“International Decade of People of African Descent”
Displacement, emigration, and personal journeys rooted in economic and sociopolitical upheavals have shaped African cinema since its inception. The burgeoning mobility of African men and women across the globe is the inspiration for a myriad of films from a brave new generation of transnational creators. Celebrating the infinite possibilities of digital media and scrupulous reworking of Africa’s long cinematic legacy, their works appeal to an international audience while opening dialogue with other cinema traditions. Their breathtaking movies invite us to embark on a journey where imagination, shared dreams and possibilities direct our gaze to an ever-changing and complex future.
Commemorating the ‘International Decade of People of African Descent,’ we pay tribute to these African men and women and reflect on the ways they have broken through borders with films and narratives that form part of the global imagination in the 21st century. This year, for its 25th anniversary, African Film Festival, Inc. brings audiences the most thrilling and varied annual selection of African films with 50 narrative features and documentaries from 25 countries.
The 22nd edition of the New York African Film Festival places special emphasis on the achievements of the short format and digital technology, which have become a conduit for new stories, sounds and images by freeing their creators from budgetary and technical limitations. One of the jewels of the series, Stories of Our Lives from the Nairobi-based Nest collective, dramatizes LGBTQ life in Kenya in five brief tales, while Women in the Media and Afripedia hone in on the growing creativity of women and urban youth. In Africa, more than half of the population is under 25 years old. Blossoming art centers like Dakar are becoming meccas for fashion designers, hip-hop musicians, graffiti artists, bloggers, and dancers. All get their due in the documentary 100% Dakar – More than Art and The Prophecy by photographer Fabrice Monteiro and designer “Jah Gal”.
The mesmerizing thriller Run by Phillippe Lacôte (Ivory Coast), the docudrama National Diploma by Dieudo Hamaadi (DRC), and the comedy of errors Head Gone from one of Nigeria’s finest entertainers –Dare Fasasi- reveal the vitality of popular cinematic genres, while Ethiopian-Israeli Bazi Gete’s autobiographical Red Leaves, based loosely on Shakespeare’s King Lear, is an insightful and poetic look at the internal migration of an aging Ethiopian man living in Israel. To stress the importance of documentaries for revealing truths suppressed by the media, we present Melillenses (Melillans) by Moisés Salama, a broad-minded portrait of the inhabitants of Melilla -a Spanish border-city on Moroccan soil- and Ziara. Over the Threshold by Sonia Gámez, which examines the Marabouts, important sites of religious pilgrimage located in northern Morocco.
Along with such contemporary fare, we will feature the enduring classic Mossane by Senegalese pioneer, Safi Faye. This milestone of African cinema paved the way for the recognition of female voices in the international scene. Their growing prominence is visible in the broad range of women’s works this year spanning north and south. A shining example is The Narrow Frame of Midnight, where Tala Hadid takes us on a voyage through the violence and desolation of Morocco with the interwoven stories of three people.
50 years have passed since Mandela was sent to Robben Island, and post-apartheid South Africa, with one of the strongest film industries on the continent, has become a reference point for artistic creativity. With the fresh and exciting neo-noir Cold Harbour by Carey McKenzie and Love the One You Love, Jenna Bass’s multi-award winning first feature about love and anxieties in the digital era, audiences can catch a glimpse of Cape Town in its multiple facets through the lenses of two of the most promising women filmmakers in the country. Aiming to illuminate the ways official history molds the lives of contemporary South Africans, a pair of documentaries – Sobukwe: A Great Soul and Plot for Peace – rewrite the narrative of apartheid South Africa, helping to show a nuanced past and its effect on the country’s realities. Focusing on the leading figure of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the intentionally forgotten founder of the Pan Africanist Congress, along with controversial French commodities trader Jean-Yves Ollivier, we witness the multitude of factors that make up historical turning points as well as the undeniable power of a single human will.
A wide-ranging group of the latest and most salient African documentaries, coping with long-lasting misunderstandings about African history and its people, will be showing at the Maysles Cinema, while BAMcinématek will close our festival with AFF’s Travelling Series, a group of carefully selected Brazilian movies, the vibrant South African documentary about art and revolution Shield and Spear, and a screening of the Oscar-nominated film Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako (Mauritania).