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120 Years: PAFF Spotlights Broken Prison System

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120 Years documentary

The Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) is an event bringing together international filmmakers to Los Angeles, CA.  February 8, 2019, 120 Years premiered during the SeniorFest portion of PAFF.  The crowd of black seniors arrived early with popcorn in hand, ready to watch a block of short documentaries. 

The first film 120 Years (only 38 minutes,) detailed the story of Scott Lewis, a Connecticut man who was framed for a murder after he decided to end his side hustle.  The audience was a bit antsy waiting to find out how a small-time drug dealer can get framed (and convicted) for a double murder.  The answer is, the detective involved in the case was also a known drug dealer, drug user, and was upset that Lewis wanted to turn his life around. 

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As the story played out highlighting Lewis’ injustices and resilience the senior crowd responded like they were hearing a parishioner’s testimony at church, with chants of, “Yes, Lord” and “Jesus.” 

With recent arrest of rappers (21 Savage, Lil Baby, Offset, and more) social media blogs are giving young people a little insight on how black men may be looked differently by law enforcement.  However, the PAFF audience members didn’t need a social media blog to remind them of that because they lived through similar (or worst) times when they were in their youth.  A poignant line in the film was “it’ll take a village to fix the system.”

The men behind 120 Years, are young, white Yale college students.  Although there is no direct link between South Los Angeles seniors, Hollywood rappers, and Yale students, there was some hope in knowing that if everybody did a little something to bring awareness to the chronic problem of wrongful convictions maybe something will change.  It isn’t lost on the conscience that the most popular rappers talk about drugs and crimes while using a racial epithet, are now feeling like they are being targeted by law enforcement. 

120 Years filmmakers are a prime example that you can never be too young to invoke change.  Hopefully, the entertainers in the village, moving forward will use their art to uplift and dispel negative stereotypes of black men and women; the seniors in the village deserve that.

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Check out more exciting films, events, and panels at PAFF.org through February 18, 2019.  Learn more about 120 Years at their website.


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Moe N. Reed
A creative with a background in screenwriting and entertainment news.

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