Film at Lincoln Center and the African Film Festival, Inc. are gearing up to kick off the 30th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) from May 10 to 16. Launched in 1993, the festival was one of the first of its kind in the United States and reflects on the myriad ways African and diaspora storytellers have used the moving image to tell stories with their own nuances and idiosyncrasies.
With a theme of Freeforms, the 2023 festival presents more than 30 films from more than 15 countries that invite audiences to explore the infinite realms of African and diaspora storytelling and embrace its visionary, probing, and fearless spirit.
The festival opens with the New York premiere of Moussa Sène Absa’s “Xalé,” the third film in his trilogy focused on women. The Centerpiece selection is the U.S. premiere of “Hyperlink,” comprised of four short films directed by South African filmmakers Mzonke Maloney, Nolitha Mkulisi, Julie Nxadi, and Evan Wigdorowitz, and reflecting on the seductive, and at times treacherous, illusory reality of the internet.
Four festival features will also be U.S. premieres: Fatou Cissé’s “A Daughter’s Tribute to Her Father: Souleymane Cissé,” an intimate portrayal of the life and career of Cissé, one of Africa’s most celebrated filmmakers; Ottis Ba Mamadou’s “Dent Pour Dent,” a comedic drama placing the unemployed Idrissa in the position of being entirely dependent on his wife after budgetary restrictions imposed by the IMF and seeking revenge; Katy Léna N’diaye’s “Money, Freedom, a Story of CFA Franc,” a revealing account of why a currency holdover resulting from French colonialism is still in use to this day; and Ery Claver’s “Our Lady of the Chinese Shop,” a delicate urban tale that reveals a family and city full of resentment, greed, and torment in Luanda, Angola, in part due to a peculiar, holy plastic figure of Our Lady.
Other highlights from the slate include the New York premiere of “Know Your Place,” Zia Mohajerjasbi’s slice-of-life drama set in present-day Seattle when an errand undertaken by Robel, a 15-year old Eritrean American, transforms into an odyssey across the rapidly gentrifying city; and Cissé’s “Den Muso,” an exploration of repercussions of a mute girl’s assault that shines a light on the societal and economic challenges facing women in urban Mali during the 1970s.
The festival also features free talks, including a masterclass by acclaimed Senegalese filmmaker Sène Absa on the impact of migration on familial and community bonds, with particular attention to the perspectives of the mothers of migrants; the Safi Faye Memorial Talk: Women of African Cinema, a conversation that brings together contemporary African directors and curators to reflect on Faye’s legacy in the wake of the pioneering filmmaker’s death in February, and what her work means for feminist African cinema today; and “In Conversation with Souleymane Cissé,” a special keynote talk with the Malian director about his career and legacy.
The Opening Night premiere of “Xalé”—the story of Awa, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, and her twin brother Adama as they navigate the complexities of family and love in Moussa Sène—will take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th Street). All other films will screen at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 W. 65th Street).NYAFF’s events will take place at the Africa Center and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, where tickets are available through www.africanfilmny.org.