It was such a great experience to be able to participate in the 18th Edition of the New York African Film Festival this year for the first time. What made it even more special is that the United Nations named 2011 the International Year of People of African Descent. Filmmakers and artists showcased their short films, documentaries…pertaining to Africa and the Diaspora.
I had a chance to see 5 films within the series of works being presented. “Viva Riva” was by far the most graphic and intense one. It presented the story of a man who returns to The Democratic Republic of Congo with stolen gasoline and a lot of money. The problem is that not only is the vilain he stole it from after him, so is the gangster whose girlfriend he falls in love with! Lots of shooting, bribing, corruption, sex and suspense. It was quite an interesting film overall. After the movie, my older sister and I were conversing with an older caucasian woman and she was telling us that she was heading home because she could not watch another movie after the intensity of Viva Riva!
Another film I saw was quite interesting. It was a documentary type montage called Stolen. Initially, the filmmakers set out to make a movie about a family reunion in Western Sahara. They soon discovered that modern day slavery was taking place in that very same region. The political tension, controversy and roles of different parties concerned (including the family itself) made for a very interesting twist. The audience got to ask the producers questions at the end of the screening. The filmmakers are still receiving threats and are not able to show the film at some of the major film festivals around the country for political reasons. They, however, seem not to regret having shared their documentary with as many people and organizations that would listen. They felt it their duty to shine light on an issue that very few are aware of, even if that meant putting their own lives in danger.
My favorite piece was “Soul Boy”. The film takes place in Kenya and is about a young boy who tries to save his father’s life when he finds out a witch has stolen his soul. The journey the viewers embark on, as the little boy comes to understand life in the process of searching for his father’s soul, is what makes this movie so amazing. What’s more, at the end of the movie, one finds out that the film was actually a product of an organization that focuses on giving under priviledged youth who are interested in filmmaking the chance to work on different projects such as this one! (You can find out more about the program here)
I am always so proud to see the great work and talent of my fellow Africans. This was no exception. If you are interested, I believe you can purchase some of the films that were showcased. Visit: www.africanfilmny.org or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you will be in New York in the upcoming weeks, one of the organizers mentioned that there would be a few more screenings at BAM in May. Hope you get to see a few of these great pieces of art!