The 2012 New York African Film Festival, presented under the banner 21st Century: The Homecoming is a two-month multi-venue event in New York City exploring notions of home and homeland through films and their protagonists. A select group of features, shorts and documentaries, as well as experimental films and archival footage, will be presented alongside supplementary programs aimed at a broader exploration of the festival’s themes, including panel discussions, visual and performing art exhibitions, professional development workshops for artists, and in-school presentations for K-12 and university students.
As has been our tradition since the founding of the NYAFF, we continue to present the best in contemporary and classic African cinema, with the goal of challenging the audience’s preconceptions, erasing the limits between popular and high art, and placing genres such as melodrama, comedy and documentary at the center of the continent’s vibrant cinematographic production. This is a truly populist cinema; one that belies the stereotype that African film is made only for export or festival audiences. We feature works by artists who make use of film and video to raise public awareness of a variety of important issues. NYAFF will have a sampling of some of the most popular dramas, documentaries and experimental works unfolding on screens across the continent.
As a tribute to their growing presence in the medium, women filmmakers will have pride of place. Mariette Monpierre mixes melodrama and memoir in the Guadeloupean film Elza, while Rumbi Katedza tells a universal story of women’s struggles in Zimbabwe in the hilarious and touching Playing Warriors. In the attempt to come to grips with contemporary realities, documentary has become a favored format, and it makes up a great proportion of this year’s offerings: in The Creators, Laura Gamse analyzes the role of artists in contemporary South Africa; postcolonial and feminist strife in Kenya are at the center of Branwen Okpako’s work The Education of Auma Obama, complemented by Jane Munene’s portrait of that countries brave matriarch Monica Wangu Wamwere: Unbroken Spirit. Cameroonian Osvalde Lewat pushes the limits of the documentary genre in her most recent experimental work in Gaza Sderot, Last Exit.
As the festival coincides with the celebration in South Africa of the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress, we will pay homage to this landmark event through performances of the country’s music and dance as well as film. Its notable cinematic production will be on display in the form of documentaries such as The Creators and Stocktown X: South Africa, which show South Africa’s artistic vitality, and in feature films like Man on Ground by Akin Omotoso and How to Steal 2 Million by Charlie Vundla, which adapt the techniques of the thriller and film noir in their examination of the country’s subculture. Africa’s other cinematic powerhouse, Nollywood, will be represented by award-winning director Tunde Kelani’s Maami, a sweeping chronicle of witchcraft, melodrama, and love.
We will be gifted moreover with the presence of many of the filmmakers, who will attend the screenings and Q&A events afterward, contributing their unique perspectives and deepening our understanding of the films and the debates surrounding them.
This festival will also honor the 50th anniversary of the independence of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Algeria and Jamaica as an occasion to further explore themes of liberation and independence through attention to the role of artists as activists, to the unsung heroes and untold tales of African liberation, and to the concept of literal and figurative homecoming in the 21st century by Africans in and of the Diaspora. Mama Africa, an unforgettable portrait of artist and activist Miriam Makeba from Finnish filmmaker Mika Kaurismäki, will open the festival, and Outside the Law/Hors la loi by Rachid Bouchareb, an epic story of three brothers fighting for Algeria’s liberation, will bring it to a close. In between, we will be treated to a pair of remarkable documentaries: Stevan Riley’s Fire in Babylon and Clemente Bicocchi’s Black Africa White Marble, which recover two unique symbols of the fight for liberation: the gifted West Indies cricket team and the 19th Century European explorer Pietro di Brazzà.
April 5, 2012: The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space
April 11-17 2012: Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center
April 19, 2012: Institute of African Studies, Columbia University
May 4 – May 6, 2012: Maysles Cinema
May 25 – 28, 2012: Rose Cinemas Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)