Friday, April 6, 2012

NYAFF: A Good Mix of Stories Out of Africa

WHEN it was announced that Barack Obama had become the 44th president of the United States, his Kenyan family went to the grave of the president-elect’s late father to give him the news.

Nigerian-British filmmaker Branwen Okpako cited that as one of the most poignant moments in her film, “The Education of Auna Obama” (Kenya/Germany/Nigeria). The documentary is a portrait of the president’s older, activist Kenyan sister. (See trailer above).

It is one of more than 20 films and shorts, as well as live performances and talks, in the 19th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF). With a theme of “21 Century: The Homecoming,” NYAFF runs from 11-17 April at Film Society of Lincoln Center and throughout April and May at several locations, including Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinĂ©matek.

Twenty-something women feel the pressure to get married in "Playing Warriors." Photos courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Along with topics that viewers are conditioned to expect from African films – post-colonialism, post-Apartheid South Africa, war and strife – are some refreshing ruminations that have the potential to cast the Continent in the broad light that it deserves.

The pressures of modernism and tradition get lighthearted treatment in “Playing Warriors,” the romantic comedy from first-time director Rumbi Katedza – a Zimbabwean chick flick? – when Nonto’s impending nuptials create an existential crisis for gal pals Nyarai and Maxi ... In Charlie Vundla’s “How to Steal 2 Million” (South Africa), Jack’s efforts at going straight after serving five years for a robbery he may not have committed are thwarted by a duplicitous cohort … Title character Elza in Mariette Monpierre’s drama (Guadeloupe/USA) graduates from university with honors, making her single-parent mother proud. Then Elza causes Bernadette to despair when she quits Paris for her native Guadeloupe in search of a missing part of herself.

NYAFF centerpiece “Relentless” (Nigeria/France/Spain/Germany) from Andy Amadi Okoroafor examines the after-effects of battle
"Mama Africa" examines the life and legacy of South African singer Miriam Makeba (right).

through the prism of Obi’s experiences as a peacekeeping soldier in Sierra Leone where he witnessed and participated in horrors of war. The festival opener is “Mama Africa," the critically acclaimed documentary that pays homage to the late, legendary Miriam Makeba who is credited as the first African singer to popularize music from the Continent in the United States and around the world.

NYAFF is co-presented by Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF). Stay tuned for reviews of select films.

Visit and to learn more about 19th New York African Film Festival.

Our Demise Seems Inevitable in 'Surviving Progress'

WHAT price success, “Surviving Progress” asserts as it ponders the degree to which humankind has suffered in its pretensions toward bettering itself.

Considering advancements technological, economic and industrial, Mathieu Roy and Harold Crook’s documentary suggests that civilization has paid and will continue to pay too high a price for success i.e., diminishing resources, global warming, poverty.

Based on Ronald Wright’s “A Short History of Progress,” “Surviving Progress” opens today in Manhattan and wider on 20 April. (See trailer above).

To strengthen their doomsday dissertation the filmmakers rely on an unassailable slate of experts and authorities, including Jane Goodall and Stephen Hawking.

All paint a bleak picture of the future. Simply put, we’re going down.

“Surviving Progress” is not rated.

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VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
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