NEW YORK —The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) will present the 18th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) in celebration of the United Nations International Year of Peoples of African Descent, which serves as the festival’s guiding theme. This year’s NYAFF will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of independence in both Sierra Leone and Tanzania, countries from which much of the African Diaspora draws its roots. The festival, which will include 15 features and 16 short films by emerging and veteran filmmakers from 24 countries, will commence with a screening of rare archival footage from the Russian State Archives of both Sierra Leone and Tanzania’s 1961 liberation from the United Kingdom. The NYAFF will include classic and contemporary films, as well as presentations by visual and performing artists paying tribute to historic moments and luminary figures who have been influential in the arts and culture of the Diaspora. The NYAFF will run from April 6 through 12 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout April and May at the Museum of Arts and Design, Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies, The Big Screen Project, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek.
“This year’s program will offer both a great deal of variety for moviegoers and a great deal of optimism for Africa,” said African Film Festival, Inc. Executive Director and Founder Mahen Bonetti. “From family-oriented films to dark dramas to informative shorts and documentaries, attendees will be immersed in the rich lives of people from across the Diaspora, as filmmakers show their view of Africa—one of pride, determination and hope for the future.”
Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director Richard Peña agreed, saying, “There is much to be excited about in this year’s program. This year’s selections deliver a vibrant and dynamic group of films from a number of very talented filmmakers who have done a wonderful job of introducing us to a fascinating and sometimes very unexpected view of Africa through the camera’s lens.”
Opening Night features Kinshasa Symphony, the story of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s only symphony orchestra. Directed by Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer, the film follows the determined members of L'Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste (The Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra) as they overcome coups, chaos and war to celebrate life through the power of music—even creating their own instruments. Armand Diangienda, founder and conductor of the orchestra, will be in attendance to introduce the film. On Friday, April 8, Viva Riva, Djo Tunda Wa Munga’s fictional feature about the seductive, vibrant, and lawless underbelly of Kinshasa, will be screened as the festival’s Centerpiece film. Both films, together with director Daniel Cattier’s Kongo – Grand Illusions, examine the Heart of Africa, which the Democratic Republic of the Congo, situated in the center of the African continent, has long been considered. At the crossroads of Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Africa, its cultures seem to pulse in time with the heart of the continent.
Additional festival highlights include the following themes and films:
“The Camera – a Filmmaker’s Weapon” featuring those who use the camera to shine light on issues of critical importance to people from across the African Diaspora. Films in this category include One Way, a Tuareg Journey, a child who documents his family’s transition from being nomads of the Sahara to urban Italian residents directed by Fabio Caramaschi and Stolen, unwitting outsiders whose cameras lead them toward a terrible secret about modern-day slavery by directors Violeta Ayala & Daniel Fallshaw.
“Africa – The Next Generation” depicts the resilience of Africa’s youth in the face of adversities—personal and global, large and small. From the simple act of writing a letter to Santa Claus to bravely facing life with AIDS. These films include: Soul Boy, directed by Hawa Essuman; Africa United, directed by Debs Gardner-Paterson; Ousmane (Deweneti), directed by Dyana Gaye; and Thembi, directed by Jo Menell.
The NYAFF will also include the short Bongo Barbershop by legendary filmmaker Charlie Ahern—whose groundbreaking 1983 film Wild Style was the first to capture the nascent phenomenon known as hip hop—and the 2011 Focus Features Africa First Shorts Program. Africa First is a program to support the growth of groundbreaking emerging African filmmakers, now in its third year.
The NYAFF begins with a nod to the dynamic artistic voices of the Diaspora at a special presentation at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) on Saturday, April 2. The 3:00 pm event will feature a dynamic panel of international artists, including entertainer and humanitarian Harry Belafonte, textile artist and writer Xenobia Bailey and filmmaker and curator Zina Saro-Wiwa. The panel will be followed by a screening of the 1996 film African Rhythmus, which is about the First World Festival of Negro Arts (now known as the World Festival of Black Arts); African Rhythmus is a visually stunning fifty-minute Soviet survey of the first large-scale exhibition of arts from throughout the Diaspora.
The festival moves to The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater at 165 W. 65th Street, Plaza Level, running from April 6 through 12, then travels to Columbia University on Thursday, April 14 for a daylong free public program in partnership with Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies. On May 20, a co-presentation with The Big Screen Project will bring Africa and the Diaspora into the public sphere through the presentation of short and feature-length films on a giant outdoor LED screen located on Sixth Avenue, between 29th and 30th Street. The festival concludes, as always, at the end of May over Memorial Day Weekend at the Brooklyn Academy of Music BAMcinématek—part of the music, dance, culinary delights and merchandise for purchase that make up the high-energy festivities of DanceAfrica.
The programs of AFF are made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, JPMorgan Chase, New York State Council on the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, International Organization of La Francophonie, Divine Chocolate, United Airlines, Domenico Paulon Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, American Express, New York Times Community Affairs Department, Bradley Family Foundation , South African Consulate General, The Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk , French Cultural Services, Bloomberg, Broadway Cares, Lambent Foundation, Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies and Center for African Education, WNYC, 57 Main St. Wine Company, Putumayo World Music, Websignia, Africa.com, and Omnipak Import Enterprises, Inc.
THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLNCENTER
Under the leadership of Rose Kuo, Executive Director, and Richard Peña, Program Director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center offers the best in international, classic and cutting-edge independent cinema. The Film Society presents two film festivals that attract global attention: the New York Film Festival, now in its 47th year, and New Directors/New Films which, since its founding in 1972, has been produced in collaboration with MoMA. The Film Society also publishes the award-winning Film Comment Magazine, and for over three decades has given an annual award—now named "The Chaplin Award"—to a major figure in world cinema. Past recipients of this award include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
For more than two decades, African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) has bridged the divide between post-colonial Africa and the American public through the powerful medium of film and video. AFF's unique place in the international arts community is distinguished not only by leadership in festival management, but also by 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.
Film Showtimes & Descriptions
Directors and guest speakers will be present during the festival (indicated by an asterisk* before the show time). ALL FILMS IN NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGES WILL BE SUBTITLED IN ENGLISH.
MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN PANEL & SCREENING
Panel Discussion followed by African Rhythmus
Archival Footage - Senegal/USSR, 1966; 50m
At the First World Festival of African Art, delegates from 37 counties of the world met. The festival, taking place in the open air rather than in theater halls, created a merry and friendly atmosphere that laid the foundation of new way for people to converge.
Apr 2: 3:00 pm
FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER SCREENINGS
OPENING NIGHT SELECTION
Claus Wischmann & Martin Baer, 2010, DRC/Germany; 95m
Picture 200 musicians playing Beethoven’s Ninth in the Congo! A fascinating look at the lone Congolese symphony orchestra, which has persevered through war and other crises.
Charlie Ahearn, 2005, USA; 8m
Original hip hop stylings from the source.
Apr 6: 8:00pm*; Apr 8: 3:30pm*
Djo TundaWa Munga, 2010, Democratic Republic of Congo; 96m
A small-time operator returns to Kinshasa—a seductively vibrant, lawless, fuel-starved sprawl of shantytowns, gated villas, bordellos and nightclubs—and falls for a gangster’s girl. A Music Box Films release.
Apr 8: 8:15pm; Apr 11: 2pm
Debs Gardner-Paterson, Rwanda/UK, 2010; 90m
The extraordinary story of three Rwandan children trying to achieve their lifelong dream: to take part in the opening ceremony of the 2010 Football World Cup in Johannesburg.
Apr 10: 8:30pm*
Besouro (co-presented with Cinema Tropical)
João Daniel Tikhomiroff, 2004, Brazil; 95m
In 1920s Bahia, legendary capoeira fighter Besouro leads an uprising of agricultural workers against their exploitative landowner. Based on a true story! A Shoreline Entertainment release.
Ebony Goddess: Queen of Ilê Aiyê
Carolina Moraes-Liu, 2010, USA/Brazil; 20m
Three women compete to be carnival queen of an Afro-Brazilian group.
Apr 7: 3:20pm; Apr 9: 6:45pm*
For the Best and for the Onion
Elhadj Magori Sani, Niger, 2008; 52m
An engaged couple devise a plan to hasten their wedding before the bride’s father can postpone it once again. An Icarus Films release.
Bondo: A Journey Into Kono Womanhood
Sunju Ahmadu, Sierra Leone, 2006; 26m
The filmmaker reflects on her initiation as a young girl into Bondo, a women’s traditional society. The film delves into issues of cultural pride, women’s power, as well as Western and local views on female circumcision.
Apr 9: 4:45pm*
Kongo: Grand Illusions
Daniel Cattier, 2011, Congo/Belgium; 52m
Through the use of animation and never-before-seen colonial footage, this documentary recounts the extraordinary history of Belgian Congo.
Why Are They Here? Chinese Stories in Africa
Yara Costa, Mozambique, 2011; 35m
Poor Chinese immigrants struggle in Lesotho, Mozambique and Ghana.
Apr 8: 1:30pm; Apr 12: 6:15pm*
One Way, a Tuareg Journey
Fabio Caramaschi, Italy/Niger, 2010; 52m
Caramaschi’s inspirational documentary chronicles a separated family’s slow, fractured, emigration from Niger to Italy, and the adversity and opportunities they find there.
Say Grace Before Drowning
Nikyatu Jusu, USA, 2010; 17m
A boy meets his disturbed refugee mother for the first time.
Apr 10: 2:00pm*; Apr 12: 4:30pm
Shooting with Mursi
Olisarali Olibui & Ben Young, 2009, Ethiopia; 57m
A rare, insightful glimpse of Africa’s most isolated tribes, the Mursi, through the eyes of a member who fears for its survival amidst cultural upheaval.
Zelalem Woldemariam Ezare, 2010, Ethiopia; 14m
A beautifully shot short story about a homeless boy in an Ethiopian village.
Apr 6: 2:00pm; Apr 11: 6:30pm
Sierra Leone and Tanzania Celebrate Independence
USSR, 1963–1977; 70m
World Premiere! From the Russian Archives!
Never-before-seen footage of African-Soviet relationships: Sierra Leonean parliamentarians meet exchange students in the USSR, Soviet delegates in Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, and more.
Apr 6: 6:00pm; Apr 12: 3:00pm
Hawa Essuman, 2010, Kenya/Germany; 60m
When his father falls ill, a teenager sets out to find the cure, only to learn that a witch has stolen his father’s soul.
Dyana Gaye, Senegal/France, 2006; 15m
A child beggar decides to write a letter to Santa Claus...
Apr 6: 4:00pm; Apr 10: 6:15pm*
Violeta Ayala & Daniel Fallshaw, 2009, Australia/US; 78m
Filmmakers Ayala and Fallshaw uncover modern-day slavery in the Western Sahara while attempting to document family reunions, making for a documentary that plays like a thriller.
Apr 8: 6:15pm*; Apr 12: 8:30pm*
Jo Menell, 2010, South Africa; 48m
A gentle and incisive documentary about one-time NPR diarist Thembi, who captivated South Africa when she candidly documented her tragic struggle with HIV. Show producer Joe Richman will also introduce excerpts from Thembi’s broadcasts with photographs.
Apr 10: 4:00pm*
A Trip to Algiers/Voyage à Alger (co-presented with ArteEast)
Abdelkrim Bahloul, Algeria/France, 2010; 97m
In 1962, an Algerian woman and her children are dealing with life after the war for independence, when an emigrating Frenchman offers them his home. Actress Samia Meziane recently won the Best Actress prize at the FESPACO festival.
Apr 7: 8:30pm*
An Uncommon Woman
Abdoulaye Dao, Burkina Faso, 2009; 101m
The chairwoman of a big company decides to take a second husband in a society where polyandry is an unknown practice.
Apr 9: 9:30pm*; Apr 11: 4:15pm
The Witches of Gambaga (co-presented with Human Rights Watch Film Festival)
Yaba Badoe, 2010, Ghana; 55m
An intimate record and disturbing exposé of women condemned to live as witches in Northern Ghana, largely told by its subjects. The film recently won Best Documentary at the FESPACO festival.
The Deliverance of Comfort
Zina Saro-Wiwa, Nigeria, 2010; 8m
A short satirical fable about a “child witch” called Comfort.
Ekwa Msangi-Omari, USA/Kenya, 2011; 12m
A tale of underground liberationists set amidst Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence..
Zina Saro-Wiwa, Nigeria, 2010; 14m
The Nollywood-style yarn about a psychic vampire.
Apr 7: 1:30pm; Apr 11: 8:30pm*
AFRICA FIRST! SHORTS PROGRAM
Stephen Abbott, South Africa, 2010; 15m
Something strange is happening late at night at The Wishy Washy laundromat!
Umkhungo (The Gift)
Matthew Jankes, South Africa, 2011; 26m
A Johannesburg street thug rescues an child with supernatural powers.
Daouda Coulibaly, Mali, 2010; 25m
Tinye So traces the quest of ancestors struggling to be heard. The film recently won the Bronze Etalon for short feature at the FESPACO festival.
Mwansa the Great
Rungano Nyoni, Zambia/UK, 2011; 23m
An 8-year-old goes on a journey to fix his sister’s mud doll.
Apr 7: 6:00pm*
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S INSTITUTE OF AFRICAN STUDIES SCREENINGS
Check www.africanfilmny.org for updates.
THE BIG SCREEN PROJECT SCREENINGS
Check www.africanfilmny.org for updates.
BAMCINÉMATEK @ BAM ROSE CINEMAS SCREENINGS
Teco Benson and Jakob Boeskov, Nigeria/USA; 9m
This tongue-in-cheek, Scandinavian-Nigerian-American co-production follows the interrogation of a white oil executive in a hideout somewhere in Nigeria. This action–art video borrows from all three cinematic cultures, as well as from the aesthetics of fundamentalist propaganda videos.
Freddy Ilanga: Che’s Swahili Translator
Katrin Hansing, 2009, South Africa/Cuba/USA; 24m
Freddy Ilanga, a fifteen year old Congolese youth, becomes Che Guevara’s personal Swahili teacher and translator during the seven intense months of Che’s mission to train anti-Mobutu rebels in Congo. This film is about displacement, familial relations and the high costs of exile during the Cold War and the Cuban Revolution. It is a story about migration and displacement and the high human costs of exile and family separation. SCREENING WITH
A History of Independence/Il Était une Fois L’independance
Daouda Coulibaly, 2009, Senegal/Mali; 21m
It is the early 1960s, and Nama and Siré have just gotten married. Nama decides to make his home in a cave, where he will lead a hermit’s life and devote himself to God. One day, God sends an angel to Nama to thank him for being so devoted.
Guew Bi – Sabar Dances of Senegal
Francoise Bouffault, 1997, Senegal; 30m
Senegalese often set up a temporary stage at a street corner. It is the GUEW BI, the dancing circle where a cheerful crowd dressed in beautiful attire slowly gathers. The event is called a SABAR. Soon drummers start playing and one at a time, women and men get up and enter the GUEW BI to perform the most exuberant, breathtaking dances. This film, which introduces us to an astonishing contemporary art form deeply rooted in African tradition, was shot in the streets of Dakar, with the participation of Master Drummer Doudou Ndiaye Rose.
May 30: 2, 6:50pm
Beyond the Ocean/Apres L’Ocean
Eliane de Latour, 2008, Ivory Coast/France; 106m
Cab driver, Otho, and drug dealer, Shad, share dreams of returning to their homeland, Ivory Coast, as triumphant benefactors. A police raid separates their fates, leaving one to find success in Europe, while the other suffers the disappointment of deportation and a dream deferred.
May 30: 4:30, 9:15pm
Kirikou and the Wild Beast/Kirikou et les Bãªtes Sauvages
Michel Ocelot, 2005, France; 95m
Tiny Senegalese hero Kirikou is back in this sumptuous animated follow-up to the universally beloved Kirikou and the Sorceress. Using his wits and speed, brave Kirikou once again sets out to thwart the evil Sorceress Karaba and save his village from supernatural and environmental perils. Comprised of 4 short segments and based on traditional West African folk tales, Kirikou and the Wild Beast shows how the smallest and most valiant of heroes can overcome the fiercest of beasts.
May 28: 2, 4:30pm
One Small Step
Remi Vaughan-Richards, 2010, Nigeria; 45m
Local hairdresser, Grace Fidelis, takes a stand against the corrupt local councilman in a small town in Nigeria to save her community from a health disaster. No-one is bothered by the overflowing refuse on the streets. Not even when there is an outbreak of cholera from the contaminated water does her community take action, since they feel there is nothing they can do. Grace almost loses her son to cholera and decides to take action, but no-one in the community will support her. They are too scared of the local councilman until young Tola loses her newborn child.
Wanuri Kahiu, 2009, Kenya/South Africa; 33m
Pumzi (Air) is set in the East African region, 35 years after World War III, in a world with no water and toxic soil. The story is told through the eyes of Asha, a curator at a virtual natural history museum in the Maitu Community. She receives soil in the mail and decides to plant a seed in it, regardless of her superior’s instructions.
May 26: 6:50, 9:15pm
Andrew Dosunmu, USA/Nigeria, 2011; 80m
Restless City tells the story of an Africa immigrant surviving on the fringes of New York City where music is his passion, life is a hustle, and falling in love is his greatest risk.. Djibril is a young African immigrant whose life can only go upward. He has endured many travails by the time he arrives in New York. When he has lived in the City for a while he begins to believe that he can achieve his ample dreams. He wants to be a musician, a pop star and one day return to Africa where his mother and father still toil for a meager living. By day, Djibril sells merchandise on Canal Street for a small income that keeps him going, but he doesn't want to do this forever and continuously seeks to find a way to succeed as a singer. He has made many friends on Canal and one of them is Bekay, a complex man whom Djibril finds difficult to trust. Bekay is a shady character who sells bootlegged CDs to Djibril and also runs a secret brothel. It is at Bekay's brothel that Djibril sees beautiful Trini for the first time.
May 29: 6:50pm
A Screaming Man
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Chad, France, Belgium, 2010; 88m
Adam, a former swimming champion in his sixties, is a pool attendant at a hotel in Chad. When the hotel gets taken over by new Chinese owners, he is forced to give up his job to his son, Abdel, leaving Adam humiliated and resentful. Meanwhile the country is in the throes of a civil war. Rebel forces are attacking the government and the authorities demand the people contribute to the "war effort" with money or volunteers old enough to fight. Adam is constantly harassed for his contribution, but he is penniless. In a moment of weakness, Adam makes a decision that he will forever regret.
May 27: 2, 6:50pm
Oliver Hermanus, 2009, South Africa; 92m
In this deeply affecting portrait of ordinary courage in present-day South Africa, a single mother—Shirley Adams—struggles to care for her paraplegic teenage son, Donovan, in a depressed district on the outskirts of Cape Town. Wearied but resolute, she desperately clings to him as he withdraws from the world following a suicide attempt, and is hopeful when his spirits are momentarily lifted by the appearance of Tamsin, a pretty but overeager social worker. But when the relationship between Donovan and Tamsin sours, his fragile emotional health declines, and Shirley's faith and perseverance are put to the ultimate test.
May 28: 6:50, 9:15pm
Souleymane Cisse, France, Burkina Faso, Mali, 1987; 106m
Filmed in the African country of Mali, Yeelen (Brightness) weaves several Kenyan folk stories into an engaging framework. The hero is a young boy whose father is an evil magician. Marked for death by his long-absent papa, the boy bids goodbye to his mother and heads for the hills. En route to his kindly uncle, he utilizes his own conjuring skills for the benefit of those less fortunate than himself; he also rescues a king from being deposed.
May 27: 4:30, 9:15pm; May 31: 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm