May 7 -13: The New York African Film Festival At Lincoln Center
Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton in Half of a Yellow Sun
[New York African Film Festival]
The 21st Edition of NYAFF At Film Society Of Lincoln Center
The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) presents the 21th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) May 7-13.
Organized under the banner theme “Revolution and Liberation in the Digital Age,” the initial leg of the festival includes eleven features and eight short films from various African nations and the Diaspora. The NYAFF continues throughout May at the Cinema at the Maysles Documentary Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek.
“There are long and proud cinematic traditions in countries all over the African continent, and at the same time there are new voices and new means of expression. We are happy that the festival this year will be able to share the work of these artists, who are exploring both myth and modernity,” said FSLC Associate Director of Programming Marian Masone.
“While American cinema started from popular films and progressed to art house, film in Africa went in reverse, garnering international interest through the art house genre before moving to popular cinema. Consequently, most of the films about Africa during its ‘art house’ phase cornered African cinema into a genre in itself, one that was perhaps not easily accessible,” said AFF Executive Director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti. “Today, the golden era of technology not only allows the African public to see films made about their own realities but also exhorts each generation of filmmakers to raise the bar with the stories they tell about the continent and its diaspora, resulting in a veritable digital revolution.”
With a gracious nod to Nollywood, the world’s second-largest film industry, and to the 100th centenary of the unification of Nigeria, the festival Opening Night presentation will be Confusion Na Wa, the dark comedy by Kenneth Gyang. Winner of Best Picture at the 2013 African Movie Academy Awards, the film stars OC Ukeje and Gold Ikponmwosa as two grifters whose decision to blackmail a straying husband (played by Ramsey Nouah) sets in motion a chain of events leading to a shocking conclusion. The screening will be preceded by the Opening Reception at 6pm. Regular festival prices apply for the screening, and tickets can be purchased on FilmLinc.com. Tickets for the movie and Opening Reception are $50 and available online at www.africanfilmny.org
NYAFF audiences will get a sneak peek before the May 16 theatrical release of the critically acclaimed film Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the internationally best-selling novel of the same name by National Book Critics Circle Award–winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Directed by Biyi Bandele, the Centerpiece selection stars Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose as glamorous twins navigating life, love and the turbulence of the Biafra (Nigerian Civil) war in 1960s Nigeria. The Monterey Media release also includes a powerful performance by recent Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor. Directly following the New York premiere of the film on Friday, May 9, the Centerpiece Gala will be held at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music’s Mary Flagler Cary Hall (450 West 37th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues). Regular festival prices apply for the movie, and tickets can be purchased on FilmLinc.com. Tickets for the screening and benefit are $200 and available online at www.africanfilmny.org
A crop of films take up this year’s theme of revolution and liberation. In the documentary Mugabe: Villain or Hero?, director Roy Agyemang gets unprecedented access to the Zimbabwean leader and his entourage and lays bare the fight between African leaders and the West for African minerals and land. Ibrahim El Batout’s narrative feature Winter of Discontent takes viewers inside the Tahrir Square protests that were so central to the Arab Spring. And Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine’s timely experimental short Kuhani features a conflicted priest, just as Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Act is grabbing headlines.
As a part of this, women’s rights and issues are again in the spotlight. In her documentary Bastards, director Deborah Perkin follows a single mother, beaten and raped at 14 and discarded as she fights in Moroccan court to legitimize her sham marriage, thus ensuring a future for the daughter born out of her nightmare. In Cameronian director Victor Viyouh’s drama Ninah’s Dowry, the title character flees an abusive marriage only to be pursued by her husband to retrieve either his property (her) or the dowry he paid. The short Beleh, by Eka Christa Assam, turns gender roles on their head as a bullying husband gets a taste of his own medicine. The wounded central characters in the narrative films Of Good Report by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka and Grigris by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun are allegorical to the societal shifts and legacy of post-independent Africa.
On the lighter side, the festival will also present comedies, including Confusion Na Wa and It’s Us (Ni Si Si), as well as the U.S. premiere of the short Soko Sonko (The Market King). The Tunisian short Wooden Hands, also a U.S. premiere, delights as a willful five year-old’s act of rebellion takes on a life of its own. Additionally, writer Marguerite Abouet and illustrator Clément Oubrerie have brought their popular cartoon to life as directors of the animated feature Aya of Yop City, which follows the adventures of a 19-year-old and her girlfriends in Ivory Coast.
The Closing Night film on Tuesday, May 13, will be Sarraounia, Med Hondo’s sweeping epic based on historical accounts of Queen Sarraounia. Feared for her bravery and expertise in the occult arts, the fierce warrior leads the Azans of Niger into battle against French colonialists and enslavement at the turn of the century. The historical drama took first prize at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) in 1987. Regular festival pricing applies.
From May 8-13, the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery will host the exhibition Digital Africa, featuring the works of Congolese and American photographers. “Congolese Dreams” is a series of works by acclaimed photographer Baudouin Mouanda and a collective of artists, a companion to Philippe Cordey’s film of the same name, which will be screened during the festival. It will be paired with Adama Delphine Fawundu’s stunning portraits capturing the residents of Tivoli Towers in Crown Heights, Brooklyn—home to more than 350 families, who are mostly of African descent—as well as portraits of young musician-activists from Nigeria and the U.S.
All screenings will take place in the Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam).
Tickets for the New York African Film Festival screenings went on sale April 17 at the Film Society’s box offices and online at www.FilmLinc.com. Single screening tickets are $13; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for Film Society members. Discount packages start at $30; $24 for students and seniors (62+); and $21 for Film Society members. Discount prices apply with the purchase of tickets to three films or more. Visit FilmLinc.com for additional information, and to purchase tickets.
NYAFF then heads to the Cinema at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem May 15-18. As is the tradition, the NYAFF closes over Memorial Day Weekend May 23-26 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music BAMcinématek as part of the dance and music festival DanceAfrica. For details, visit African Film Festival online at www.africanfilmny.org
The programs of AFF are made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Lambent Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Open Society Institute for West Africa, Bradley Family Foundation, International Organization of La Francophonie, Domenico Paulon Foundation, WNYC, New York Community Trust, NYC & Company, New York Times Community Affairs Department, French Cultural Services, Manhattan Portage Bags, City Bakery, Metrowine, Flavorpill, South African Consulate General, SN Brussels, Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies, Hudson Hotel, Divine Chocolate and Omnipak Import Enterprises, Inc.
Films and Descriptions for New York African Film Festival
Opening Night Film
Confusion Na Wa (NY Premiere)
Kenneth Gyang, Nigeria, 2013, 105m
English and Pidgin with English subtitles
Set in a Nigerian city, Confusion Na Wa is a dark comedy about a group of strangers whose fates become intertwined over the course of 24 hours. At the heart of everything is a phone found by opportunists Charles and Chichi, who, having read through its contents, decide to blackmail the owner Emeka, an arrogant lawyer who is cheating on his wife. Little do they realize that their misdemeanors have set in motion a chain of events that will lead to their own downfall. Meanwhile Bello, a civil servant who naïvely thinks hard work is its own reward is pushed to the edge of reason by his wife and his boss. And businessman Babajide lets his piety get the better of him. Eventually mayhem will connect them all. With a script by Tom Rowlands-Rees, director Kenneth Gyang takes a nonlinear approach to storytelling in this Nollywood prizewinner (Confusion Na Wa was named Best Film at the 2013 African Movie Academy Awards).
May 7, 7:30pm (Q&A with Kenneth Gyang)
May 10, 9:15pm (Q&A with Kenneth Gyang)
Centerpiece Film Half of a Yellow Sun (NY Premiere)
Biyi Bandele, Nigeria/UK, 2013, 113m
With epic grandeur, Half of a Yellow Sun tell the story of a generation living through the tumult of Nigeria’s independence and the ensuing Nigerian-Biafran War through the thorny romantic journeys of two sisters. Olanna (Thandie Newton) is married to Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a revolutionary who fathers a child with another woman. Her twin sister Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) is in love with a British writer (Joseph Mawle) who has come to Nigeria to teach. Playwright Biyi Bandele makes his film directorial debut with this adaptation of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize–winning novel. Half of a Yellow Sun may take place 50 years ago, but Bandale has fashioned it as an emotionally gripping example of contemporary Nigerian cinema, and honors the ongoing strength of that country’s women in the process.
May 9, 7pm (Q&A with Biyi Bandele and cast members)
May 9, 9:45pm
Closing Night Film Sarraounia
Med Hondo, Burkina Faso/Mauritania/France, 1986, 120m
Dioula, French and Fula with English subtitles
We are thrilled to have Mauritanian filmmaker Med Hondo, an important figure in postcolonial African cinema, with us to present his 1986 film Sarraouina. Based on historical accounts of Queen Sarraounia, who leads the Azans into battle against the French colonialists at the turn of the century, Hondo’s sweeping epic rivals any that American cinema has produced. A brilliant strategist and forceful leader, Sarraounia is a young warrior queen, whose mastery of the ancient “magic” skills of martial arts and pharmacology is first put to the test when she defends her people from attack by a neighboring tribe, which earns respect from the men she guides into battle and deep loyalty from her people. But her real trial comes when the French army marches south to widen its colonial grip on the African continent. Hondo contrasts the strong alliances that emerge among African communities with the self-seeking and purposelessness of the Europeans and provides much-needed African historical perspective. Sarraounia is not only an engrossing tale of a remarkable woman’s bravery but also a captivating study of revolution against enslavement and the struggle for peace and freedom.
May 13, 9:00pm (Q&A with Filippe Savadogo, Permanent Representative to the UN for Francophonie Affairs and former Permanent Secretary-General of FESPACO)
Aya of Yop City
Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie, Ivory Coast/France, 2013, 85m
French with English subtitles
Abouet and Oubrerie bring their popular comic-book series that tracks the adventures of a young woman in a working-class town to cinematic life in a beautifully drawn account of West Africa in the 1970s. Nineteen-year-old aspiring doctor Aya spends most of her time at home in the Abidjan suburb of Yopougon (nicknamed Yop City) studying and dealing with her family so she doesn’t have time to take part in the exploits of her gal pals Bintou and Adjoua, both of whom want it all—to marry up as well as start their own business. Things go awry, though, when one of them gets pregnant. Oubrerie’s vivid drawings capture the spirit of a community growing past colonialism along with the rest of the country, and a spectacular soundtrack of period funk, rock, disco and Afrojazz sets it all in motion. A delight for the eyes and the ears
May 8, 4:30pm
May 11, 9pm (Intro by actress Aïssa Maïga)
Bastards (U.S. Premiere)
Deborah Perkin, Morocco/UK, 2013, 93m
Arabic with English subtitles
In Morocco, as in all Muslim countries, sex outside marriage is illegal. Single mothers are despised, but what is the fate of their children? They are outcasts, condemned to a life of discrimination. Bastards tells this story from a mother’s point of view. At 14, Rabha El Haimer was an illiterate child bride, beaten, raped and then rejected.
Ten years later, she is a single mother, fighting to legalize her forced marriage, to register her daughter and to make the father accept his child so that she can secure a future for her “illegitimate” daughter. With unprecedented access to the Moroccan justice system, filmmaker Deborah Perkin follows Rabha’s fight from the Casablanca slums—confronting her mother and asking why she married her off so young—to the high courts where the child’s father makes absurd claims and Rabha suffers verbal abuse from her father-in-law. Perkin may be the first Westerner to film in Moroccan family courts, where she captures real-life drama, played out in the first Muslim country in the world to recognize that single mothers and illegitimate children have rights.
Beleh (NY Premiere)
Eka Christa Assam, Cameroon, 2013, 30m
Pidgin with English subtitles
Pregnant Joffi has a bullying husband who takes her, and pretty much everything else, for granted. His attitude is challenged when he awakes one morning to find a very different world from the one he fell asleep to the night before. A quirky, poignant and pertinent look at gender roles.
May 9, 4pm
May 12, 6pm (Q&A with Deborah Perkin)
Grigris (NY Premiere)
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Chad/France, 2013, 101m
French and Arabic with English subtitles
Despite a bum leg, 25-year-old Grigris has hopes of becoming a professional dancer, using his killer moves on the dance floor of his local club to secure some extra cash. His dreams are tested when his stepfather falls critically ill and he's forced to risk his future by smuggling oil to pay the hospital bills. When he falls for Mimi, a beautiful but damaged prostitute, they attempt to start a new life together. But as bad decisions begin to catch up with them, they are forced to run for their lives. Their pasts, however, are never far behind... Professional dancer Souleymane Deme is remarkable as a man who can’t get a break, and veteran director
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, whose visually striking films have won awards at the Cannes and Venice film festivals, creates an elegant character study.
Screening with Columbite Tantalite (NY Premiere)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, UK, 2013, 12m
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s short film explores the western exploitation of Africa’s most coveted minerals as well as the DRC’s reconciliation process with its history and identity.
May 8, 8:45pm
May 12, 3:45pm
It’s Us (Ni Si Si) (U.S. Premiere)
Nick Reding, Kenya, 2013, 88m
Swahili with English subtitles
Picture a typical Kenyan community: a harmonious muddle of tribes, intermarriages and extended families; people living and working together all their days who don’t care which tribe their neighbor belongs to. What starts out as comic ribbing and good-natured banter between friends takes a more serious turn when politically motivated rumors arise and a sudden mistrust takes hold. With mistrust comes a sense of threat, and with threats, fear escalates and in a matter of days, the bonds and alliances—the foundation of the community—are severed, just as they were in Kenya in 2008. Can a once-peaceful community learn from the mistakes of the past and be given another chance? Written and directed by Nick Reding, It’s Us was produced by the NGO-sponsored Arts for Education (S.A.F.E.) prior to Kenya’s elections to promote identity, peace and unity by showing people confronting turmoil and violence. Can film change hearts and minds? Nick Reding and S.A.F.E. are making sure that happens.
May 8, 6:30pm (Q&A with Nick Reding)
May 12, 1:45pm
Mugabe: Villain or Hero?
Roy Agyemang, UK/Zimbabwe, 2012, 116m
To most in the West, the title question of Roy Agyemang’s provocative documentary hardly needs to be asked. Accused of inept leadership and human-rights abuses, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country since its independence from Great Britain in 1980 and was sworn in for a new five-year term just last summer, is also known for being the first African leader to seize white-controlled farms and redistribute them to the local population. British-born of Ghanaian parents, Agyemang set out to gain a fresh perspective on Mugabe by exploring the reality behind the headlines. And what was supposed to be a three-month project became a three-year all-access journey with Mugabe and his inner circle that reveals a charismatic, complicated man ruling a country at the intersection of international economics and post-colonial fallout. This personal film also raises wider serious issues about the relationship between African leaders and the West in the fight for the continent’s minerals and land.
May 7, 2pm
May 11, 6:15pm
FOR COMPLETE LISTING OF ALL THE FILMS AND SHOWTIMES PLEASE VISIT NYAFF
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work and to enhance the awareness, accessibility and understanding of the moving image. The Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year's most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, LatinBeat, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment magazine, The Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious Chaplin Award. The Film Society's state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year-round programs and the New York City film community.The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stella Artois, the Kobal Collection, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
For more than two decades, African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) has bridged the divide between post-colonial Africa and the American public through the powerful medium of film and video. AFF's unique place in the international arts community is distinguished not only by leadership in festival management, but also by a comprehensive approach to the advocacy of African film and culture. AFF established the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) in 1993 with Film Society of Lincoln Center. The New York African Film Festival is presented annually by the African Film Festival, Inc. and Film Society of Lincoln Center, in association with Brooklyn Academy of Music.
AFF also produces a series of local, national and international programs throughout the year. More information about AFF www.africanfilmny.org
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