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April 2007
14th Annual New York African Film Festival


Three-Borough Cornucopia of African Film Launches April 4 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

NEW YORK (March 15, 2007)—Marking the 50th anniversary of the independence of Ghana — the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence from colonial rule — the 14th annual New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) will center on the struggles for liberation, the efforts to undo the cultural legacy of colonialism and the quest for a new African identity captured on film. ”Celebrating 50 Years of Independence and Cinema” will commemorate this milestone with 47 films from 20 countries ranging from Algeria to South Africa, including a selection of rarely seen archival footage of colonial propaganda films and newsreels capturing the very moment of independence of various African nations. Pairing classic films with new works by talented directors representing the future of African cinema, this year’s festival will highlight films from the African Diaspora and include the screening of a film by the late Ossie Davis set in Africa, hosted by his widow, film legend Ruby Dee; an opening night gala featuring Guinean director Cheick Fantamady Camara’s Clouds over Conakry, winner of the People Choice Award at the FESPACO 2007; a centerpiece selection of London Film Festival Best First Film Award winner Max and Mona¸ by Teddy Mattera; and a special preview screening of Africa Unite, a tribute to Bob Marley, hosted by Danny Glover and Marley’s widow Rita. Presented by the African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the festival runs from April 4 through 12 at the Walter Reade Theater, traveling later in April and in May to other esteemed institutions across the city.

       “Africa is known for its rich oral tradition — the tradition of storytelling — the tradition of the griot!” said Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the AFF.  “And with independence, cinema broke away from the colonial interpretation of who we were and it has only grown over the last 50 years.  The NYAFF will celebrate this milestone in 2007 and looks forward to the next 50 years in African film.”

      In addition to the archival footage from the 1950s and ‘60s from British, French, Russian and various African private sources, the festival will highlight its celebration of Ghana’s 50th  anniversary by presenting works by acclaimed Ghanaian director John Akomfrah, including his film Testament. The film addresses the decline of Ghanaian political optimism following independence in 1957 and the collapse of the Nkrumah regime in 1966. Other films from the first free African nation will be featured under the program “Ghana’s Political Experiments.”

      In recognition of the contemporary filmmakers from the African Diaspora, film and stage legend Ruby Dee will host a special screening Wednesday, April 4, of her late husband Ossie Davis’ 1970 film Kongi’s Harvest. Set in Africa, the film was based on a play by Africa’s preeminent playwright an Nobel prize winner Wole Soyinka.

      The Opening Night Gala on Thursday, April 5 will spotlight Clouds over Conakry, a U.S. premiere. The celebration will continue with a festive evening of music and dancing and a silent auction that will include exquisite African art and fashion items.


      South African director Teddy Mattera’s Max and Mona will be the NYAFF Centerpiece Selection on Saturday, April 7. The film will be followed by a reception and a special preview screening of a work-in-progress — Stephanie  Black’s Africa Unite, an Ethiopian documentary tribute to Bob Marley, focusing on the vision for African unity he was devoted to throughout his music career; Danny Glover and Marley’s wife Rita, who were in the film together with Angelique Kidjo, Lauryn Hill and Marley’s children, will host the screening.

      A special bling-free screening on Thursday, April 12 of Bling: A Planet Rock, a satirical, hard-hitting feature documentary, will take a look at how "blinging" in the flashy world of commercial hip-hop played a role in the 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone. New York-based director Raquel Cepeda takes U.S. hip-hop artists Paul Wall, Tego Calderon and Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan on a journey to Sierra Leone’s diamond mining communities, where they meet former child soldiers, refugees and local hip-hop artists. Guests will be encouraged to put away their jewels for the night. 

      Other diasporic films include Death of Two Sons, by Micah Schaffer, which  examines  the political, personal and spiritual implications of the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo and the death less than a year later of Jesse Thyne, an American Peace corps volunteer who lived and worked with Diallo’s family in Guinea; Movement (R)evolution Africa, co-presented by the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, a documentary capturing how nine dance troupes take on stereotypes of Africa, as well as the war and tragedy many Africans are facing; and the U.S. premiere of Paris selon Moussa, from Guinean director Cheik Doukouré, which won him the FESPACO 2003 Best Actor award and the 2003 Human Rights award by the United Nations. The “Women in the Diaspora” short program features the New York premiere of Africans and African-Americans, from the documentary series telling the stories of the cultural, intellectual and spiritual journeys of a people with a common history and origin in a spirit of understanding, friendship, solidarity and cooperation.

      A panel discussion with notable African Diaspora scholars and filmmakers on Monday, April 9 will offer audiences and filmmakers alike the opportunity for further rumination on the complex and multifaceted role of cinema in post-colonial, national and pan-African liberation.

      The program for the 2007 African Film Festival will also include themes and highlights such as:

    • Recounting History Beyond Documentary—Films such as Jean Marie Teno’s The Colonial Misuderstanding and Rostov-Luanda by Abderrahmane Sissako, demonstrate the myriad ways African filmmakers have explored some of Africa’s complex historical issues outside the confines of traditional documentary cinema. Sissako, whose highly-acclaimed current release Bamako was a hit of the 2006 New York Film Festival, has been quoted as saying that Rostov-Luanda, (the precursor to Bamako), is his favorite film.



    • Mid-Career Retrospective—The progressive films of Burkinabè director Fanta Regina Nacro will be highlighted. Nacro’s feature, The Night of Truth, is a raw fable that powerfully represents the tragedy of countless civil conflicts plaguing contemporary Africa.
    • Shorts—A groundbreaking program of shorts will be presented from countries including Morocco, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. In addition to “Women in the Diaspora,” some of these programs include:
    • “Ethiopia: Then and Now”—Ethiopian films will include 2007 Berlin Film Festival Crystal Bear Award and 2007 FESACO short film prizewinner Menged, by Daniel Taye Workou. Menged will be preceded by Ethiopian Campaign, a 1941 archival film on the return of Haile Selassie to Abyssinia after his exile during the Italian occupation. 
    • “Women of Zimbabwe”—The films of female directors from Zimbabwe will be highlighted. , Growing Stronger, by Tsitsi Dangarembga, examines the lives of two very different but remarkable women living with HIV: ex-model Tendayi Westerhof and resilient AIDS activist Pamela Kanjenzana.
    • “Young Rebels”—The U.S. premiere of Meokgo & The Stick Fighter by South African director Teboho Mahlatsi is one of a short series from up-and-coming male directors.
    • “Hope in the Time of Crisis”—Rape as a weapon of war and divided families, the subjects of A Love During the  War, (U.S. premiere and mention spéciale du jury, Vues d’Afrique and FESPACO 2005), are only some of the human right issues being taken up in this series, which is co-presented with the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.
    • A Photography Exhibit, “African Cinema in Pictures,” an exhibition of photographs by Antoine Tempé and Stephan Zaubitzer, will be presented under the banner “Celebrating 50 Years of African Independence and Cinema” in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater. The exhibit, open daily from April 4 through 12 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., will feature Tempe’s black and white portraits of personalities from the African movie industry and Zaubitzer color images of the movie theaters of Burkina Faso.

      “Films in this year’s festival once again dismantle long-held notions about African society and cinema—expanding and challenging the audience’s perception of concepts such as tradition, modernity, femininity and even what constitutes a tragedy or comedy,” said Richard Peña, programming director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  “Heart-wrenching tragedies are often imbued with a loving and even comedic touch, transforming harrowing stories and images into touchstones of resilience and fortitude.  Further, about one quarter of this year’s films — eleven, to be precise — are directed by women, making it clear that African cinema is no longer a male-only domain.”



      While the first 50 years of African independence have undoubtedly been fraught with violence and political transgression, the realities encountered in films throughout the festival — tightly knit communities of resourceful immigrants, extended families of powerful, committed women and new generations of unlikely activists — offer hopeful glimpses of what lies ahead for Africa as it enters its second half-century of independence.

      The festival runs at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th Street, Plaza Level, April 4 through April 12. The second presentation of the NYAFF will be held on April 20 and 21 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The festival concludes with screenings at BAMCinematek (Brooklyn Academy of Music) running from May 25 through May 28.

      The 14th New York African Film Festival was organized by Richard Peña of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the African Film Festival, Inc. (Mahen Bonetti, Aba Taylor, Muriel Placet-Kouassi, Alonzo Speight, and Wilson Sherwin). Special thanks are given to the AFF Board of Directors, Joan Baffour, Luca Bonetti, Francoise Bouffault, Rumbi Bwerinofa, Gabriel Donati, Kevin Duggan, Jacki Fischer, Belynda Hardin, Alexander Markov, Sarah Mbodji, Andrew Milne, Philippa Naughten, Prerana Reddy, Keith Shiri, Antoine Tempe, Carol Thompson, Stephan Zaubitzer, National Council of Ghanaian Associations, The Terrie Williams Agency and Kojo Associates.

      The programs of the AFF are made possible by the generous support of the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, JPMorgan Chase, New York State Council for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York Times Community Affairs Department, Time Warner Cable, French Cultural Services, Bloomberg, Tides Foundation, American Express, GoCard, WNYC, Continental Airlines, 57 Main St. Wine Company, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Putumayo World Music and Omnipak Import, Enterprises, Inc.

      For more information on the African Film Festival, Inc., go to www.africanfilmny.org and www.filmlinc.com

Ticket Information:

      Tickets for Film Society of Lincoln Center screenings are $11 for the general public, $7 for Film Society members and $7 for students with a valid photo ID. Monday through Friday before 6 pm, senior citizens with valid ID will be admitted for $7. Beginning March 15 tickets are available online at www.filmlinc.com or at the Walter Reade Theater box office. For additional information go online to www.filmlinc.com or call 212-875-5600.



      Suggested admission for screenings at The Bronx Museum of the Arts are $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors and free for members and children under 12.  The museum is located at 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York. Visit www.bronxmuseum.org or call 718.681.6000 for information. Directions: D or B to the 167 Street/Grand Concourse station. Exit at rear of station, walk south along Grand Concourse two blocks.  Take the 4 to the 161 Street/Yankee Stadium station. Walk east three blocks to the Grand Concourse, then, walk north four blocks along Grand Concourse to 165th Street. Bus: Bx1, Bx2, or BxM4 Express to 165th Street and Grand Concourse.

      Tickets for BAMcinématek screenings are $10 for general admission, $7 for Cinema Club members and $7 for seniors, children under 12, and students with a valid ID (Monday-Thursday, except holidays.  The BAMcinématek at BAM Rose Cinemas is located at 30 Lafayette Ave. in Brooklyn. Visit BAM.org or call 718.636.4100 for information. Tickets also available through www.movietickets.com or 718.777.FILM.  Directions: C train to Lafayette; N, R, D, M to Pacific; 2, 3, 4, 5 train to Nevins; or G train to Fulton. 




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