New York African Film Festival Sets 21st Edition for May


Confusion Na Wa by Kenneth Gyang

The New York African Film Festival is on tap for May with eleven features and eight shorts originating from a number of African countries and the African diaspora set to screen at the 21st edition of the event at the Film Society. This year's theme is "Revolution and Liberation in the Digital Age." NYAFF will open with a celebration of Nollywood, Nigeria's film industry—the world's second largest—with the debut of the dark comedy Confusion Na Wa, which won Best Picture at the 2013 African Movie Academy Awards. The film by Kenneth Gyang 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." This year's festival takes place May 7-13, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and African Film Festival, Inc.

NYAFF will screen 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 festival's 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 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 American Folk Art Museum (Columbus Avenue at 66th Street).

Nonfiction selections include Mugabe: Villain or Hero? by Roy Agyemang, which looks at the controversial Zimbabwean leader through unprecedented access to both him and his entourage, exposing the struggle 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 central to the recent Arab Spring, while Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine’s timely experimental short Kuhani features a conflicted priest, just as Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Act is grabbing headlines.

Other highlights include Deborah Perkin's documentary Bastards, which follows a single mother who was beaten and raped at 14 and discarded as she fights in Moroccan court to legitimize her sham marriage, in order to ensure a future for the daughter born out of her nightmare. In Cameroonian 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.


Half of a Yellow Sun by Biyi Bandele

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.

"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. Added AFF executive director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Benetti: "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. 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."

In addition to the film festival, the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery will host the exhibition Digital Africa May 8-13, 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.

[NYAFF screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. 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 Institute 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.]

New York African Film Festival titles and descriptions:

Confusion Na Wa (Opening Night Film)
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). New York Premiere
May 7, 7:30pm (Q&A with Kenneth Gyang)
May 10, 9:15pm (Q&A with Kenneth Gyang) 


Half of a Yellow Sun (Centerpiece Film )
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. New York Premiere
May 9, 7:00pm (Q&A with Biyi Bandele and some cast members)


Sarraounia (Closing Night Film )
Med Hondo, Burkina Faso/Mauritania/France, 1986, 120m
Dioula, French, and Fula with English subtitles

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)


Ninah's Dowery
by Victor Viyouh

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, 9:00pm (Intro by actress Aïssa Maïga)
 

Bastards
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. U.S. Premiere

Screening with
Beleh
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. New York Premiere
May 9, 4:00pm
May 12, 6:00pm (Q&A with Deborah Perkin) 

Grigris
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. New York Premiere
May 8, 8:45pm
May 12, 3:45pm

It’s Us (Ni Si Si)
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. U.S. Premiere
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 postcolonial 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, 2:00pm                                                                                                             
May 11, 6:15pm 



Kuhani by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine

New African Shorts
TRT: 110m

Baudouin Mouanda: Congolese Dreams
Philippe Cordey, Congo, 2012, 25m

Lingala, French, and German with English subtitles
For his latest project, The Dream, photographer Baudouin Mouanda explores beauty in unlikely places by asking women to pose in the same white wedding dress in different locations, from rubbish dumps to crowded trains. U.S. Premiere
Aissa’s Story
Iquo B. Essien, Nigeria/USA, 2013, 15m
French and English with English subtitles

An African immigrant housekeeper and single mother must decide whether to move on with her life or fight when the case against her assaulter is dismissed. New York Premiere
Kwaku Ananse
Akosua Adoma Owusu, Ghana/Mexico/USA, 2013, 26m

Outsider Nyan attends her estranged father's funeral. Overwhelmed at the procession, she searches for him in the spirit world. Kwaku Ananse draws upon the rich mythology of Ghana and combines semi-autobiographical elements with the tale of Kwaku Ananse, a trickster in West African stories who appears as both spider and man. Co-presentation with Cinema Tropical. New York Premiere
Soko Sonko (The Market King)
Ekwa Msangi-Omari, Kenya/USA, 2014, 22m
Kiswahili and Sheng with English subtitles

When her mom gets sick, Kibibi’s dad takes her to the market to get her hair braided before school. A fish out of water, this well-intentioned dad goes on a roller coaster of a journey where no man has gone before... because only women have been there! U.S. Premiere
Afronauts
Frances Bodomo, Ghana/USA, 2014, 15m

On July 16, 1969, America prepares to launch Apollo 11. Thousands of miles away, the Zambia Space Academy hopes to beat America to the moon. Inspired by true events.
Kuhani
Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Uganda, 2013, 7m

An experimental short inspired by Ugandan Catholic priest Father Anthony Musaala's open letter titled “The Failure of Celibate Chastity Among Diocesan Priests.” Father Musaala is one of many Ugandans who has been persecuted as a result of the country’s recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Act. New York Premiere
May 8, 2:00pm
May 11, 3:30pm (Q&A with Iquo B. Essien, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Ekwa Msangi-Omari, Kenya, Frances Bodomo, and Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) 

Ninah’s Dowry
Victor Viyouh, Cameroon, 2012, 95m
English, Pidgin and Babanki with English subtitles

Ninah is a mother of three stuck in an abusive relationship with no hope of change. Her family lives off her meager earnings from farm work while her husband, Memfi, drinks away his equally meager earnings as a shepherd. When she learns that her father is seriously ill and her husband refuses to let her go to him, Ninah realizes that she cannot take the abuse anymore and runs away. Memfi pursues her: he will recover the dowry he paid or take home the woman he owns—by any means necessary. This action sets off an incredible series of events with a whirlwind of suspense, thrills, and adventure that traverses the Cameroon landscape. Writer-director Victor Viyouh has crafted a powerful story with nuanced and complex characters, and Mbufung Seikeh, as Ninah, makes a screen debut that is nothing short of astonishing. Co-presentation with Alwan for the Arts. New York Premiere
May 9, 2:00pm                                                                                                             
May 13, 6:30pm 
(Q&A with Victor Viyouh)


Afronauts
by Frances Bodomo

Of Good Report
Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, South Africa, 2013, 109m
English and Xhosa with English subtitles

Schoolteacher Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano) arrives in a rural village with no local connections. Though his unassuming disposition and a glowing recommendation from his previous employer inspires trust and sympathy, he promptly begins a torrid affair with one of his new pupils, 16-year-old Nolitha (Petronella Tshuma). Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s second feature delves into the type of impoverished black community that the government has ignored, making it that despair is part of the working poor’s daily life, and a man “of good report” can get away with anything. Shot in stark black and white, the film is a tribute to classic film noir while at the same time takes us out of that genre with bold artistic and political strokes (the film was banned, but quickly unbanned, by South African authorities). New York Premiere
May 10, 6:30pm (Q&A with Jahmil X.T. Qubeka) 
May 12, 9:00pm (Q&A with Jahmil X.T. Qubeka) 

Winter of Discontent  (El sheita elli fat)
Ibrahim El Batout, Egypt, 2012, 96m
Arabic with English subtitles

Set against the momentous backdrop of the whirlwind protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that began on January 25th, 2011, director Ibrahim El Batout takes us on a raw and starkly moving journey into the lives of revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries alike. Amr is an opposition activist whose face is etched with pain and sorrow; Farah is a journalist who is feeling the pressure of working for the state’s television news channel; and Adel is a security officer who tortures detainees by day and has dinner with his wife in the comfort of their home by night. Their lives will collide in this hard-hitting political thriller that lays bare the police state of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt and offers a glimpse of the systematic torture and harassment that targeted any internal dissidence. One of the most dramatically satisfying cinematic accounts to date dealing with Egypt’s turbulent developments. Co-presentation with Human Rights Watch Film Festival. U.S. Premiere

Screening with
Wooden Hands
Kaouther Ben Hania, Tunisia, 2013, 23m
Arabic with English subtitles

As the holidays end, 5-year-old Amira entertains herself before going back to Koran school. Attaching her hand to a chair with superglue looks like fun… U.S. Premiere
May 7, 4:30pm
May 11, 1:00pm

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