The much-anticipated New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) opened on April 9th at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater with all the pomp and glory that befits a festival of this magnitude. Opening night guests included prominent filmmakers Danny Glover, Charles Burnett, Newton Aduaka, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and Zina Saro-Wiwa. Burnett’s latest film, Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation, stars Danny Glover and premiered on opening night. The film tells the story of Sam Nujoma, South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) leader and Namibia's first president. The film's depiction of the Namibian struggle is not compelling, as the lead actor gave a mediocre performance in his portrayal of Nujoma.
Glover arrived at the reception in regal dark brown African attire and took a moment to discuss the lack of continental Africans attending the festival with Africanmag.com. “We have to reach out and educate the broader community, including all mankind about the issues Africa is facing,” said Glover.
This year's lineup boasts of 40 films from 22 countries. Now in its 15th year, the African Film Festival was created to fill a gaping space in the cinematic representation of Africa. According to Sierra Leonean-born and New York-based founder and executive director Mahen Bonetti, "I realized there was a void and lack of African cinema being presented by Africans in the greatest capital of the world - New York City. Not only that, I wasn't satisfied with the way Africa was being portrayed," she added.
Bonetti says the ultimate goal of the festival is to shatter the myths and negative images about Africa through cinematography created by Africans. “The stories told during this year's festival span the genres, the continent, and the African Diaspora. They are works that help people make sense of the past, consider the present and speculate on what is to come in the future."
During a phone interview last Sunday on AfrobeatRadio, a program broadcast on Rutgers University’s WRSU (88.7 FM), festival consultant Odette Gregory told executive producer Wuyi Jacobs that "this year's festival puts a spotlight on recent trends in the art of cinematic storytelling. AFF will present a selection of feature narratives that pays homage to documentary style discourse."
Male directors have dominated previous editions of AFF, but this year the festival is showcasing the works of six female directors, including Zina Saro-Wiwa, the daughter of the late Niger Delta activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Other female filmmakers who will be presenting their works include Osvalde Lewat-Hallade, Nigerian-born Ngozi Onwurah, and Katy Lena N’Diaye. They claim to be fully aware of the challenges they face as they tackle the taboo traditions of the continent and the black community at large.
Films such as Black Business and Bushman’s Secret explore current African events by using the documentary technique of exposing subjective storytelling. The films Cuba: An African Odyssey and Brothers in Arms are successful attempts in linking liberation struggle movements in southern Africa to that of the history of the Diaspora, reclaiming perspectives that may otherwise remain under-exposed and unknown.
In keeping with tradition, the New York African Film Festival concludes at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BamCinematek. After screenings at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater in Manhattan, the festival will proceed to the French Institute’s Alliance Francaise with its Cinema Tuesdays series on May 6, 13, 20, and 27th featuring award-winning films by Etalon de Yennenga.
For more detail information on the 15th New York African Film Festival go to www.africanfilm.org or call 212.875.5600