari Coker. A writer for the hip-hop magazine Vibe, Coker interviewed Wallace twice; once in 1994 and again, shortly before his murder. In his last interview with Coker, Biggie was all about family, and his daughter especially. Biggie, as the movie depicts, was also a mama’s boy—he was scared, up until the day he died, of what his mom would think.

Highlights of the discussion included debates about the misogyny that ‘dogs’ rap and the ‘Madonna whore’ concept espoused by the characters of Faith Evans and Lil’ Kim. Casting director Twinkie Byrd, a lively character, invited two actors from the movie onto the stage. Julia Pace Mitchell plays Jan, Biggie’s first baby mama who, as Julia put it, gets “dumped for the lighter-skinned chick”, referring to Faith Evans. While Julia had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Jan, actor Dennis White, cast as D-Rock, Biggie’s best friend who takes the fall for Biggie, wasn’t so lucky as D-Rock was still incarcerated at the time of filming. Both actors, who came across as intelligent and promising, are part of the Theatre Troupe of Howard University, Washington D.C.

A Q & A session with the audience followed where someone raised the issue of the movie’s inadequate treatment of the time Biggie time spent away from New York, while drug dealing in North Carolina, to which Cheo Hodari Coker answered that there was not enough time to put everything in and certain things had to be compressed. When Biggie got his record deal, Sean “Puffy” Combs had to go down to North Carolina and persuade him to come back to New York. Interestingly enough, the day after Biggie left, cops raided the area and a lot of his cronies got busted and ended up doing time.

Producer Bobby Tietel also talked about the difficulty of marketing the movie, which was completed only two weeks before opening. Obviously, he wished it could have reached a wider audience because it got excellent reviews.

Attendees also discovered that the movie project had surprisingly been pushed by Ms. Wallace rather than Puffy who joined in after production started.

A friend of Antonique Smith, cast as Faith Evans, provided comic relief when he took the microphone, after getting Smith on the phone, and put his cell on speaker so the actress could thank the casting director, producer and writers for giving her the role. She was speaking from the Berlin Film Festival where Notorious is part of the festival.

Coker got in the last word when he said the movie is ultimately about manhood and what it means to be a man.

Nubian Spirit: The African Legacy of the Nile Valley had a full house. In this movie, British-Jamaican director Louis Buckley set out to educate his audience and reclaim Egypt as a cornerstone of Black civilisation.

Nubian Spirit

Nubian Spirit

Most of the argument surrounding Egyptians is centred on King Tut and Cleopatra; why are they not depicted as black and why do European historians argue that they were not black? Buckley’s documentary helps put to rest these disputes by tracing the roots of Egypt back to the two original kingdoms of Kush (later Nubia and present-day Ethiopia) and Kemet (present-day Egypt), by the Nile Valley. From 4000–800 BC, these kingdoms enjoyed a close relationship and were populated by black people alone.

Only after 800 BC did the Assyrians defeat the people of Kemet, followed by the Persians, the Greeks under Alexander the Great, who renamed the union of the sister kingdoms Egypt, and finally the Romans who found Cleopatra as queen.

Along the way, conquerors came, rewrote history in their favour and appointed their descendants as Pharaohs. Kemet was segregated from Kush which was never conquered. By so doing, they also separated the people whose race differed only by virtue of the progeny of intermarriage and immigration to the region.

Tracking scientific, religious and educational innovations while referring to a plethora of historians, the documentary stresses the contributions people of the Nile Valley made to the world while outlining events which led to their diminished dominance and end of their empires.

Interesting and educational, Nubian Spirit places everything in time while emphasizing the need for archaeologists to look for more answers in Ethiopia and to understand its meriotic language in the same way they have combed through Egypt and deciphered its hieroglyphics language.

In the heated Q & A segment that ensued, audience members threw criticisms at Africans who care nothing about their history and also brought up the latest tour of the tomb of King Tut where he was depicted as an Arab-looking man. I think the director, a jovial character who cracked a lot of jokes, put it best when he said that “all civilizations have contributed to each other and should be recognized equally”. This is what the message this movie successfully conveys.

Scene from Rain

Scene from Rain

Rain is a Bahamian movie starring American TV actress CCH Pounder and newcomer Renel Brown as the titular Rain. The death of Rain’s grandmother takes her from a sheltered existence on a ragged side of the island to the capital city of Nassau where she rejoins the mother who abandoned her. Her mother Glory is a drug addict who lives in the seedy area of town nicknamed ‘the graveyard’ populated by prostitutes, pimps and homeless people. Rain is introduced into this life of primordial existence where the kids at her new school take a dislike to her and where people have no hope of breaking free of their situation. Rain has two things going for her; an exercise coach (CCH Pounder) who befriends her and her own innate ability on the race track which might get her a scholarship and pave way for her exit.

In this well made movie with convincing performances, Greek Bahamian director Maria Govan demonstrates an observant eye for the culture and people she depicts. Govan came to Los Angeles to make movies and worked on a few productions before returning to her native country where she started making documentaries. She raised the money for her productions by calling on the generosity of wealthy citizens of Nassau.

PAFF is Govan’s fourth festival promoting Rain and her hope is that the exposure will make it easier for acquisitions people to see the movie and to get Rain distributed.

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