2014 21st New York African Film Festival
The 21st New York African Film Festival returns to the Film Society of Lincoln Center May 7–13. In celebration of the centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation, Opening Night will feature the Nollywood dark comedy Confusion Na Wa by Kenneth Gyang. The Centerpiece film is the much-anticipated Half of a Yellow Sun directed and adapted by Biyi Bandele, starring Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anika Noni Rose. The sweeping epic Sarraounia is the Closing Night Selection.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) will present the 21th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) May 7–13. Organized under the banner theme “Revolution and Liberation in the Digital Age,” the week-long launch will include eleven feature films and eight shorts from various African nations and the Diaspora. The NYAFF continues throughout the month of May at Maysles Cinema Institute and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek.
With a gracious nod to Nollywood, the world’s second largest film industry and the 100th centenary of Nigeria, the festival Opening Night Film 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 6:00 pm. Regular festival prices apply for the screening and tickets can be purchased on Filmlinc.com. Tickets for the screening and Opening Reception are $50 and can be purchased here.
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 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 at Cargy Hall(450 West 37th Street). Regular festival prices apply for the screening and tickets can be purchased on Filmlinc.com. Tickets for the screening and benefit are $200 and can be purchased here.
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. 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 XT 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 offers comedies including the features 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 in its 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 girl 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 to 13, the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery will host the exhibition Digital Africa, featuring the works of Congolese and American photographers. Congolese Dreams is an exhibition of the works of 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 go on sale April 17 at the Film Society’s box offices and online at www.FilmLinc.com. Pre-sale to Film Society members begins on April 15. 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 Maysles Cinema Institute in Harlem May 15 to 18. As is the tradition, the NYAFF closes over Memorial Day Weekend May 23 to 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.
African Film Festival Inc.Over the last twenty years, AFF has honored its mission by creating diverse programs that aid and empower audiences and filmmakers alike, including our annual New York African Film Festival, which is co-presented with Film Society of Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music, our co-curated local, national and international African film and multi-media programs for a variety of cultural, academic and art institutions. Offering year-round programming, AFF showcases new and classic films to thousands, through such programs as the African Film Festival National Traveling Series that visits 13 cities across the United States, and the international program done in collaboration with partners in Brazil, Jamaica, Australia, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Furthermore, AFF also runs a series of community-based screenings in which AFF partners with local cultural organizations to present films in a community setting, such as in New York City Parks. In addition to the aforementioned programming, AFF also has several ongoing projects under the umbrella of educational programming, which includes in-school film presentations and discussions at The East Harlem School at Exodus House and a special screening of African films for AFF’s Young Adults Education Program, which brings together New York City middle and high school students each year to a special matinee program during the annual New York African Film Festival.