Spotlight on African film

Sderot, “Last Exit.”
Courtesy of the filmmakers
Courtesy of the filmmakers

Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) have again joined forces to present the 19th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF).

Presented under the theme “21st Century: The Homecoming,” this year’s festival will explore the modern notion of home and homeland, from the legacy of music legend Miriam Makeba—subject of the Opening Night Film Mama Africa—to Diasporic visions such as the New York-set Restless City.

The NYAFF will also mark the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress (ANC) and the 50th anniversary of independence for Algeria, Burundi, Jamaica, Rwanda and Uganda, as well as give a unique look into the life of President Obama through a film on his half-sister, The Education of Auma Obama.

The NYAFF will run from April 11 through 17 at Film Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout April and May at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies, Maysles Cinema Institute and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek.

“This is a continuation of the discussion about the shape of Africa that has taken place since Independence and that is now not being embraced by the younger generation,” said African Film Festival, Inc. Executive Director and Founder Mahen Bonetti. “Though these young people have not in many ways been thrown a lifeline as post-Independent conflict emerged, they have somehow managed, through technology, to craft their own narrative, unconsciously drawing on the past and creating something new and very modern without having disavowed the past.”

Special events and highlights include the Opening Night film Mama Africa by Mika Kaurismäki (Special Jury Recognition—Documentary at the 2012 Pan African Film Festival) on April 11, and the Centerpiece film Relentless by Andy Amadi Okoroafor, starring internationally renowned Nigerian-German hip hop and soul singer Nneka, on Friday, April 13.

With the election year in full swing, the NYAFF will present a film that offers a window into the African family of President Barack Obama and insight into his father, with “The Education of Auma Obama” by Branwen Okpako; the film won the Viewers’ Choice Award at the 2011 Africa International Film Festival and the Festival Founders’ Award at the 2012 Pan African Film Festival. The film noir “How to Steal 2 Million” by Charlie Vundla features the top South African actors, Rapulana Seiphemo, Terry Pheto and John Kani.

“African cinema was born in the same year as the New York Film Festival—1963—and it’s always been a source of great pleasure and pride for me that for 50 years our programs have provided a vital showcase for the best in African filmmaking,” said Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director Richard Peña. “We also salute our dear friends and partners at the New York African Film Festival, which for almost twenty years has worked successfully to make African cinema a reality around the United States.”

The popular blog Africa is a Country (africasacountry.com) will present ”Africa is a Country: Talking Media and Russian Archives,” a free panel discussion, on Saturday, April 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater.

Featured bloggers and special guest will examine the relationship between Africa and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, as is evidenced by Russia’s extensive film archive of the continent, and then explore the relationship between film and social media movements on the continent (e.x. Tahrir revolutionary cinema, which documented the Egyptian Revolution in Tahrir Square, and Kony 2012).

“Africans in the Diaspora: Expatriates and the Homecoming,” a free festival preview will take place at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space on April 5 at 6:00 p.m. to welcome audiences to the 19th edition of the NYAFF; the event, moderated by renowned journalist Femi Oke, will include a special performance by popular artist-emcee DJ Spooky in which he rescores Father of African Cinema Ousmane Sembene’s Borrom Sorret, filmmaker-scholar Yemane Demissie and music and African cinema critic Beatiz Leal.

The festival then kicks off at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater at 165 W. 65th Street, Plaza Level, from April 11 through 17, then heads to Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies on Thursday, April 19 for a daylong, free public program exploring the themes of the festival. It picks up on May 4 and 5 at the Maysles Cinema Institute in Harlem and culminates over Memorial Day Weekend 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.

A scene from “Maami,” part of the New York African Film Festival coming soon to Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Courtesy of the filmmakers

Courtesy of the filmmakers

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