The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the African Film Festival Inc. is continuing its 23rd New York African Film Festival. Marking the 50th anniversary of Ousmane Sembène’s celebrated first feature, “Black Girl,” the 2016 festival’s theme is “Modern Days, Ancient Nights: 50 Years of African Filmmaking.”
Opening with a special advance-preview town-hall event May 1, the festival is presenting 25 feature-length films and 27 short films from 26 countries, bringing another multifaceted selection of African films from the continent and the Diaspora to New York audiences. The festival is showcasing its films throughout May at Maysles Cinema and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek.
“We are very pleased to partner with African Film Festival, Inc. once again for the 23rd edition of the New York African Film Festival,” said Film Society of Lincoln Center Director of Programming Dennis Lim. “This year’s lineup is an extremely diverse and rewarding mix of features, documentaries, and short films that are an exemplary celebration of the continent’s rich and varied voices.”
AFF Executive Director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti added, “Although Sembene is no longer with us, his legacy looms large. He would be proud that a whole industry has been created following the model of Nollywood, with regional cinemas populating the continent. As was his desire, African films are now not just for export to other continents but increasingly those Africans whose stories are being told are getting to see them as well.”
This year’s festival kicked off with a preview town-hall event, featuring the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow (DDFR), a community photo-sharing session and veritable show-and-tell of fascinating family stories May 1 at 2 p.m. at the Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater.
“Tanna,” the astounding feature debut of Bentley Dean and Martin Butler and the first feature shot entirely in South Pacific nation Vanuatu, opened the festival. Based on a true story and featuring members of the Yakel tribe in their acting debuts, it follows young lovers who break off an arranged marriage designed to bring peace to two warring tribes.
Winner of the Pietro Barzisa Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, the film will be followed by a Q&A with Dean, the film’s cultural director Jimmy Joseph Nako and film distributor Arnie Holland.
The festival’s centerpiece was Ethiopian director Hermon Hailay’s award-winning “Price of Love,” an alluring tale of a young cab driver who intervenes in a fight between a prostitute and her ex-boyfriend, a pimp, only to find himself caught up in a seedy urban underworld. The film, which also features a cast with no previous acting experience, won a Special Prize at FESPACO and Best Film, Best Actor and Best Actress at the Pan-African Film Festival in Cannes.
The Closing Night Spotlight on Tuesday, May 10, includes Manthia Diawara’s “Negritude: A Dialogue Between Wole Soyinka and Senghor” and a shorts program about New York’s African Diaspora, with several filmmakers in attendance. “Negritude” imagines a dialogue between Léopold Sédar Senghor and Soyinka.
Historian and Columbia University Director of Institute for African Studies Mamadou Diouf and special guests will partake in a post-screening discussion that illuminates this historic period in the context of contemporary society. Continuing the conversation of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent, a number of festival titles address migration and ways members of the Diaspora reconnect with the continent, while creating new spaces for expression and ideas of home.
Highlights include “Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess,” about the warrior of the Jamaican Maroons; the Alice Walker-narrated documentary “Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil,” which takes viewers on a journey to Brazil to see the Candomblé spiritual tradition, a religion based on the worship of Yoruba deities; the Russian short “About a Mother,” which imbues African spirit into an enchanting animation; and “In the Eye of the Spiral,” narrated by Annie Lennox, about the Haitian artistic and philosophical movement known as Spiralism.
The 23rd edition also focuses on the correlation between activism and art, featuring the documentaries “Martha & Niki,” the story of the first female hip-hip duo to emerge victorious at the premier international street-dance competition, co-presented by Margaret Meade Film Festival; “Intore (the Chosen),” which shows how artists helped heal the Rwandan nation after the horrific 1994 genocide; “Some Bright Morning: The Art of Melvin Edwards,” which explores a half-century of the works of the African-American sculptor and Pan-Africanist; and “Purple Rain” homage Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in It), the universal story of a musician with a dream—this time with Tuareg guitar music.
Single screening tickets are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. Visit filmlinc.org for more information.
After opening at Film Society of Lincoln Center, the NYAFF heads to Maysles Cinema in Harlem (May 13 to May 15). The festival concludes over Memorial Day Weekend (May 26 to May 30) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of its popular dance and music festival DanceAfrica.
The programs of AFF are made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, N.Y.C. Department of Cultural Affairs, Bradley Family Foundation, International Organization of La Francophonie, Domenico Paulon Foundation, New York Community Trust, NYC & Company, French Cultural Services, Manhattan Portage Bags, City Bakery, Black Hawk Imports, Voss Water, South African Consulate General, Consulate General of Sweden in New York, Permanent Mission of Vanuatu to the United Nations, Hudson Hotel and Royal Air Maroc.
FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility, and understanding of the moving image. The Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year’s most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Art of the Real, Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, and Scary Movies.
In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment magazine, the Film Society recognizes an artist’s unique achievement in film with the prestigious Chaplin Award, whose 2016 recipient is Morgan Freeman. The Film Society’s state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year-round programs and the New York City film community.
The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from American Airlines, The New York Times, HBO, Stella Artois, The Kobal Collection, Variety, Loews Regency Hotel, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit www.filmlinc.org and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.
AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL INC.
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 Film Society of Lincoln Center. The New York African Film Festival is presented annually by the African Film Festival, Inc. and 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. More information about AFF can be found on the Web at www.africanfilmny.org.