New York African Film Fest celebrates 25 years

LAPACAZO SANDOVAL | 5/17/2018, 3:15 p.m.
There is much to be learned by watching well-made movies.
'Wallay'

“Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.”—Guinean proverb.

There is much to be learned by watching well-made movies. When executed well, they provide a glimpse into cultures that are often far from our own. It’s there that the universal truths emerge, showing how much we all truly have in common rather than the small differences, such as language, that are often used to divide entire nations.

Marking its 25th year and the silver anniversary, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the African Film Festival, Inc. celebrate the storytellers of Africa, May 17 to May 22.

Under the theme “25 Years of the New York African Film Festival,” the international film organizations will pay homage to the pioneers of African cinema while marking the passing of the baton to a new generation of African visual storytellers, who continue to transform and expand our understanding of the continent and its Diaspora.

The event also commemorates the 100th birthday of the venerated South African freedom fighter and national leader, Nelson Mandela, with a crop of films from his native land. The monthlong festival brings 66 films from 25 countries to FSLC, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek and Maysles Cinema in Harlem.

The opening night film spotlighted Apolline Traoré’s award-winning film, “Borders,” which spoke about migration as well as to African women’s struggles, in a timely echo of the #MeToo movement.

The festival’s centerpiece film (Friday, May 18) is Berni Goldblat’s “Wallay,” a coming-of-age tale that follows Ady, a young troublemaker sent from France to his single father’s homeland of Burkina Faso for the summer. There, the teen finds new challenges as he navigates a different world.   

“Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden.”—Akan proverb.

The festival tips a hat to key figures in the history of African film, with the U.S. premieres of “Abderrhamane Sissako: Beyond Territories,” Valérie Osouf’s intimate portrait of the acclaimed director of “Bamako” and the Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu”; a 2017 version of the 1983 classic “Selbe: One Among Many,” by Safi Faye, the first sub-Saharan woman to direct a theatrically released film, now restored to its original Wolof language; and Mohamed Challouf’s “Tahar Cheriaa: Under the Shadow of the Baobab,” which documents the career of the founder of the Carthage Film Festival, Africa’s first film festival. The festival will include the 1989 documentary short “Parlons Grand-mère,” by the late Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty.

Other highlights include films from a new wave of African directors, including Machérie Ekwa Bahango of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Jeferson De of Brazil. The festival kicks off with a town hall meeting Sunday, May 13, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Amphitheater. Titled Activism & Art: Personal Journeys, it will bring together storytellers of various mediums to discuss how their art informs their activism.

“Falling,” a free digital and interactive art exhibition exploring youth activism in Southern Africa, will run during the FSLC segment at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater. 

Tickets are on sale and are $15, $12 for students and seniors (62 and older) and persons with disabilities and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with a 3+ film discount package. Learn more at filmlinc.org and at www.africanfilmny.org.