Film

Cinemafrique: 10 Films To See At The 2014 African Diaspora International Film Festival In NYC

The African Diaspora International Film Festival returns to New York City for its 22nd edition from November 28th to December 14th.


Still from Brazilian filmmaker Eliciana Nascimento's 'Summer Of The Gods'

The African Diaspora International Film Festival returns to New York City next Friday, November 28th, for its 22nd year of showcasing the best in cinema from Africa and the Diaspora at various locations across Manhattan. In addition to the ninety-plus feature-lengths, documentaries and short narratives that will screen, organizers have put together an array of Q&A sessions, panel discussions and special program tracks to further critical discourse surrounding filmmaking in Africa and the Diaspora. In honor of 20 years of democracy in South Africa, the festival is showcasing a special 14-film spotlight on SA cinema. Ahead of this year's edition we compiled our top picks of films screening at the festival.

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Between Friends

Dir.  Zuko Nodada, South Africa, 2014

93 min,English & Zulu with English subtitles

Tue, Dec. 2 @ 7:30PM – Riverside Theater

College friends reunite after seven years in the South African romantic comedy Between Friends and long kept secrets bubble to the surface causing friction among the group. The fast-paced and lighthearted film from director Zuko Nodada is the centerpiece screening of ADIFF's special SA program track, South Africa: 20 Years of Democracy.

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Come Back, Africa

Dir. Lionel Rogosin, South Africa, 1959

86 min, English & Afrikaans with English subtitles

Tue, Dec. 9 @ 6PM – Thalia

Upon its release in 1959, this influential docu-fiction film from American independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin gave a first-hand look at the injustices faced by black South Africans under the apartheid regime. Come Back, Africa, which stars a young Miriam Makeba, was shot with a skeleton crew in Johannesburg, Sophiatown, and particular whites-only areas under false pretenses (Rogosin was granted filming privileges from government officials who were under the impression that he was shooting a musical).

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Daratt

Dir. by Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Chad, 2006

96 min, Chadian Arabic & French with English subtitles

Fri, Dec. 5 @ 3PM – Quad

After the Chadian government announces that amnesty has been granted to all war criminals, sixteen year old Atim (played by Ali Bacha Barkai) is tasked with bringing his father's murderer to justice. Director Mahamat Saleh Haroun (Grigris, A Screaming Man) weaves an intriguing tale of vengeance, courage and unlikely friendship in this 2006 film which took home the Grand Special Jury Prize at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival.

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Finding Fela

Dir. Alex Gibney, USA, 2014

119 min, English

Mon, Dec. 7 @ 7:30PM – Cowin Center

Tue, Dec. 9 @ 9:30PM – Quad

Finding Fela from Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney (co-produced by Okayplayer/Okayafrica alongside Jigsaw Productions & Knitting Factory Entertainment) is the new documentary on the life and legacy of afrobeat founder Fela Kuti. The film follows the cast of the Broadway show FELA! as they go to Lagos to perform the musical for the Kuti family at the The Shrine. Interweaving original vintage footage (including the brilliant sequence of Fela’s funeral attended by millions), the musical, mesmerizing performances, and interviews with the family, Gibney illuminates the discovery process of who Fela Kuti really is, his legacy, and the impact he’s made on millions of Nigerians. For more, watch Okayafrica TV's behind-the-scenes look at the Finding Fela world premiere at Sundance 2014 plus our exclusive footage of Questlove's extended interview from the film.

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Oggun: An Eternal Presence

Dir. Gloria Rolando, Cuba, 1992

52 min, Spanish with English subtitles

Fri, Nov. 28 @ 4PM – The Chapel

In this documentary from 1992, Cuban director Gloria Rolando delves into Yoruba cosmology to relate the origin story of Oggun, orisha of iron and war. The film also features the late Afro-Cuban singer Lázaro Ros who played a significant role in taking the religious songs associated with Santería onto the world stage. Oggun: An Eternal Presence screens at ADIFF as part of the festival's Blacks In Latin America program track.

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Open Arms, Closed Doors

Dir. Fernanda Polacow and Juliana Borges, Brazil, 2013

24 min, Portuguese with English subtitles

Sun, Nov. 30 @ 4PM – 179 GD, Teachers College

Open Arms, Closed Doors follows Badharó, an Angolan rapper living in Rio de Janeiro, as he recounts the racist and discriminatory attitudes he faces in his day-to-day life. The documentary, which screens as part of ADIFF's Blacks In Latin America program track, makes reference to the 2010 murder of 26-year-old Angolan engineer, Zulmira de Souza Borges Cardoso, in Sao Paulo.

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Rumba Clave Blen Blen Blen

Dir. Aristides Falcon Paradi, Cuba/United States, 2013

101 min, Spanish with English subtitles

Mon, Dec. 1 @ 8PM – The Chapel

This vibrant music documentary from director Aristides Falcon Paradi traces the African and Andalusian origins of rumba and offers an in-depth look into the development of the percussion-based genre from Cuba to the streets of New York City. The film pays homage to the genre's stateside innovators, such as Chano Pozo, and features interviews and performances with famous rumberos who carry on the Afro-Cuban rhythm today.

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Sia, The Myth of the Python

Dir. Dani Kouyaté, Burkina Faso, 2001

96 min, Bambara with English subtitles

Fri, Dec. 5 @1PM – Quad

Sia, The Myth of the Python from Burkinabe director Dani Kouyaté is a cinematic retelling of a seventh century legend of the Soninke people. Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara stars as Sia, a beautiful young woman handpicked by the Emperor of Koumbi to serve as a human sacrifice to the Python God in order to restore prosperity to the empire. Refusing to comply with the tradition, Sia escapes only to become entangled in a web of political machinations. For more on Diawara, watch her link with the Roots, Elvis Costello, Rahzel, Emily Wells and more at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative via Okayafrica TV.

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Summer Of The Gods

Dir. Eliciana Nascimento, Brazil/USA, 2014

20 min, Portuguese with English subtitles

Sun, Nov. 30 @ 4PM – 179 GD, Teachers College

The fantasy short from Brazilian filmmaker Eliciana Nascimento utilizes Yoruba spiritual folklore and elements of magical realism to weave a whimsical tale of a young girl’s mission to fulfill her ancestral legacy. Running at just over 20 minutes, Summer Of The Gods is the second narrative feature from Nascimento, and stars first time actress Isabela Santos in the lead role of Lili.

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The Two of Us

Dir. Ernest Nkosi, South Africa, 2014,

95 min, English & Zulu with English subtitles

Thurs, Dec. 4 @ 8:30PM – The Chapel

Sat, Dec. 6 @ 7:30PM – Quad

The Two of Us depicts the unstable relationship between Thulas and his younger sister, Zanele, and their lives in the South African township of Alexandra. After witnessing Zanele's abuse as a child, Thulas becomes fiercely overprotective and goes off the deep end when Zanele falls in love with an older man. The debut feature from South African filmmaker Ernest Nkosi makes its US premiere at this year's festival.

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The African Diaspora International Film Festival runs from November 28 to December 14, 2014 in New York City. Find a full listing of events via ADIFF.

Culture
Photo (c) John Liebenberg

'Stolen Moments' Uncovers the Namibian Music That Apartheid Tried to Erase

The photo exhibition, showing at the Brunei Gallery in London, highlights artists from Namibia's underground scene between 1950-1980, a time of immense musical suppression prior to its independence.

Before its independence in 1990, a whole generation of Namibians were made to believe that their county had no real musical legacy. Popular productions by Namibian artists from previous eras were systematically concealed from the masses for nearly 30 years, under the apartheid regime—which extended to the country from South Africa following German colonization—depriving many Namibians of the opportunity to connect with their own musical heritage.

"Stolen Moments: Namibian Music Untold," a new exhibit currently showing at London's Brunei Museum at SOAS University of London, seeks to revive the musical Namibian musical traditions that the apartheid regime attempted to erase.

"Imagine you had never known about the musical riches of your country," said the exhibit's curator Aino Moongo in a statement of purpose on SOAS' site. "Your ears had been used to nothing but the dull sounds of country's former occupants and the blaring church and propaganda songs that were sold to you as your country's musical legacy. Until all at once, a magnitude of unknown sounds, melodies and songs appear. This sound, that roots your culture to the musical influences of jazz, blues and pop from around the world, is unique, yet familiar. It revives memories of bygone days, recites the history of your homeland and enables you for the first time to experience the emotions, joys and pains of your ancestors."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs

The 'Stolen Moments" project began in 2010 in an effort to champion Namibia's unsung musical innovators. For the collection, Moongo and Assistant Curator, Siegrun Salmanian—along with a group of international scholars, artists, photographers and filmmakers—curated a large-scale photo exhibit that also features a 120-minute video projection, focusing on the dance styles of the era, along with listening stations, a sound installation that features "100-hours of interviews with musicians and contemporary witnesses," and displays of record covers and memorabilia from the period between 1950-1980.

The musicians highlighted, produced work that spanned a number of genres—a marker of the country's vast and eclectic underground scene. Artists like the saxophonist Leyden Naftali who led a band inspired by the sounds of ragtime, and the psychedelic rock and funk of the Ugly Creatures are explored through the exhibition, which also centers bands and artists such as The Dead Wood, The Rocking Kwela Boys, Children of Pluto and more.

"There are many reasons why you've never heard this music before," Moongo continues. "It was censored, suppressed, prohibited and made almost impossible to listen to. Its creators are either long gone or have given up on music making, by reasons of adversity, death and despair. And yet this beautiful music exists with a liveliness, as if it had never stopped playing. It is still in the minds of the few who can remember, with the ones who played it, and on those rare recordings that have survived in archives and record collections scattered around the globe. Allow me to share these stolen moments with you."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs


Photo (c) John Liebenberg

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"Stolen Moments" is now showing at the Brunei Gallery in London and runs through Sept 21.

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Foul Language and Depictions of Rape Spur a Book Recall Campaign in Kenya

Kenya's Top Book seller pulls a South African book for youth due to foul language.

A main book supplier in Kenya, Text Book Centre, has announced that they would not stock a book due to its "vulgar and foul language." The book, Blood Ties, was written by South African author Zimkhitha Mlanzeli. The banning comes just after a video went viral in Kenya of a school child having a verbal outburst peppered with strong language. As reported by BBC, the removal was sparked by parents showing outrage after excerpts from the book were shared on twitter. These excerpts contained use of the f-word as well as a description of a rape scene.

As per their statement, the Text Book Centre claims they believe in "upholding high moral standards and raising generations of responsible citizens who are not only educated but ethical." The Kenyan publisher, StoryMoja, has defended the book in a statement of their own. They argue that the book is part of a new series showcasing books that deal with "contemporary societal issues" and that this particular book is a fictional story that grapples with the negative repercussions of peer pressure. "In actual fact, the book guides readers on the steps to take should they find themselves in a similar situation and underscores the sensitivity with which victims of sexual abuse should be treated." The statement also highlights the fact that the publishers had listed Blood Ties for readers in high school or above.


The discrepancy is that some schools have recommended the book as a reader – meaning for younger children aged 12 or 13 – though it has not been approved by the Kenyan Institute of Curricular Development (KICD), the entity in charge of managing texts used in schools. In a tweet, the KICD claimed that the book was not approved and that some teachers may be recommending texts without ensuring they were endorsed by the KICD. The dispute is sparking debate as to what should be taught in Kenyan schools.

As of late this morning, StoryMoja is in the process of recalling all copies of the book from stores and schools across Kenya. In a tweet they claim that it is because they have determined the language used in the book is the issue and not the subject matter.

Censorship is always a contested topic, just last month we reported on Nigerian authorities censoring a music video for "threatening security." Also, Kenya's censorship tactics have been in the global eye since a refusal to screen the film Rafiki for its homosexual heroines despite being lauded at international film festivals.

Here are some reactions from Kenyans on Twitter:





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mage courtesy of TIFF

Senegalese Filmmaker Mati Diop Tells a Haunted Story of Migration

We caught up with the celebrated director at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about her new film, Atlantics

It's been a good year for French-Senegalese director Mati Diop and her film Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story.

The movie got its North American premier at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this month after wowing critics and audiences at Cannes, where it won the prestigious Grand Prix. Diop was the first Black woman to successfully submit a film in the Cannes competition, and naturally the first to win any award at the iconic festival.

In Toronto, the Paris-born director was also honored with the inaugural Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Female Talent, presented at the TIFF Tribute Gala on September 9. The award is named after Mary Pickford, a Toronto native who went on to conquer Hollywood in the early days of the industry as an actor and producer. Co-founder of United Artists, she was the highest paid woman in Hollywood in her day.

Mati Diop, actor and director, was born in Paris into a prominent Senegalese family, the daughter of noted musician Wasis Diop, and niece of well known filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty. As a director, she has several short films under her belt, including Atlantiques in 2009. Her short films Big in Vietnam and A Thousand Suns screened at TIFF in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story is Diop's first feature, which she directed as well as co-writing the screenplay with Olivier Demangel.

It's in the story of the first Atlantiques – the short – that the new film came to be. "The two films are both connected and not connected," Diop tells OkayAfrica. The short Atlantiques was self produced, and shot on video on a shoestring budget, she explains. Diop was moved by the constant stream of reports, between 2000 and 2010, of young Senegalese taking to small wooden boats and braving the ocean waters in a bid to reach Spain and better opportunities. As she notes, the media tended to treat the phenomenon as largely an abstract issue, one that had to do with economic forces. Diop wanted to tell the story of the real people in that situation.

"I felt that my cinema should be put at the service of their voices," she says. "I wanted to understand." It's part of what motivated Diop to get into film in the first place. While the short was shot documentary-style, she worked the story as fiction. The actor featured in the short had actually made an Atlantic crossing, but was subsequently turned back by Spanish authorities. The way he spoke about the experience connected with Diop; in particular, his determination to try the perilous journey once more. "I am here, but not here," he told her. "Serigne felt it was here [in Senegal] he would lose his life," Diop says. She wanted to understand what drove so many young men to risk their lives. "He felt that his life was vulnerable in Senegal." The actor's words took on even more resonance when he died, while still in Senegal, before he could try again. Diop says he had gone to a hospital after falling ill, but the staff were on strike. After his death, it left her with mixed feelings. "I wondered if I had the right to continue."

TIFF Tribute Gala Mati Diop | TIFF 2019 www.youtube.com

Diop was left with the poignant memory, and a haunting impression. "When you leave, it means you are already dead," she says. After filming the short, she attended Serigne's funeral, and filmed his mother and sister—the women left behind who would become the focus of the feature film treatment. Diop says that the character of Ada, the protagonist of the new movie, is based in large part on the sister, who, in the short film, does not speak any lines.

In Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story, Ada is 17 years old, in love with Souleiman, but her parents have already arranged a very practical marriage with another—and much wealthier—man. On the eve of her wedding, odd things begin to happen, and Ada learn that Souleiman and his friends have left Dakar in a boat, hoping to reach Spain. Ada and her BFFs anxiously await any word from them, as the mysterious happenings keep piling up.

"The beauty of women comes through marriage," a cleric tells one mother. Ada's story embodies the life of a young West African woman—torn between traditional forces in both her family and society, and the friends who wear Western dress and don't bother with the old ways. The wealthy family she has married into owns a large construction company, the one that didn't pay its workers for months, leading the young workers to try their luck in Spain. She loves Souleiman, but she also needs to find her own path.

Mama Sané plays Ada, the solid heart of the film, as a tangle of emotions and repressed desires. She veers from defiant when dealing with the police detective sent to investigate the strange occurrences, to a wordless expression of longing with the kind of intensity only a teenager can muster.

Diop's directorial vision turns Dakar into a place of both surreal magic and harsh reality. The film immerses the audience in the city's sounds, from the goats bleating outside a window while Ada and her friends talk, to voices in the next room, with the eternal heaving of waves against the shore as a recurring refrain. The original music by Fatima Al Qadiri adds to the effect.

Cinematographer Claire Mathon has shot the film with a poetic eye. There are many images of the shifting surface of the sea, with the open sky and sun above it, each different from the last. The streets of Dakar at night take on an otherworldly edge, framed in palm trees against the artificial lights. The building the young men have been working on is futuristic in design, all glass and steel, and the company owner's neutral modern mansion contrasts with the broken rubble on the streets, from slick sports cars to horse drawn carts. It adds to the sense of the surreal.

Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story was acquired by Netflix after Cannes, and is intended for worldwide release by the streaming service, (with the exception of China, Russia, Benelux, Switzerland, and France.) As part of its new policy, Netflix, which became an official member of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America,) earlier this year, will be giving the flick a "theater-first" release, opening in selected theaters on November 15, with streaming available from November 29 in North America.

The film also stars Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré, Nicole Sougou, Amina Kane, Mariama Gassama, Coumba Dieng, Ibrahima Mbaye, and Diankou Sembene. Dialog in the France-Senegal-Belgium co-production is in Wolof with subtitles.

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(Photo by Francois LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images )

Exiled Tunisian President Ben Ali Has Died

The former president had been living in Saudi exile since 2011.

Tunisia's former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, 83, has been declared dead while in exile in Saudi Arabia. Ben Ali became interim Prime Minister in 1987. He ran unopposed and was elected Prime Minister in 1998 and served for 23 years – from 1988 to 2011. He was known for using autocratic techniques, eradicating presidential term limits and altering age caps in order to stay in power. In the beginning, Ben Ali was considered a "people's head of state" and garnered the nickname "Benavie" which loosely translates to "Ben Ali for life." By the 2000s, however, he had become deeply unpopular and prompted protests and unrest against his oppressive rule.

His reign ended when he fled Tunisia on January 14, 2011 amid protests that ultimately led to a string of revolutions dubbed the Arab Spring. He had been living in exile in Saudi Arabia ever since. As France 24 reports, in 2018 Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia by Tunisian courts to "more than 200 years in prison on charges including murder, corruption and torture."

Though there is no cause of death just yet, Ben Ali had been in intensive hospital care for lung cancer for three months. According to Al Jazeera, lawyer Mounir Ben Salha announced Ben Ali's death to news agencies via phone and the claim was confirmed by Tunisia's foreign minister.

There is footage of a Tunisian lawyer taking to the street at dawn celebrating the news of Ben Ali's death.


This past Sunday, Tunisia held free elections advancing Kas Saied and Nabil Karoui (who is currently jailed) as presidential candidates with neither receiving a majority vote. A run-off election between the two will be held September 29.

Tunisians and others are sharing their reactions to the news across social media. Here are some reactions:





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