Best of African Diaspora films

During the earlier festival, acclaimed feminist Gloria Steinheim listens intently at the post-screening panel of “The Man Who Mends Women,” the film focusing on the doctor who seeks to raise global awareness of exual violence in the DRC.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) wrapped up its screenings of almost 60 films in mid-December but all is not lost for those who missed it. Nine films, the Best of ADIFF will screen Friday, Jan. 8 – Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 in Manhattan.

Co-founder and director of the festival, Reinaldo B. Spech explained, “We pick films that are very popular. And (of course) the film that won the “Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color,” which this year is “BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez.” That performance-filled documentary will screen on Saturday, Jan. 9.

Sonia Sanchez is the poet, playwright, activist who is a seminal figure in the 1960s black arts and black studies movement. She is a mentor to generations of poets and hip-hop artists. This 80-year-old legend attended and fielded questions at the November Festival screening.

Producer / co-director / editor Sabrina Schmidt Gordon will receive her award during the 8:30 pm ceremony to be followed by the encore screening of the film with a director Q&A and reception.

Another encore film screening (Friday, Jan. 8) is “Cu-Bop: Cuba – New York Music Documentary” by Shinichi Takahashi. Cu-bop is short for “Cuban bebop,” from an earlier time is the combination of Cuban music and jazz.

The documentary focuses on César López, recognized as Cuba’s premier saxophonist, who founded his landmark jazz band, the Havana Ensemble, in his native country and gifted young pianist Axel Tosca, who left Cuba and can be heard around this town.

“BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez” is the film that won the Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color in the festival. Living legend Sanchez (l) stands with Festival Co-director Diarah N’Daw-Spech.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Axel lives in New York City and is the leader of (U)NITY, a band which fuses Afro-Cuban culture with modern jazz and hip-hop. The film explores the African roots of Cuban jazz and documents what happens when expats return to the source of their inspiration.

Another stellar festival documentary — it opened the November Festival — is “The Man Who Mends Women, The Wrath of Hippocrates” by Thierry Michel (to screen on Friday, Jan. 8), which tells the story of Dr. Denis Mukwege, a man who has dedicated his life to assist women subjected to rape in his native DRC.

Two narrative films presented in the Black British program made the cut for the Best Of ADIFF: Honeytrap by Rebecca Johnson which tells a story of 15-year-old Layla, a beautiful and naive Trinidadian girl who, freshly arrived from her native land, quickly embarks on a journey of love, sex, hip hop and violence and “Second Coming” by Debbie Tucker Green, an emotional and intimate drama about a woman in a London family who faces a dilemma with her husband and the tensions and communication issues associated with her situation.

Also returning are several films that explore historical themes — “If Only I Were That Warrior” by Valerio, “Invisible Heroes: African Americans In The Spanish Civil War,” by Alfonso Domingo and Jordi Torrent, and “The Blind Orchestra” by Mohamed Mouftakir.

Rounding up the selection is “Hear Me Move” by Scottnes L. Smith, labeled the first dance movie of South Africa.

Screenings are at Teachers College. For the full film program and schedule, visit

Cuban pianist Axel Tosca, who lives in NY, performs at the MIST screening of the biopict “Cu-Bop” in which he is one of film’s main subjects. Its encore screening will be at the Best of ADIFF on Jan. 8 at 9 pm at Teachers College in Manhattan.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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