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Ava DuVernay's Grassroots Film Collective Announces New South Africa, Liberia-Based Movies

Ava DuVernay's grassroots film collective Array acquires South Africa and Liberia-based movies 'Ayanda' and 'Out Of My Hand.'


Fulu Mugovhani plays the eponymous Ayanda

Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay is on a mission to close the vast gender and race gap both on- and off-screen. Her first step? Breaking the film distribution mold.

Through Array, her relaunched grassroots film distribution collective, DuVernay presents audiences with films helmed by women and filmmakers of color; in other words, films which otherwise might not have ever seen the light of day. Take the South African film, Ayanda, for instance.

Ayanda, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, was recently picked up by DuVernay for U.S. distribution. Directed by Sara Blecher, the coming-of-age film centers on 21-year-old entrepreneur Ayanda (Fulu Mugovhani) who inherits a garage from her late father and struggles to revive it in Johannesburg's Pan-African district, Yeoville. The film also stars Nigerian actor OC Ukeje, Jafta Mamabolo, Nthati Moshesh, Kenneth Nkosi, Sihle Xaba and Vanessa Cooke.

“Not only is Ayanda a story about women, made by women, but it also highlights female entrepreneurship and ingenuity, both talents which can mean the difference between success and hardship in a city like Johannesburg," said Blecher in a press release. "To have the film bought for distribution by an African American woman who has made her mark in Hollywood was an incredibly proud moment for all of us involved in the making of Ayanda.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Ayanda will be released by Array this fall, along with the Liberian-set drama Out Of My Hand by Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Fukunaga.

The latter, which also premiered at LAFF in June, follows Cisco (Bishop Blay), a Liberian rubber plantation worker who risks everything for a new life as a cab driver in New York. Fukunaga raised more than $40,000 to make the film through a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014.

"In the past, nearly all movies made in Liberia have been about, or heavily related to, the Liberian Civil War," reads the description on the film's campaign web page. "While of course we fully support and recognize the great value of shedding light on that chapter of the country's history, we're also proud that this movie’s story focuses not on the war, but on a common man and his story, human, simple, and relatable."

Watch the trailers for both films below.

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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