We’ve interviewed Mahen Bonetti a couple of times on this in the last few years, but never on video, and definitely not as lengthy and all-encompassing as this one is, which comes from the online series of conversations with personalities of the African Diaspora, titled “Indigo Tongues,” produced by Iyalode Productions. You might remember that I shared their wonderful and candid conversation with actress Adepero Oduye last year, which, as I recall, was a very popular post that moved many.
This time, they’ve focused their lens on Bonetti, the founder and Executive Director of African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF), the 25-year-old non-profit arts organization responsible for the New York African Film Festival (among other initiatives), in collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and BAMcinématek, which we cover annually on this blog. The organization’s mission is to showcase the works of African filmmakers and develop ways to share the vision and culture of African films with American and international audiences.
Additionally, the organization curates a series of other film program with a host of national and international partners.
Motivated by the awfully limited film images of Africans that travel to the USA, and other parts of the world, Bonetti decided that she had to do something about it. “Those things might have existed,” she agrees, “but there are so many positive things about Africa, particularly its rich culture, that must be celebrated.”
She continues: “There were lots of images of Africa circulating in the media at that time, but they were mostly negative and decontextualized. So, I wanted to educate not only Americans, but Africans living here. And thus the New York African Festival (NYAFF) was born in 1990 – one of a few non-gender-specific and major film festivals founded and operated by a woman, let alone an African woman.
The “Indigo Tongues” conversation follows below; it’s definitely a good piece! As the director of the interview – Mojisola Sonoiki – states: “Speaking to Mahen is like browsing though an encyclopedia on post colonial Africa. Mention any country in Africa and Mahen can give you their political history from as far back as independence. Her understanding and articulation of African politics, culture and traditions is phenomenal and I love chatting with her. Genuine, funny, sweet and accommodating, Mahen gave us good insight into her work, life and world views.”
Watch, listen, learn and maybe be inspired: