African Diaspora Film

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The Tracker--though set in the Australian Outback in 1922, this multi-layered melodrama looks more like a typical cowboy adventure out of the Wild, Wild West. A woman has been brutally murdered and the killer is wanted dead or alive. The authorities deputize a posse to track him down in the desert. But what, at first, appears to be an ordinary tale of frontier justice, the one where the good guy gunslingers get their man and ride off into the sunset, turns into a much more complicated affair after it comes out that the victim is white and the prime suspect is an aborigine.

The Best of the African Diaspora Film Festival, being hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music until February 17th, is serving up a cinematic smorgasbord of features from around the globe. Among the countries represented are Australia (The Tracker and Gulpil: One Red Blood), Mali (Kabala), Argentina (Afro-Argentines), France (Kirikou and the Sorceress), Canada (Lord Have Mercy), Mexico (African Blood), Brazil (Denying Brazil) and Belgium/UK (Congo), Plus, 5 flicks from the USA are on the program, namely, Raise Your Voice: Sweet Honey in the Rock, Closure, Silence! In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America, Au Pair Chocolat and How to Conquer America in One Night.

Here's highlights of a few of my favorites: The Tracker--though set in the Australian Outback in 1922, this multi-layered melodrama looks more like a typical cowboy adventure out of the Wild, Wild West. A woman has been brutally murdered and the killer is wanted dead or alive. The authorities deputize a posse to track him down in the desert. But what, at first, appears to be an ordinary tale of frontier justice, the one where the good guy gunslingers get their man and ride off into the sunset, turns into a much more complicated affair after it comes out that the victim is white and the prime suspect is an aborigine.

With cultural cross-passions inflamed, we have a situation where the colonizers are lusting for a lynching while the dispossessed natives are not so quick condemn, still feeling rather resentful of the pale-faced invaders who have mercilessly taken away all of their land by force. Raise Your Voice: Sweet Honey in the Rock Founded by recently-retired Bernice Johnson Reagon, Sweet Honey in the Rock is an all-female, acappella quintet which for over 30 years has sung sweet and stinging spirituals about the human condition as seen from a black woman's perspective.

Though the show will go on without her, this uplifting documentary amounts mostly to a loving tribute, combining concert footage from Bernice's farewell tour with behind-the-scenes footage showing the personal and family sacrifices these sisters have had to make to share their transformational message. Kabala Science squares-off with tradition in this compelling, modern morality play set in a remote Mande' village in Mali where the sacred well has dried up. The tension in the town's quest for water revolves around whether the elders ought to accept the technological expertise of a once-disgraced, recently returned Prodigal Son or simply resort to the religious rituals they've relied on for generations. (In Bambara with subtitles) Afroargentines This informative, if damning documentary answers the lingering question, 'How did all the descendant of Africans brought to Argentina as slaves disappear?' Turns out some were simply worked to death in the fields, many were sent to die on the front lines during several of the the country's bloody wars and others intermarried.

But an ethnic purity policy meant the survivors were forced to emigrate to Brazil and elsewhere, leaving only an all but unseen minority behind. Au Pair Chocolate Despite woeful production values, there is something engaging and endearing about this class conscious drama, set mostly on picturesque Martha's Vineyard, about a poor teenager from Harlem who gets to see how the other half lives by taking a job as a live-in babysitter with a bourgy black family with a summer home on the island. Lotsa lessons get learned by everybody by the end of this soap opera-style fable.

Distributed by ArtMattan Productions, The Best of the African Diaspora Film Festival is being hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music until February 17th. For more information, visitwww.bam.org/film/AfricanDiaspora.aspx or call (718) 636-4100. For more articles including investigative news reports order the newsstand edition of The Black Star News by clicking on "subcribe" on the homepage or call (212) 481-7745.

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