When it gets under way on April 8, the 16th Annual New York African Film Festival will take an introspective journey across Africa, with films that create a vision of the continent’s future through a deconstruction of its past, festival organizers say. Under the banner “Africa in Transition” and with the spotlight on South Africa, the festival offers a lineup of 35 films from 16 countries in Africa and the African Diaspora.
The festival is presented by African Film Festival Inc. (www.africanfilmny.org) and The Film Society of Lincoln Center (www.filmlinc.com). It runs at The Film Society of Lincoln Center April 8 through 14, continues with a panel discussion at Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies on April 15 and wraps up at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek from May 22 through 25. African directors and guest speakers will be present at some of the screenings.
The festival highlights a new generation of emerging filmmakers who offer a perspective of Africa that shifts the realities and possibilities of the continent and reconfigures its future, organizers say. “As the winds of change shift internationally and the world confronts new realities, Africa is taking center stage,” says festival founder Mahen Bonetti. “And African filmmakers are poised to reclaim and rewrite our own history, take ownership for our own identity and set the course for our collective future.”
The works of three up-and-coming female Kenyan filmmakers speak to those issues. Lupita Nyong’o, in her film In My Genes, boldly challenges the stigma surrounding albinism in Africa; Judy Kibinge in Coming of Age tells the story of a young Kenyan girl’s disquieting realization of national politics in the 1970s; and Wanuri Kahiu’s From a Whisper commemorates the tenth anniversary of the August 1998 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in which more than 250 people died and more than 5,000 were injured.
Veteran filmmaker Jean-Marie Téno, Africa’s preeminent documentary filmmaker, and Mahamat Saleh Haroun, whose 2006 Daratt won the Grand Special Jury Prize at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival, are back with films that challenge African filmmakers to ask themselves what their roles and responsibilities are to the continent and whether an African audience should be the focus. With Sacred Places, Téno designates the drum as the big brother of cinema and asks African filmmakers who their audience is — and who it should be.