MIST hosts Harlem International Film Fest

LAPACAZO SANDOVAL and ART SHRIAN | 9/16/2016, 1:29 p.m.
September is packed with film festivals—it’s almost as iconic as the falling leaves.
Harlem International Film Festival

September is packed with film festivals—it’s almost as iconic as the falling leaves. Among them, the 2016 Harlem International Film Festival is running September 14-18 and will screen at MIST Harlem, located at 41 W. 116th Street.

Celebrating the art of cinema in the home of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem International Film Festival opens with a tribute to Prince with the screening of Christopher Kirkely’s African homage to Prince’s “Purple Rain,” “Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in It,” and closing with Marlene “Mo” Morris’ “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone.”

The 2016 theme is “Around the world in five days,” and to highlight that goal, the Harlem International Film Festival will screen films that represent 35 countries, led by 14 world premieres, one North American premiere, and seven U.S. premieres, that is, 99 films, 31 features and 68 short films.

“We are honored and ecstatic once again to be able to bring so many phenomenal works from around the world here to Harlem, while celebrating the work of some wonderful local filmmakers at the same time,” said Harlem International Film Festival Program Director Nasri Zacharia. “What better way to launch our second decade than with a film from Saharan Africa inspired by Prince’s ‘Purple Rain,’ in a language that has no word for ‘purple’ and represents the first narrative film ever in the Tuareg tongue. There will be unforgettable musical and dance performances as well—all inspired by Prince’s artistry on screen, stage and in the studio.

“To bookend the 99 films, we are wrapping up with a crucial and necessary one because it is a Harlem homecoming for a woman who lived in a housing project in Harlem and during the problems of the 80s when she decided to move to the San Francisco Bay Area. She became a famous muralist, activist and educator and is now returning to Harlem as an elder to have her East Coast Premiere with ‘A New Color.’ The fact that Eric Garner (who was killed by NYPD in a chokehold) is Edythe’s nephew ties several important issues together for us, which makes it more than appropriate as a closing night film.” 

Opening Night (Sep. 14) will mix an evening of live dance and musical performances with the screening of the Tuareg tribute to “Purple Rain,” Christopher Kirkley’s (with Mdou Moctar and Jerome Fino) “Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in It” (Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai).

After the screenings, fest goers will enjoy a “purple party,” as the Prince-themed celebration continues.

Filmed in a language without a word for “purple,” the film is also the first fiction film in the Tuareg tongue. The story follows the struggle of a musician’s efforts to succeed, against all odds, in the winner-takes-all Tuareg guitar scene of Niger. The screening will be preceded by three short films.  

Closing Night, Sept. 18, will feature the New York premiere of the award-winning “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone,” about the celebrated muralist, educator and aunt of Eric Garner, whose chokehold death and final words ignited a national outcry for racial justice.

The evening will feature a Harlem homecoming for the film’s subject, as Boone will attend and participate in a Q&A, after the film.

Some of the highlights populating the festival’s official selections are Janet Paxton Gardner’s documentary “Lost Child: Sayon’s Journey,” about the subject’s harrowing life and survival in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge atrocities; Jim Virga’s “Sweet Dillard,” which gives a fly-on-the-wall account of one of the nation’s best public high school jazz band’s efforts to reach the finals; Margo Pelletier’s “Thirsty,” about drag queen sensation, Scott Townsend; and Maciej Adamek’s “Two Worlds,” where a 12-year-old girl serves as the audience’s guide through life with her deaf parents.