The New York African Film Festival Guide

Okayafrica presents a guide to the 21st edition of the The New York African Film Festival.

The 21st edition of the New York African Film Festival is upon us! Screening now through May 13th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center are eleven features and eight short film under this year's theme: Revolution and Liberation in the Digital Age. The series officially kicks off tonight with an opening night presentation of our top pick for 2013 film of the year, Kenneth Gyang's morbidly brilliant dark-comedic alternative to Nollywood stereotypes Confusion Na Wa. For the festival's centerpiece film, Biyi Bandele's film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half Of A Yellow Sun is screening on two occasions ahead of its May 16th U.S. release.

In keeping with this year's revolution & liberation focus are British/Ghanaian journalist Roy Agyemang's unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the Mugabe camp, Robert Mugabe: Hero Or Villain, and Ibrahim El Batout's multi-storied, vividly shot account of the 2012 Tahrir Square protests, Winter Of Discontent (making its US premiere) — in light of the film's subtle narrative we do recommend arriving with prior knowledge on the events surrounding the film's Arab Spring backdrop. Jahmil X.T. Qubeka's Of Good Report, a frontrunner for the 2014 Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Picture, is slated to make its NY debut this week. The noir-influenced serial killer thriller, shot entirely in black-and-white, was the subject of a heated debate over censorship in South Africa before a ban was ultimately lifted. Closing out the Lincoln Center phase of the festival is Med Hondo's 1987 historical account of Queen Sarraounia, Sarraounia. NYAFF thereafter heads to Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem (May 15th-18th) and closes out over Memorial Day weekend (May 23rd-26th) at Brooklyn's BAMcinématek as a part of DanceAfrica. Catch a glimpse of our top choices for NYAFF 2014 in the gallery above.

>>>New York African Film Festival 2014 Program Guide + Schedule

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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