Bill Russell’s Impact on me and The Pan African Film Festival


I am Ayuko Babu, Executive Director of the Pan African Film Festival. Brother Bill Russell had a profound impact on my life. When I played center on my high school team in Cheyenne, Wyoming, we won the Wyoming State Championship and I won a full scholarship to the University of Wyoming and Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado (where the new Laker head coach Darvin Ham played before he moved on to Texas Tech and pro ball.) I moved on to play at LA City College and joined the civil rights/Black Power Movement. I had patterned my whole basketball game after Brother Bill, especially in defense. At that time, Cheyenne had no television station, so I religiously listened to the broadcasts of all Bill's games when they aired on the radio in Cheyenne. When able, I watched Bill and the other bad brothers on the Boston Celtics on television by antenna from Denver, Colorado.  He had a major impact on me. The way he looked and carried himself was noble. With his goatee and mustache and his 6’10” muscular frame, he looked like an African chief.

When I came out to Los Angeles in July 1962, I went to see Bill and the Boston Celtics play the Lakers at the old Sports Arena, which was new at the time. A friend of mine, Gene Wiley, was playing center for the Lakers. Brother Gene was from Amarillo, Texas, where I was born and lived until my family moved to Cheyenne. Gene got me tickets to see that game. Needless to say, it was an incredible game. I learned many invaluable basketball lessons that night watching Bill and Gene battle.  

Even at that time, I knew Bill was very much into Pan Africanism; not only basketball. He had bought a rubber plantation in the Republic of Liberia (West Africa). After the game, I was hoping to talk to Bill for a few minutes. So my brother Jaheed and I waited outside the locker room for him to come out. When he finally came through the door and into the hallway, I spoke to him and he smiled. I asked him about his rubber plantation in Liberia. He was happy to know that I knew about it. He stood there and talked to me and my brother for about an hour about the plantation and its operation. He proudly told us he had 200 workers and when he realized that his workers needed a school to increase their education and level of development, he built a school for them. It was my first experience speaking with someone who actually had a successful project and a program on the Continent. I was spellbound. During our encounter, Bill never spoke about the game we had just seen or basketball in general. His entire enthusiastic conversation was about the plantation and the incredible possibilities that these kinds of projects could open up for Black folks. 

Needless to say, he fueled my determination and drive to be a part of the Pan African experience. He became the role model that led me to facilitate Brother Stevie Wonder’s first trip to Africa to perform at the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. The Grammy organization flew to Nigeria to broadcast Stevie's performance and to present his Grammys in Lagos. The performance, directed and produced by Stan Lathan, was broadcast to a worldwide TV audience of 90 million people. Stevie performed his famous song Sir Duke with his band and Duke Ellington’s band and the George Faison dancers. It was Bill's influence and that early conversation after the Laker/Celtic game that spurred me on to bring the world-famous dance company Les Ballets Africains from the Republic of Guinea to perform at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Bill's impact was so inspirational to me that I, along with actress, singer and composer Ja’Net DuBois and actor Danny Glover, was able to create The Pan African Film Festival, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2022. This is the kind of impact that Pan Africanist Bill Russell had on my life and will continue to have on my life.

OUR AMERICAN FAMILY US Theatrical Release in New York (Cinema Village), Los Angeles (Laemmle Monica) on September 2nd and on VOD in the US and Canada on Major Platforms on September 6th, Timed to National Recovery Month

GIANT PICTURES PRESENTS A World of HA Productions Film in association with Atlas Industries and The Intellectual Property Corporation 


Directed & Produced by Hallee Adelman & Sean King O’Grady
Executive Producer: Caroline Libresco
Run Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
Genre: Feature Length Documentary
Country: USA

WINNER! Woodstock Film Festival 2021- Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature

Photo 2- Our American Family (Giant Pictures)

Addiction is an all-encompassing force, in not only of the lives of the afflicted, but also those around them. OUR AMERICAN FAMILY provides an honest, unfiltered look at a close-knit Philadelphia family dealing with generational substance abuse. Captured at a pivotal “nothing to lose” moment, for over the course of a year, five family members tired of life with addiction on center stage, each struggle to transcend their crippling histories. 

What will it take to shift this entrenched, wrenching pattern in their lives? Will they be able to make significant shifts to help their next generation? The members of  OUR AMERICAN FAMILY   invite us into their lives to find hope and to explore what’s possible. Though they often falter, their familial loyalty is powerful, demonstrating how through love and dedication people can rise out of the deepest depths. For a touching, eye-opening look into one of America's most pressing crises, look no further.

OUR AMERICAN FAMILY- Co Director Sean O'Grady Headshot

OUR AMERICAN FAMILY opens in September timed to National Recovery Month, a national observance held every September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.

Photo 3- Our American Family (Giant Pictures)

View New Trailer for SQUEAL that will Opens theatrically in NYC (Alamo Manhattan) and LA (Laemmle Music Hall) and on VOD on major platforms in the US and Canada on August 19th

Good Deed Entertainment and Cranked Up Films Present SQUEAL

Squeal_Theatrical Poster

Director: Aik Karapetia
Scriptwriter: Aik Karapetian,Aleksandr      Rodionov
Cast: Kevin Janssens,Laura Siliņa,Aigars Vilims,Normunds Griestiņš,Juris Bartkevičs,Guntis Pilsums
Year: 2021
Genre: D
ark Comedy
Country: Latvia
Language: Latvian and English (with English subtitles)
Run time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Official Selection: FANTASTIC FEST 2021 and many more

Theaters Include:
NYC (Alamo Manhattan)
Lumiere Music Hall - Los Angeles

VOD Platforms Include:
US: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, XFinity Cable, and more.
Canada: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play

“Icon” Available Now Across All Platforms on August 1st: KDMG, Inc. Releasing Filmmaker Tony Ahedo’s Touching Feature Film “Icon” Starring Parker Padgett and Devon Hales


KDMG, Inc. (Kaczmarek Digital Media Group, Inc. ) release of Pretty Sweet Films’ production of filmmaker Tony Ahedo’s  touching feature film debut “Icon” is available today across all TVOD/Digital and Blu-Ray/DVD platforms throughout North America.

This moving coming of age drama charts the perilous journey to adulthood for our charismatic leads Sam (Parker Padgett) and Ana (Devon Hales).

Young love’s the topic of so many films, but rarely is it handled with earnest, authentic grace, as we see in “Icon”. Anchored in the touching  performances  of Parker Padgett and Devon Hales, audiences will find themselves moved much like fellow beloved indie film “The Spectacular Now.” When a surprise pregnancy forces Sam to face many brutal realities of adulthood and responsibility, things spiral rapidly out of control as he simultaneously tries to fight to find his own truth: why his absent father hasn’t been in his life since he was one and is only a fading memory.

Icon” was inspired by a true story and stars Parker Padgett (“Surviving Lunch”) and Devon Hales (Netflix’s “Teenage Bounty Hunters,” “Stan Against Evil”), along with Julia Denton (“The Fundamentals of Caring,” “Geostorm”), Tony Demil (Succession,” “Zola”), Bryce Anthony Heller  (“Education in Love,” “Cobra’s World”), and the feature film debut of Ronald Sansone.

Adapted from an award-winning short that won the presidents’ award at Ringling College of Art & Design, “Icon” was filmed in Ahedo’s hometown of Saint Petersburg, Florida, just prior to the pandemic. The story pulls elements from his childhood growing up in the mid 90’s through the early 2000s in Florida.

Cinematographer Harrison Stagner (“Rosary, Fiona Humphrey: A Family Album,” “Stubbz”), utilized different cameras to best embody the film’s timelines. A Canon C200 was used for the 2010 timeline and BMCC4K with a vintage 60’s lens for the 90’s timeline. “Icon” also features a moving original score by Chris Carlone (“The Red Cocoon,” “Highway to Havasu”).

Where to follow the film and its journey—
Facebook: @iconthemovie
Instagram: @iconthemovie