50th Anniversary of Seventeen African Nations’ Sovereignty Commemorated at Festival. Running April 7 through 13 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center in NY.
World Cup Films in Honor of First World Cup Tournament in Africa, Animated and Focus Features’ ‘Africa First’ Short Programs, and Green Film to Be Featured
The Film Society of Lincoln Center and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) present “Independent Africa,” the 17th annual New York African Film Festival (NYAFF), which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of 17 African nations’ independence from colonial rule as well as the freedom that the rise in technology has given African filmmakers to tell their own stories. Among the 13 features and 25 short films from emerging and veteran filmmakers from 18 countries are four soccer films in honor of the World Cup’s first games in Africa opening in June 2010, an animated short program, Focus Features’ Africa First short program and an environmental film. The festival runs from April 7 through 13 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center and continues at Columbia University’s Institute for African Studies, 3ten Lounge, New Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music BAMcinematek with dates in April and May.
“We are proud to co-present the NYAFF, and display the work of African filmmakers, whose perceptive and challenging films add an essential voice to the world of cinema,” said Mara Manus, executive director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center.
“Fifty years ago these newly minted countries were creating film units and radio programming to engage their populations, and similarly this current crop of young African filmmakers see that the entire continent is an untapped market and are determined to get their work shown there and around the world,” said Mahen Bonetti, founder of AFF, www.africanfilmny.org. “With one foot in the Diaspora and one foot on the continent, and empowered by new technologies, they can effortlessly speak not only to local viewers but to the broader universe of film-going audiences.”
2010 marks 50 years of sovereignty for the African nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and Togo. NYAFF will celebrate the occasion with films from these countries, such as the U.S. premiere of the opening night film, The Absence, directed by Mama Keita (Senegal/France) on April 7.
The thriller follows a scientist returning to Senegal for a family visit after 15 years in Paris; upon discovering that his hearing- and speech-impaired sister is working as a prostitute, he embarks on a high-stakes bid to free her from a dangerous underworld. The Absence won Best Scenario Award at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO, 2009) and Best Film Awards at the Festival of Tarifa (Spain, 2009) and Festival Quintessence (Benin, 2010).
The Absence will be screened with Daouda Coulibaly’s A History of Independence, winner of Le Python Pygmee award at Festival Quintessence (Benin, 2010). Also screening will be rare archival footage of the nations as they transitioned from colonial- to self-rule from the Russian State Film & Photo Archives at Krasnogorsk, some of which has never been seen outside of Russia.
“Each year the New York African Film Festival allows a truly unique opportunity for The Film Society to reveal the thoughts, dreams, fears and delights of a rapidly transforming continent. We’re delighted to share with our audiences this unique showcase of a part of the world that grows ever more vital to all of our futures,” said Richard Pena, program director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Eliane de Latour’s narrative film Beyond the Ocean, winner of the Jury Prize at the Festival des Cinema du Monde 2009, will be the Centerpiece film on Friday, April 9, as another U.S. premiere. De Latour will be in attendance to introduce her film, which depicts a police raid on a Spanish port that separates the fates of two struggling friends, who both dream of returning to their Ivory Coast homeland as triumphant benefactors and heroes. Otho, deported, returns home empty handed, while Shad evades the authorities and later returns, apparently successful, to marry his Ivorian fiancee-only to be met by a duel with Otho.
Major technological advances in filmmaking continue to help Africans reaffirm their autonomy by putting cinematic tools in the hands of a new breed of storytellers. Wanuri Kahiu, Jean-Michel Kibushi, Daouda Coulibaly, Monique Mbeka Phoba and Guy Kabeya Muya are just some of the featured directors, who, with digital cameras in hand are emboldened to craft their own tales-some of which critique conditions in their nations.
Through their work a new paradigm of independence for African film is being created, perhaps most exemplified by the Nigerian film industry-Nollywood-now the third largest film producers in the world; NYAFF will screen Nigerian filmmaker Kunle Afolayan’s The Figurine, which took Best Director, Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Original Soundtrack, Best Heart of Africa and many other honors at the African Movie Academy Awards earlier this year.
This year’s NYAFF features two short programs. The animated program will feature the films of Jean-Michel Kibushi, whose works include the techniques of claymation, chalk drawings and found objects. The festival will include two films made by Nigerien filmmaker Moustapha Alassane, the sub-Saharan father of animation, made 35 years apart. The 1966 film Bonvoyage Sim was intended to be critical of the colonial government in power at the time, however censorship prevented Alassane from giving the film the ending he desired.
The festival will also include his Adieu Sim, the film with the alternate ending. Alassane, who now runs an animation program for Nigerien youth with his son, was a student of and collaborator with renowned filmmaker Jean Rouch and is said to have made the first black African film in 1962. The animated program will follow the 1966 non-animated Alassane classic The Return of an Adventurer. The other short program, Africa First, consists of films by five emerging African filmmakers who were each awarded funds by Focus Features to complete their projects.
Burning in the Sun, by Cambria Matlow and Morgan Robinson, is an inspirational portrait of a young West African, who returns to his homeland of Mali to build and sell solar panels in an effort to literally turn the lights on for the 99 percent of his countrymen in rural areas with no power. Daniel Dembele’s motivation is to make solar power affordable so that Malians can be self-sufficient, not needing to buy the technology from European or other countries where it would be cost-prohibitive. The environmental documentary is co-presented with Green Screens
In honor of the FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup coming for the first time to African soil in June 2010, four films on soccer will be presented, two of which are documentaries on World Cup soccer; Between the Cup and the Election, a film by Monique Mbeka Phoba and Guy Kabeya Muya, tells the story of the Leopards of Zaire, the first sub-Saharan soccer team to qualify for the World Cup, in 1974. Demetrius Wren’s Streetball follows the Homeless World Cup, an annual soccer tournament of 56 countries with teams comprised of homeless, ex-convicts, orphans and other dispossessed people.
NYAFF includes an art exhibition and performance art in The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater. “Orpheus Dreaming,” an exhibition by visual artist Michelle Hill, will be on display from April 7 through 14; griot Fifi-Dalla Kouyate will bring to life several African leaders as they declare their nation’s independence in “Proclamation of a Griot” on April 7 at 7:30 pm at the Gallery. Kouyate will perform the piece again at the Milbank Chapel at Teachers College, Columbia University, 420 W. 118th Street on April 14 at 7:00pm during a panel discussion.
Established and aspiring filmmakers will receive words of advice on film promotion from journalists, as well as publicity and social networking experts at “Getting Exposure: Securing the Buzz You Need for Your Film,” a panel discussion to be held on Saturday, April 10 at 1:30 p.m. at the Furman Gallery.
The festival runs at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th Street, Plaza Level, from April 7 through April 13. It then moves on to Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies on April 14, for “Independent Art: 50 Years in the Making,” a day of film and panel discussions with filmmakers, scholars and film critics.
On May 6, NYAFF will hold the world premiere of the tongue-in-cheek Dr. Cruel, a film co-directed by Jakob Boeskov and Teco Benson which critically examines the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on the African continent at 3ten Lounge at 7 pm (doors opening at 6 pm); the event is a collaboration with Creative Time with music by DJ Amo. AFF and the New Museum will co-present a series of films that celebrate the technical innovations that have contributed to a new level of independence in African cinema at New Museum, on May 13, 15 and 16. The festival concludes at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinematek in tandem with DanceAfrica from May 28 through May 31. BAMcinematek is located at 30 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn.
AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL, INC.
For almost twenty years, African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) has bridged the divide between post-colonial Africa and the American public through the medium of film and video. AFF’s unique place in the international arts community is distinguished not only by leadership in festival management but a comprehensive approach to the advocacy of African film and culture. AFF established the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) in 1993 with The Film Society of Lincoln Center. The New York African Film Festival is presented annually at the Walter Reade Theater by African Film Festival, Inc. and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in association with Brooklyn Academy of Music. AFF also produces a series of local, national and international programs throughout the year. AFF can be found on the Web at www.africanfilmny.org.
Screening and ticket information:
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
www.FilmLinc.com; CenterCharge, 212-721-6500.