New York’s African Film Festival: The final days at BAM Cinématek
The 14th New York African Film Festival’s line up at BAM Cinématek, the Brooklyn Aca-demy of Music Rose Cinema in Brooklyn, N.Y., promises to be another remarkable showcase of the continent’s talent. The eight films slated to be shown May 25-28 are the works of directors from as far north as Algeria to as far south as South Africa. Through the lenses of their cameras, these directors tell the stories of the continent’s myriad peoples, experiences, struggles and acts of defiance that have shaped their own lives and influenced their craft.
Mahen Bonetti, the festival’s founder and executive director, says that the festival this year celebrates 50 years of cinematography on the continent of Africa and throughout its Diaspora. “The discourse continues with the contemporary films that will be shown at BAM, from Algeria to South Africa,” she says.
The New York festival opened April 4 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater and moved to the Bronx Museum of the Arts on April 20. Program administrator Aba Taylor says the films at BAM are the final leg of a national tour that began in the fall of 2006.
The African Film Festival was organized 17 years ago as an ad hoc community of African and American artists and scholars responding to the needs of African filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s. The filmmakers portrayed mainly images of post-colonial Africa, which the festival’s Web site, www.africafilmny
.org, describes as “the nuanced understanding of Africa’s cultural diversity.” Since then, “having sliced through stereotypes with exacting social critique, African cinema has become a unique blend of aesthetic experimentation, history and politics,” the site says.
In their official statements, Bonetti and her team note that African filmmakers also draw from springs of myth, fantasy, humor and magic to nourish “a narrative sensibility” in which tradition and modernity encounter each other. “The oral traditions, unique pacing, and non-linear style of African storytelling have in fact become classifying characteristics of African filmmaking,” they say.
Since its establishment in 1993, AFF has sent representatives to the annual Festival Pan-Africain de Cinéma Ouagadougou (Fespaco in Burkina Faso to select films for the U.S. tour. Considered the world’s largest African film festival, Fespaco is a marketplace for filmmakers, producers and distributors. The films Bonetti and her team present this year at BAM Cinématek are, Bamako, directed by Abderrahamane Sissako of Mauritania; Kirikou and the Wild Beasts, by French directors Michel Ocelot and Benedicte Galup; Don’t F*** With Me I Have 51 Brothers And Sisters, by Dumisani Phakathi of Soweto, South Africa; The 11th Hour, by Ethiopian native Zelalem W. Mariam; The Night of Truth, by Fanta Régina Nacro of Burkina Faso; A Child’s Love Story, by the Senegalese, Ben Diogaye Beye; and Daughter of Keltoum, by Mehdi Charef of Algeria.
Sissako returns to BAM after the success of his last film Waiting for Happiness, which was screened at both the Cannes and New York Film Festivals in 2002. In Bamako, Sissako portrays African villagers conducting a mock trial of the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank, the leading international financing agencies whose draconian fiscal policies are blamed in large measure for the current plight of poor and underdeveloped countries. The trial is laced with political arguments of economic imperialism. Hollywood actor Danny Glover, a major supporter of the festival and African cinema as a whole, is the film’s executive producer.
Tickets may be obtained through the Web sites, www.africanfilmny.org, www.BAM.org and www.movietickets.com, or by calling 718-636-4100, or 718-777-FILM.