And the film festival beat goes on, from one to the next, without any breaks between. This one is right at home for me, so obviously, as I do every year, I’ll be covering it, and maybe this year I’ll have some help!
You’ll notice several titles that have been discussed here on S&A, as well as names of talent, including Ousmane Sembène, who’s being celebrated at the festival this year, with 2 of his films screening, as well as a documentary on him. Perfect timing, since I’ve revived our Filmmaker Series, starting with the films of Ousmane Sembène!
For the full lineup of this year’s New York African Film Festival, see the full press release below. We’ll return to highlight those that haven’t been highlighted previously on this site:
THE NEW YORK AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS TO FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER APRIL 3 – 9 TO CELEBRATE ITS 20TH ANNIVERSARY
Opening Night launches with the rarely-screened Guelwaar from ‘Father of African Cinema’ Ousmane Sembène and Closing Night revisits TGV with director Moussa Touré in attendance
Festival includes the U.S. Premiere of Dolce Vita Africana, about legendary Malian photographer Malick Sidibe, as well as the buzzed-about films Death for Sale, Burn it up Djassa and Nairobi Half Life from the new wave of African directors
Haitian-born Hollywood actor Jimmy Jean-Louis in appearance for historical epic Toussaint Louverture
NEW YORK (February 27, 2013)—The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FCLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) have teamed up once again for the 20th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) April 3–9, presented under the banner theme LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD: 20 YEARS OF THE NEW YORK AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL. This year’s lineup will pay homage to master Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène and the first generation of African filmmakers, while passing the baton to a new generation of African visual storytellers, who continue to transform our understanding of, and vision for, the Continent. The NYAFF will also run throughout April and May at Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies, Maysles Cinema Institute and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek.
Film Society of Lincoln Center Director of Programming, Year-Round, Robert Koehler says, “This year’s lineup for the New York African Film Festival will offer a wonderful opportunity to revisit and celebrate the work of the great Ousmane Sembène, while highlighting some of the truly distinctive and entertaining films coming our way from Africa, many of which are discussing and dealing with the issues of the day in a very provocative way.”
“We are enormously proud of the Festival’s history and eagerly anticipate honoring those who made the first twenty years so special, while introducing audiences to new filmmakers who continue to make African cinema distinctive and important as we also celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sub-Saharan African cinema,” said AFF Executive Director and NYAAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti.
Special events and highlights include the opening night screening of Guelwaar, which opened the very first NYAFF twenty years ago and marks its triumphant return to open this year’s festival. Ousmane Sembène’s powerful and politically charged film from the early 1990s set in contemporary Africa cemented his reputation as the Father of African Cinema and at the forefront of expressive post-colonial African filmmaking. The screening is preceded by a reception at 6:00 pm. (Tickets are $50; to attend, please call AFF at 212-352-1720.) Also screening during the festival is Ousmane Sembène All At Once, a U.S. premiere; the film gives a rare, behind-the-screen look into the Senegalese filmmaker’s seldom examined personal and family life. Closing the festival will be the classic road trip dramedy TGV, with a conversation with its award-winning Senegalese director Moussa Touré.
Hollywood actor Jimmy Jean-Louis (who had a recurring role on the popular NBC series Heroes and supporting roles in Derailed and Monster-in-Law) will make an appearance at the festival in honor of his starring role in the historical two-part drama Toussaint Louverture, a film about the remarkable leader of the slave revolts which lead to Haiti’s independence from the French. Also, the youngest-ever Best Actress Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis stars in the New York premiere of the short film Boneshaker, a tale of a Ghanaian immigrant family on a road trip to a Pentecostal church in Louisiana to cure its problem child.
In addition to Toussaint Louverture and Ousmane Sembène All at Once, the U.S. premiere of the documentary Dolce Vita Africana offers another stirring portrait of a real life figure – internationally-renowned Malian photographer Malick Sidibe. The film depicts the life and work of the man whose iconic black-and-white images from the late 1950s through 1970s captured the carefree spirit of his generation asserting their freedom after independence.
The festival provides audiences with insight into the future of African film by spotlighting the filmmakers making waves on the Continent today. Hot new directors Lonesome Solo and David Tosh Gitonga bring a gritty and realistic view of street life in Africa’s urban areas to their respective tales Burn It Up Djassa and Nairobi Half Life. Faouizi Bensaïdi’s crime drama, Death for Sale, follows three friends as they embark upon a jewelry heist in a Moroccan port city to escape a hopeless future.
Some of Africa’s biggest social issues are also tackled and highlighted in thought-provoking, controversial films. Land Rush and Fueling Poverty, to be screened jointly in their U.S. premieres, explore the sharp rise in foreign investors buying up African land and the failings of fuel subsidy management in Nigeria, respectively. Veteran filmmaker Licinio Azevedo draws on the stories of women who endured the Mozambican “re-education camps” in the 1970s for the New York premiere of Virgin Margarida, which premiered recently at the Toronto International Film Festival.
AFF will commemorate its long history of bringing the best of African film to New York audiences with the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the New York African Film Festival on Friday, April 5. The benefit gala will be held at the Macaulay Honors College directly following the 7:30 p.m. New York premiere of the special surprise screening 20th anniversary celebratory film, which will be presented by its director at the Walter Reade Theater. To purchase tickets, which are $150 and include entry to the film, call AFF at 212.352.1720.
From April 2 to 25, the Roy Furman Gallery will host EVERYDAY AFRICA, an art show that spotlights images of contemporary African life taken by smartphones from various photographers. The project is spearheaded and created by photographer Peter DiCampo and writer Austin Merrill.
All screenings will take place in the Walter Reade Theater on 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam). Tickets for New York African Film Festival screenings go on sale March 7, 2013 at the Film Society’s box offices and online at www.FilmLinc.com. Single screening tickets are $13; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for Film Society members. Plus, save when you purchase tickets to three films or more with a special discount package. A three film package is $30; $24 for students and seniors (62+); and $21 for Film Society members. Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete film festival information.
The festival continues at Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies on Thursday, April 18 for a daylong, free scholarly public program, then heads to the Maysles Cinema Institute in Harlem May 2 to 5. NYAFF closes over Memorial Day Weekend May 24 to 27 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music BAMcinématek—part of the dance and music festival DanceAfrica. For details, visit African Film Festival online at www.africanfilmny.org.
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, New York State Council on the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, International Organization of La Francophonie, Domenico Paulon Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, Divine Chocolate, New York Times Community Affairs Department, The Ford Foundation, Bradley Family Foundation, South African Consulate General, SN Brussels, French Cultural Services, Bloomberg, Lambent Foundation, Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies, WNYC, 57 Main St. Wine Company, South African Airways, Hudson Hotel, Putumayo World Music, Flavorpill, Giant Step and Omnipak Import Enterprises, Inc.
GUELWAAR (1992) 115m
Director: Ousmane Sembène
A trenchant comic portrait of contemporary Africa by the great Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, Guelwaar revolves around the mysterious death and even more mysterious disappearance after death of one Pierre Henri Thioune (called Guelwaar, the Noble One), a political activist, philandering patriarch, and pillar of the local Christian community.
Wednesday, April 3 at 7:30pm
An Evening with Moussa Touré – TGV (1997) 90m
Director: Moussa Touré
TGV is an express bus service between Dakar, Senegal, and Conakry, Guinea, operated by the enterprising Rambo and his assistant, Dembo. Before setting off, Rambo and his passengers are warned of the danger that lies ahead on their route. The Bassari are carrying out a revolt at the Guinea border, leading to an exodus of refugees from their villages. On hearing the news, only a dozen or so passengers decide to make the risky trip. During the arduous journey, each passenger’s motivation for making the trip is slowly revealed.
Tuesday, April 9 at 8:30pm
ALASKALAND (2012) 75m
Director: Chinonye Chukwu
Country: United States/Nigeria
In this gorgeous, knowing debut film, Chukwuma, an Alaska-raised Nigerian struggles to balance his cultural heritage with the pressures of the world around him. After a family tragedy forces a two-year estrangement from his younger sister Chidinma, the siblings reconnect in their hometown.
BONESHAKER (2012) 12m
Director: Frances Bodomo
Boneshaker follows a Ghanaian immigrant family on a road trip to a Pentecostal church in Louisiana to cure its problem child, played by Beasts of the Southern Wild Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. As the family journeys to a tent revival at the ends of the levee-less Louisiana delta, they discover the complications of trying to perform a traditional ritual away from home. Boneshaker focuses on the feelings of homelessness, landlessness, and rootlessness that accompany immigration.
Thursday, April 4 at 3:30pm
Tuesday, April 9 at 6:00pm
BURN IT UP DJASSA (2012) 70m
Director: Lonesome Solo
Country: Ivory Coast
After the deaths of his parents, Tony makes aliving selling cigarettes. Looking for easy money, he turns to gambling and is dragged further into the seedy underworld of Wassakara—until he commits a shocking crime that irrevocably changes his life.
Saturday, April 6 at 9:00pm
DEATH FOR SALE (2011) 117m
Director: Faouzi Bensaïdi
Three friends decide to rob biggest jewelry store in Moroccan port city Tetouan to escape from a hopeless future. But when the plan falls apart, they must face their destinies alone.
Saturday, April 6 at 6:00pm
Tuesday, April 9 at 1:30pm
DOLCE VITA AFRICANA (2008) 63m
Director: Cosima Spender
Country: Mali, 2008
A documentary about internationally-renowned Malian photographer Malick Sidibe, whose iconic images from the late-50s through 70s captured the carefree spirit of his generation asserting their freedom after independence, until an Islamic coup ushered in years of military dictatorship.
A HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE (2009) 21m
Director: Daouda Coulibaly,
Following an African cinematic trend of retelling traditional oral stories through cinema, this film depicts the life of newlyweds Sire and Nama. Nama decides to make his home in a cave, where he will lead a hermit’s life and devote himself to God.
Thursday, April 4 at 6:00pm
Tuesday, April 9 at 4:00pm
JEANS & MARTO (2011) 52m
Director: Claudia Palazzi and Clio Sozzani
A young Ethiopian escapes his arranged marriage to fulfill his dream of becoming an educated man, struggling to balance his tribe’s customs and with his pursuit of knowledge.
LEZARE (2010) 14m
Director: Zelalem Woldemariam Ezare
Lezare is a revealing and touching story about a homeless boy in a small village in southern Ethiopia, using beautiful visuals to deliver a powerful message about global warming and shortsightedness.
Friday, April 5 at 6:00pm
Monday, April 8 at 4:00pm
LAND RUSH (2012) 58m
Director: Hugo Berkeley & Osvalde Lewat
For 20 years, the hunger crisis seemed to be under control. But by 2008, prices had increased, and the African continent had become a playground for foreign investors. This investigative documentary focuses on Sosumar, a huge project that has the Malian government collaborating with a large group of foreign investors.
FUELING POVERTY (2012) 28m
Director: Ishaya Bako
A rallying cry for change in Nigeria by the Occupy Nigeria movement and an artistic depiction of the failings of fuel subsidy management in Nigeria, Fueling Poverty graphically captures the various contours of this debate and the resilience of Nigerians in demanding change. It examines the effect of corruption on the country and the need for Nigerians to hold their government accountable.
Thursday, April 4 at 1:30pm
Saturday, April 6 at 3:30pm
LIFE ON EARTH (1998) 61m
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
On the eve of the year 2000, Dramane returns from France to the village of Sokolo, his father’s home in Mali. As he bicycles through the village and surrounding fields, he meets Nana, a beautiful young girl on her own journey. Recipient of a Special Mention from the FESPACO jury in 1999.
OCTOBER (1992) 37m
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Two lovers struggle to end their impossible affair during one last October night together in Moscow. Shot entirely in Moscow and Paris, October blends a strongly contemporary feel with nostalgia. Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
Saturday, April 6 at 1:00pm
Monday, April 8 at 6:00pm
NAIROBI HALF LIFE (2012) 96m
Director: David Tosh Gitonga
Mwas is a young aspiring actor who moves from his home village to Nairobi to try to make it big. But as he moves towards his dream of taking center stage, he finds himself drawn into a world of small time crooks and deceit in the smoky bustle of Kenya’s capital.
Thursday, April 4 at 8:15pm
Sunday, April 7 at 8:00pm
OUSMANE SEMBÉNE ALL AT ONCE / OUSMANE SEMBÉNE TOUT A LA FOIS (2008) 52m
Director: Christine Delorme
Sembene’s legend is that of a man politically involved and strongly committed, but little attention has been paid to his private and family life. For this reason he remains a solitary figure, an image he himself cherished. As Sembène says, “I am a storyteller, an artist striving to express the secret pulsation of my people.” Delorme’s film portrays Sembène at his most candid and reveals his take on the women in his filmGuelwaar.
BOROM SARRET (1963) 18m
Director: Ousmane Sembène
The genesis of Black African Cinema can be traced to this short, stark masterpiece that chronicles a day in the life of a Dakar cart driver. The frustrating day of this borom sarret (a Wolof expression for cart driver) leaves him cheated out of his wages and deprived of his cart.
Wednesday, April 3 at 6:00pm
Monday, April 8 at 2:00pm
STONES IN THE SUN (2012) 95m
Director: Patricia Benoit
In the midst of increasing political violence in their homeland, the lives of three pairs of Haitian refugees intersect in 1980s New York City. They must confront the disturbing truth of their pasts, as the history of their interlocked lives is slowly revealed.
Friday, April 5 at 1:30pm
Sunday, April 7 at 1:00pm
TOUSSAINT (2011) 180m
Director: Philippe Niang
At the age of eight, Toussaint Louverture is marked forever when he sees his father, an old slave, judged unproductive and thrown into the harbor. As an adult and a free man, Louverture leads the slave revolt that results in the independence of Haiti.
With 10-minute intermission
Wednesday, April 3 at 2:00pm
Sunday, April 7 at 3:30pm
VIRGIN MARGARIDA (2012) 90m
Director: Licínio Azevedo
Veteran filmmaker Licinio Azevedo draws on the stories of real women who endured the Mozambican “re-education camps” in this dramatic and inspiring elegy to the insurgent spirit of women across nations, histories and cultures.
VIVA FRELIMO! (1971) 13m
Director: Yuri Yegorov & Leonid Maksimov
A document of the struggle of the people of Mozambique for independence and the history and activities of the organization Frelimo: Front for the Liberation of Mozambique. From the collection of Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive in Krasnogorsk City.
Friday, April 5 at 3:30pm
Monday, April 8 at 8:30pm