Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) will celebrate the kickoff of the 30th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) at FLC from May 10 to 16. Launched in 1993 and one of the first of its kind in the United States, the festival reflects on the myriad ways African and diaspora storytellers have used the moving image as a mold to tell stories with their own nuances and idiosyncrasies. Under the banner, Freeforms, the festival presents over 30 films from more than 15 countries that invite audiences to explore the infinite realms of African and diaspora storytelling and embrace its visionary, probing and fearless spirit.
“The New York African Film Festival was founded to counteract the voice over, where Africans were being spoken for over grim images and to provide a place where the seventh art could become a weapon for us to reclaim our voices, to reappropriate our images and to add layers to the narrative,” said NYAFF founder and AFF Executive Director Mahen Bonetti. “In each frame presented by the festival over three decades we have found our connection with each other and our footing in other people’s spaces, while presenting myriad stories about all corners of the African diaspora and the human experience itself.”
Opening Night marks the New York premiere of Moussa Sène Absa’s Xalé, the third film in his trilogy focused on women. When twin brother and sister Awa and Adama’s grandmother passes away, their Aunt Fatou and Uncle Atoumane pledge to marry to preserve the family union. Tired of waiting to consummate their marriage, Atoumane commits an act from which there is no return.
The Centerpiece selection is the U.S. premiere of Hyperlink, comprised of four short films and directed by South African filmmakers Mzonke Maloney, Nolitha Mkulisi, Julie Nxadi, and Evan Wigdorowitz, who reflect on the seductive, and at times treacherous, illusory reality of the internet. Using humor, suspense and social criticism, this collective production sketches a society dominated by idealized projections of the dreamt self.
Four festival features are U.S. premieres: Fatou Cissé’s A Daughter’s Tribute to Her Father: Souleymane Cissé, an intimate portrayal of the life and career of Souleymane Cissé, one of Africa’s most celebrated filmmakers; Ottis Ba Mamadou’s Dent Pour Dent, a comedic drama placing the unemployed Idrissa in the position of being entirely dependent on his wife after budgetary restrictions imposed by the IMF and seeking revenge; Katy Léna N’diaye’s Money, Freedom, a Story of CFA Franc, a revealing account of why a currency holdover resulting from French colonialism is still in use to this day; and Ery Claver’s Our Lady of the Chinese Shop, a delicate urban tale that reveals a family and city full of resentment, greed and torment in Luanda, Angola, in part due to a peculiar, holy plastic figure of Our Lady.
The festival is also proud to host the U.S. premieres of two short films: Chadrack Banikina and Cecilia Zoppelletto’s Ota Benga, an animated film that captures a moment in the true-life story of Ota Benga (1883–1916), the pygmy who was exhibited at the Bronx Zoo; and Babetida Sadjo’s Hématome, about a woman who after twenty-five years, breaks her silence for a rape she suffered as a child and seeks justice.
Other highlights from the slate include the New York premiere of Know Your Place, Zia Mohajerjasbi’s slice of life drama set in present-day Seattle in which an errand undertaken by Robel, a 15-year old Eritrean-American, transforms into an odyssey across the rapidly gentrifying city; and Souleymane Cissé’s Den Muso, an exploration of repercussions of a mute girl’s assault, that shines a light on the societal and economic challenges facing women in urban Mali during the 1970s. The film was restored by Cissé – who was among the first wave of sub-Saharan African filmmakers – and La Cinémathèque française in 2020, in collaboration with the Cinémathèque Afrique and the French Institute, thanks to the support of Pathé.
Acclaimed Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Sène Absa will present a free masterclass on Saturday, May 13, at 11:30 am, which will probe the impact of migration on familial and community bonds with particular attention to the perspectives of the mothers of migrants. The event takes place in the Amphitheater at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center with tickets available through www.africanfilmny.org.
Two free talks are Safi Faye Memorial Talk: Women of African Cinema, a conversation which will bring together contemporary African directors and curators to reflect on Faye’s legacy in the wake of the pioneering filmmaker’s death in February, and what her work means for feminist African cinema today; and In Conversation with Souleymane Cissé, a special keynote talk with the acclaimed Malian director about his career and legacy, in conjunction with retrospective screenings of Den Muso and Yeelen. Yeleen was screened during the first NYAFF. Both events will be held in the Amphitheater in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
NYAFF will present a Town Hall at The Africa Center on Thursday, May 4, at 6:00 pm, featuring African and diaspora artists displaying and discussing work that explore the festival’s theme Freeforms. Participants include Assane Sy, Senegalese photographer and film curator of Jollof Films; Ladan Osman, Somali-American poet and filmmaker; Bocafloja, rapper, poet and spoken word artist; and Khane Kutzwell, hair stylist and barber for film and TV. Moderator Maboula Soumahoro is a French-Ivorian scholar and writer, whose book, Black is the Journey: Africana the Name (2021), will contextualize the program.
Evoking poet Lucille Clifton’s call to “sing for red dust and black clay” in her book of poetry Good News About the Earth, Nigerian-American artist Zainab Aliyu invites thirty filmmakers working within African diasporic cinema to explore pottery as a metaphor that points towards the potential of free forms in her video piece, From red dust to Black clay. This free digital art exhibition will run from May 10 – 16 in the Amphitheater.
Tickets go on sale April 13 at noon ET. Ticket prices are $17 for the general public; $14 for students, seniors, and persons with disabilities; and $12 for FLC Members. See more and save with the $79 All-Access Pass or the $39 Student All-Access Pass. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information about attending the Opening Night Party.
The festival continues at Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem from May 19 to 21 and culminates at the Brooklyn Academy of Music under the name Film Africa from May 26 to June 1 during Dance Africa.
The programs of AFF are made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Community Trust, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Bradley Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Domenico Paulon Foundation, NYC & Company, French Cultural Services, Manhattan Portage, Black Hawk Imports, Essentia Water, South African Consulate General, National Film and Video Foundation and Motion Picture Enterprises.
FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER
Film at Lincoln Center is dedicated to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema and enriching film culture.
Film at Lincoln Center fulfills its mission through the programming of festivals, series, retrospectives, and new releases; the publication of Film Comment; and the presentation of podcasts, talks, special events, and artist initiatives. Since its founding in 1969, this nonprofit organization has brought the celebration of American and international film to the world-renowned Lincoln Center arts complex, making the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broad audience and ensuring that it remains an essential art form for years to come.
Film at Lincoln Center receives generous, year-round support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. For more information, visit www.filmlinc.org and follow @filmlinc on Twitter and Instagram.
AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL, INC.
Since 1990, African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) has bridged the divide between postcolonial Africa and the American public through the powerful medium of film and video. AFF’s unique place in the international arts community is distinguished not only by leadership in festival management, but also by a comprehensive approach to the advocacy of African film and culture. AFF established the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) in 1993 with Film at Lincoln Center. The New York African Film Festival is presented annually by the African Film Festival, Inc. and Film at Lincoln Center, in association with Brooklyn Academy of Music and Maysles Cinema. AFF also produces a series of local, national, and international programs throughout the year. More information about AFF can be found on the Web at www.africanfilmny.org. You can follow AFF at @africanfilmfest on Twitter and Instagram.