The Film Society of Lincoln Center and African Film Festival, Inc. have announced the lineup for the 23rd New York African Film Festival, taking place May 4-10. Marking the 50th anniversary of Ousmane Sembène’s celebrated first feature, Black Girl, the 2016 festival is presented under the banner “Modern Days, Ancient Nights: 50 Years of African Filmmaking.” Opening with a special advance-preview town-hall event on Sunday, May 1, the festival will present 25 feature-length films and 27 short films from 26 countries, bringing another thrilling and multifaceted selection of African films from the continent and the Diaspora to New York audiences. The festival continues 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.”
“Although Sembene is no longer with us, his legacy looms large,” said AFF Executive Director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti. “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 kicks 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, on Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m. at the Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater. Attendees to the free event are encouraged to bring their family photos, a selection of which will be shared with the audience. The DDFR Roadshow is a companion transmedia project for the Thomas Allen Harris film Through a Lens Darkly, and a panel discussion with African Diasporan creatives will follow the presentation. A digital exhibit of portraits and images from the DDFR Roadshow will run throughout the festival at this same venue.
Opening the festival is Tanna, the astounding feature debut of Bentley Dean and Martin Butler and the first feature shot entirely in South Pacific nation Vanuatu. 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 Centerpiece is 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 evening will include a Q&A with Hailay.
The Closing Night Spotlight on Tuesday, May 10 includes Manthia Diawara’s Negritude: A Dialogue Between Wole Soyinka and Senghor and a short 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 legendary 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 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. Learn more and save with the 3+ film discount package by visiting filmlinc.org.
A reception will follow the Opening Night Film at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater. Tickets for the movie and Opening Reception are $100 and are available online at africanfilmny.org. Regular festival prices apply for the screening only, and tickets can be purchased at filmlinc.org.
After opening at Film Society of Lincoln Center, the NYAFF heads to Maysles Cinema in Harlem (May 13-15). The festival concludes over Memorial Day Weekend (May 26-30) 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, NYC 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.