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Short-film competition to honor John Singleton

LOS ANGELES — A new short film competition has been created to pay tribute to the legacy of iconic late African-American filmmaker John Singleton. 

The John Singleton embRACE L.A. Short Film Competition is a partnership between the city of Los Angeles and the Pan African Film Festival.

Singleton, a Los Angeles native, was best known for directing “Boyz n the Hood” starring Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut and Cuba Gooding Jr., “Poetic Justice” starring Janet Jackson and Tupac, and “Baby Boy” starring Tyrese.

He was 51 when he died April 28 from complications following a major stroke. 

The competition was created to honor Singleton’s cinematic legacy, specifically the way he wasn’t afraid to tell stories dealing with race and the African-American experience.  

“It’s such a shock that John died so young,” said PAAF Executive Director Ayuko Babu. “We had the opportunity to be with him on his first trip to Africa. It was really exciting. We got a chance to bond on the continent in Burkina Faso.

“He was really serious about trying to tell our story and trying to inspire emerging filmmakers behind him that it could be done.”

The short film competition was announced on July 15 and the deadline to submit entries is Sept. 15.

Babu said short films are the way for emerging filmmakers to introduce themselves to distributors, producers and writers. 

“It’s like a calling card, a business card,” Babu said. “You make a short film so they can see what you’re talking about. See your techniques, see your vision.”

“Also, short films get around to different film festivals so you really get a chance to show it to a lot of folks and they get a chance to evaluate you and decide to take a chance on you.”

Three winners will be awarded $20,000 each for the production and completion of their live-action narrative short film. 

Winners also will receive special public screenings in May 2020 and February 2021.

They also will be invited to a five-day professional filmmakers retreat with industry professionals to network and cultivate their talent. 

“EmbRACE L.A. is our initiative aimed at unifying Angelenos and empowering communities through conversations about race and racism and working to change these inequities,” said Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson Jr. “Through the medium of film, we are encouraging young filmmakers to be a part of this conversation, just as many of John Singleton’s films were a conversation about race in South L.A.”

“We’re celebrating John and his legacy … by giving emerging filmmakers the opportunity to be their generation’s John Singleton, giving them the resources to create short films that echo the cultural contributions of John. Just as embRACE L.A. strives to do, these short films will continue a dialogue about race in Los Angeles and work to confront and change these inequities — just as John’s films bridged the racial divide in this country during his career,” Wesson said.

EmbRACE L.A. is an initiative aimed at unifying Angelenos and empowering communities through a citywide conversation about race and racism to challenge and change inequities.

Babu said this competition is a rare, life-changing opportunity, an initiative Singleton would be proud to be associated with. 

Submissions should be 30 minutes or less. Application information can be found at www.PAFF.org.

By John W. Davis

Contributing Writer