The New York African Film Festival (NYAFF)28th edition returned 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.” Here we highlight some of the most commanding African short and feature films featured at the festival.
Golden Fish, African Fish
Thomas Grand and Moussa Diop
The Casamance region in the South of Senegal is one of the last areas of traditional fishing in West Africa, and “crucial to the food safety of many African countries”. Golden Fish, African Fish, shot in the village of Kafountine, “sheds light on the countless artisanal fishers, fish processors and migrant laborers comprising a workforce fundamental to maintaining food sovereignty in West Africa. Operating out of the largest fishing port in southern Senegal, this sector is a guardian of regional gastronomic traditions and cultures while it also confronts the growing impacts of industrial fishing, globalization and foreign factories endangering its supply of the staple sardinella fish.” These women and men have been resisting, but for how much longer?
Anger In The Wind
Exposing ethical and environmental issues posed by foreign companies extracting uranium in northern Niger, filmmaker Amina Weira “turns her lens onto her father who recalls his 35 years as a mineworker while connecting her with other miners who detail perils they faced in the quarries.” After Weira interviews the town’s residents about the negative environmental and health consequences of plutonium mining, “she contemplates how sweeping winds dust radioactive substances over her hometown of Arlit and its uninformed inhabitants, and soberly reveals the calamitous impacts of French nuclear energy giant AREVA’s long-unchecked exploitation.”
Time Is On Our Side
Katy Léna Ndiaye
In October 2014, the ‘Balai Citoyen’ (‘Citizens’ Broom’) revolt led to the overthrow of Burkina Faso’s dictator, Blaise Compaoré. Rapper Serge Bambara (aka Smockey) was among the insurgents of the fierce and unbending protests by the Burkinabè against Blaise Compaoré that ended his 27-year dictatorship. “Among the uprising’s most instrumental voices is Smockey, rapper and co-founder of Balai Citoyen, a movement of artists calling on youth to join the resistance. During the transitional period ushering in a democratically elected president, Smockey anticipates the tension between uncertainty and hope through political activism and the soundtrack of his socially conscious music.”
Time to Leave
Awarded Best Sound & Music and played to rave reviews at the 2020 New York Feedback Film Festival, Nigeran-born artist-filmmaker Léwuga Benson’s Time to Leave is a cine-poetic experimental documentary-essay uncovering the experiences of being black in a country that is hostile, suspicious, and judgmental to black people. The film, made with a powerful activist message, is an archival footage and recordings that exposes and “reiterates a history of violent oppression and surveillance of black people in the United States”. In a deeper sense, the film is about “justice, courage and self-determination” and as it oscillates between the past and the present, “it confronts, questions and, through many aesthetic interventions, challenges assumptions about power and privilege.”
Our Lady of the Nile
In Our Lady of the Nile, filmmaker Atiq Rahimi tells a coming-of-age story about a group of Rwandan schoolgirls at a prestigious Belgian-run Catholic boarding school located on a hill. The school trains the young girls “to become the Rwandan elite”. Based on Scholastique Mukasonga’s novel “Our Lady of the Nile”, the film recounts how “a deep-seated antagonism, both within and outside the school, readies to change these young girls’ lives–and the entire country–forever.”
Ron Mulvihill & Kelly Askew
The documentary follows three Maasai individuals and tells the familiar colonial story of dispossession from ancestral land and the ongoing fights for their rights to their ancestral lands. And “while countless films depict Maasai livestock herders of East Africa as being in a race against time to preserve their iconic pastoralist lifestyle, Maasai Remix highlights members of the community championing cultural innovation in divergent settings.”