The 28th edition of the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) returns with a virtual program celebrating the shared aspirations that drive humanity through time and the voices of the women who push the culture forward while preserving treasured traditions. Presented by Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF), this year’s NYAFF will showcase ten features and 21 short films from Africa, Europe, North America, and South America. The event will be presented under the banner “Notes from Home: Recurring Dreams & Women’s Voices” in FLC’s Virtual Cinema from February 4 to 14 and at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem from February 18 to March 4.
Presenting an array of offerings that capture “Africanness” in its myriad iterations and manifestations, NYAFF spotlights the global Black community’s influence on our cultural pasts, present, and futures.
The Opening Night film is Desmond Ovbiagele’s The Milkmaid, Nigeria’s entry for the 2021 Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. Depicting the impact of extremism on the families of those it touches, the drama follows a Fulani milkmaid as she confronts the religious insurgents who kidnapped her sister.
The Centerpiece selection is Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s acclaimed Sundance prizewinner, This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection, which recently became Lesotho’s first-ever Oscar entry. The film paints a stirring portrait of an elderly woman whose plans for death are interrupted when news arrives that her village will be flooded and its inhabitants resettled to make way for a reservoir.
Other features in the program include the documentary Sankara Is Not Dead, which follows the young poet Bikontine as he travels along Burkina Faso’s only rail line in the wake of the 2014 uprising and encounters the enduring legacy of the late President Thomas Sankara; Pascal Aka’s Afro-noir Gold Coast Lounge, about a Ghanaian crime family fighting to prevent its lucrative lounge from getting shut down by the government amidst danger and intrigue; Mohamed Ismail’s La Mora, in which a young Spanish woman embarks on a journey of self-discovery to Morocco after finding a secret about her parentage in a letter left behind by her late mother; Amleset Muchie’s Min Alesh?, an Ethiopian drama about a young woman’s quest to change her family’s fate through her passion for running; Hawa Aliou N’diaye’s documentary Invisible Husband, which introduces audiences to the phenomenon of jinn possession in the director’s community in Mali; Atiq Rahimi’s Our Lady of the Nile, based on Scholastique Mukasonga’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, which brings viewers into the lives of teenage girls at a prestigious Rwandan boarding school as a growing inferno engulfs their nation; and A Day with Jerusa, which captures a mystical, intergenerational encounter between two Black women in Sāo Paolo, Brazil.
The feature presentations also include a new restoration of Camera d’Afrique (African Cinema: Filming Against All Odds), Férid Boughedir’s 1983 documentary capturing the rise and the striking visions of African auteurs like Ousmane Sembéne, Souleymane Cissé, Safi Faye, Oumarou Ganda, and Gadalla Gubara at a time when African countries were emerging from the shadows of colonialism.
This year’s NYAFF will showcase a retrospective of trailblazing filmmaker Fanta Régina Nacro, who became the first woman from Burkina Faso to direct a fiction film with her 1991 short, A Certain Morning (Un Certain Matin). A founding member of the African Guild of Directors and Producers, Nacro explores modernity and tradition from a woman’s perspective in films that are poignant, satiric, and often surprisingly comic. A program of her shorts will include A Certain Morning, Bintou, Open Your Eyes (Puk Nini), and Konaté’s Gift (Le truc de Konaté). Nacro will join the festival for a special Q&A about her career.
“Each generation takes a sprint and then passes the baton. Looking back, our filmmakers act as modern-day griots, grabbing that baton and weaving the story of their time while also propelling us forward,” said AFF Executive Director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti. “This year’s festival captures that look toward the past that helps our storytellers meet the present moment with inspiration from the elders.”
The 28th NYAFF will present 17 additional films in three genre-spanning shorts programs. “Notes from Home,” an exploration of Africa on the continent and abroad, includes Joe Penney’s Sun of the Soil, Marin Sander-Holzman’s 1000 Songs, Che Applewhaite’s A New England Document, and Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Pelourinho: They Don’t Really Care About Us. “New World Order” presents tales of women power throughout the ages, including Chelsea Odufu’s Black Lady Goddess, Hlumela Matika’s Tab, Vatora Godwin’s Omi, Mmabatho Montsho’s Joko Ya Hao, Kyung Sok Kim’s Furthest From, and Tomisin Adepeju’s Appreciation. “City Dreams,” a tapestry of desires expressed and realized in urban areas around the globe, includes E. G. Bailey’s KEON, Laurence Attali’s Tabaski, Ukachi Arinzeh’s The Inconvenience of Being Black, Will Niava’s Zoo, Edem Dotse’s Linger, Sylaz Udee’s The Elevator and Manu Luksch’s ALGO-RHYTHM.
The NYAFF Digital Art Exhibition will also feature short experimental and performance works by Kenyan artist Ingrid Mwangi. Mwangi and her partner Robert Hutter, together known as Mwangi Hutter, often use their own bodies as sounding boards to reflect on social interrelationships. These works will be presented on africanfilmny.org. More details about talks and events will be announced in the coming weeks on filmlinc.org.
Beginning February 18, the festival has a two-week virtual run at the Maysles Documentary Center. Additional details on this segment of the event will be announced shortly.
Film at Lincoln Center Virtual Cinema tickets are $12, and go on sale on Friday, January 22 at noon. See more and save with the discounted NYAFF All-Access Pass. Film at Lincoln Center members save an additional 20% on individual rentals and the all-access pass. Learn more at filmlinc.org/AFF2021.
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, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Bradley Family Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York Community Trust, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization Fund, Domenico Paulon Foundation, Motion Picture Enterprises, Manhattan Portage, Black Hawk Imports and Royal Air Maroc.
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; the presentation of podcasts, talks, and special events; the creation and implementation of Artist Initiatives; and our Film in Education curriculum and screenings. Since its founding in 1969, this nonprofit organization has brought the celebration of American and international film to the world-renowned arts complex Lincoln Center, 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.
For 30 years, African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) has bridged the divide between post-colonial 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. 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.