There is an African proverb that says “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” Amen! New York should get ready for a mighty earthquake as the African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) prepares to celebrate Women’s History Month. This celebration is being called “a modest homage” to women who, behind the camera, have told stories seldom told with the intention of changing or correcting a male-defined narrative that is so often incomplete. Their work is a revolutionary endeavor that goes against many taboos that have silenced women’s voices for centuries. Haiti, Guadeloupe, Chad, Senegal, the UK, US, Tunisia, are the countries of origin of these women filmmakers whose work is a song to the imagination and creativity of women.
“Attract what you expect, reflect what you desire, become what you respect [and] mirror what you admire”—African proverb, author unknown.
Highlighting the program is the presentation of “The Green Book: Guide to Freedom” by Yoruba Richen, the real story of the Green Book, the guide that changed how Black people traveled in the Jim Crow-era United States. There will be a discussion with director Yoruba Richen after the screening on Saturday, March 30, at 7:40 p.m.
Celebrating African-American artists is the program Black Divas: Josephine Baker & Mary Lou Williams. “Josephine Baker: Black Diva in a White Man’s World” by Annette von Wangenhei celebrates the artist, the woman and the activist and “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band” is about the leading musical innovator determined to create in a world that only saw her race or gender. There will be a discussion with Carol Bash, director of the Mary Lou Williams documentary after the screening of both films on Sunday, March 31, at 4 p.m.
Other artists celebrated in the program are Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) who was born in Guadeloupe of a Senegalese enslaved woman and a French nobleman and who became one of the most remarkable figures of the 18th century as outlined in the documentary “Black Mozart in Cuba” by Stephanie and Steve James. “Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me” by Olivia Lichtenstein is an entertaining and moving musical documentary that explores the rise of Teddy Pendergrass, the first male African-American artist to record five consecutive platinum albums against the backdrop of 1960s America, and his comeback after a life-changing accident.
African women are telling powerful stories behind the camera. BAFTA-awarding winning director Rungano Nyoni’s debut film, “I Am Not a Witch,” set in modern-day Zambia, is the satirical, provocative, and enchanting African tale of a young girl accused of being a witch.
Seeking refuge from her Islamist radical brother whom she informed on, a young woman arrives in France illegally following Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and discovers a new world of both hope and danger, in “Foreign Body” the fourth feature film by Tunisian writer-director Raja Amari (“Buried Secrets”). Told through the prism of love, relationships, dating and marriage, “No Shade” by Clare Anyiam-Osigwe provides a raw perspective on the issue of colorism and the program African Women Directors features the work of African women filmmakers Zara M. Yacoub & Khady Sylla who address issues of abuse and mutilation of children and women in Africa in their films “Feminine Dilemma” and “The Silent Monologue.”
ADIFF Women’s History Month Program will open March 29 with a free screening of ‘Looking for Life” by Haitian filmmaker Claudette Coulanges, a documentary about resourcefulness in the face of poverty and globalization, which introduces the viewer to two women, Anne-Rose and Rosemene, who each have their own particular way of battling through life.
ADIFF Women’s History Month Program will be at Teachers College, Columbia University – 525 W 120th St. Tickets are $11 and $13. Weekend Pass is $50.
For more info, visit www.NYADIFF.org.