New York African Film Festival Returns May 12 in a Hybrid Format

Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) will celebrate the kickoff of the 29th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) at FLC from May 12 to 17. This year’s festival, taking place at the FLC theaters with select virtual screenings, explores a host of themes under the banner Visions of Freedom, presenting diverse and interconnected notions of freedom pertinent to Africa, the diaspora, and the world at large while recalling activism of the past and ushering in new anthems of the future to embrace a united front for liberation and expression.

“The events of the recent past have illuminated how interconnected our worlds are. Through it all and across the globe, the collective vision of freedom has come into sharp focus,” said AFF Executive Director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti. “This year’s festival takes a look at the past, while capturing the present pulse and looking forward to envision a brighter future.”

Opening Night marks the New York premiere of Gessica Généus’s feature directorial debut Freda, framed by the ever-present violence and dangers surrounding a family’s life in Haiti and their longing to escape it. Tanzanian filmmaker Amil Shivji’s Centerpiece selection Tug of War spotlights a rebellious young revolutionary who falls for an Indian-Zanzibari girl escaping an arranged marriage.

Two festival features are U.S. premieres: Charles Castella’s Abderrahmane Sissako, un cinéaste à l’Opéra, chronicling acclaimed director Sissako’s unique task of creating an opera about the history of Africa at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, with music composed by Damon Alban, leader of the bands Blur and Gorillaz; and Ayaanle, directed by Ahmed Farah, which follows a series of unlikely events befalling the title character, who goes from optimistic actor to the most wanted man in Kenya. The festival is also proud to host the U.S. premieres of two short films: Johanna Makabi’s Notre mémoire, featuring Black Girl star Mbissine Thérèse Diop’s reflections on being a Black actress in the 1960s; and Shaka – iNkosi Yamakhosi by Manzini Zungu and Nick Cloete, a profound tale of resilience depicting the coming of age of a great warrior and king, Shaka Zulu.

Other highlights include the New York premiere of Juwaa, Nganji Mutiri’s drama about a mother and son reflecting on the events of a traumatic night many years before; and Aïssa Maïga’s documentary Marcher sur l’eau (Above Water), following the process of convincing an NGO to build a well in a Nigerien village, saving many residents from having to travel several kilometers each day to gather what exists 200 meters below their feet.

“Cinema of Liberation: From Inception and Execution to Exhibition,” a master class by veteran Ethiopian filmmaker, Haile Gerima, on Saturday, May 14, at 11:30am will teach the role of film in propelling forth freedom movements and arming viewers to take up the mantle of change. The event takes place in the Amphitheater at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. 

NYAFF will present a Town Hall at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium on Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m., featuring African and diaspora artists displaying and discussing work that explores the festival’s theme Visions of Freedom. Participants include hair stylist and Hair by Susy founder Susan Oludele; dancer, lawyer, actor and pianist Justin Lynch; Singer, songwriter, and international DJ Nikki Kynard; and actress and director of the Opening Night film, Freda, Gessica Généus.

An interactive digital art exhibition, featuring work by the artist Zainab Aliyu, which celebrates the festival theme will run in the Amphitheater from May 12-17.

Tickets go on sale April 29 at noon ET. In-Theater ticket prices are $15 for the general public; $12 for students, seniors, and persons with disabilities; and $10 for FLC members. See more and save with the $59 All-Access Pass or the $25 Student All-Access Pass. Tickets for the Opening Night Party in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery in the Walter Reade Theater are $200 and can be purchased at starting Friday, April 22.

Virtual Cinema prices are $10 for the general public; $8 for FLC members. See more and save with the 4-Film Bundle for just $20 (approx. 50% savings!).

The festival continues at Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem from May 19 to 22 and culminates at the Brooklyn Academy of Music under the name Film Africa from May 27 to June 2 during Dance Africa.

The programs of AFF are made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Bradley Family Foundation, Domenico Paulon Foundation, NYC & Company, French Cultural Services, Manhattan Portage, Black Hawk Imports, Essentia Water, South African Consulate General, National Film and Video Foundation, Motion Picture Enterprises, and Royal Air Maroc. 

FILMS & DESCRIPTIONSThe Opening Night premiere of Freda 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).

Opening Night
New York Premiere
Gessica Généus, 2021, Haiti/France/Benin, 93m
Haitian Creole, English, and French with English subtitles


Freda lives with her family in a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. They make ends meet thanks to their small street shop. Faced with precarious living conditions and the rise of violence in Haiti, each of them wonders whether to stay or leave, but Freda is determined to believe in the future of her country.
Thursday, May 12 at 6:30pm (Q&A with Gessica Généus)
Monday, May 16th at 4:15pm

Tug of War / Vuta n’kuvute
New York Premiere
Amil Shivji, 2021, Tanzania/South Africa/Germany/Qatar, 92m
English and Swahili with English subtitles

Tug of War

Denge, a young freedom fighter, meets Yasmin, an Indian-Zanzibari woman, in the middle of the night as she is on her way to be married. Passion and revolution ensue in this coming-of-age political love story set in the final years of British colonial Zanzibar.

Preceded by:
Notre mémoire
U.S. Premiere
Johanna Makabi, 2021, France, 12m
French with English subtitles
Mbissine Thérèse Diop played the starring role in Ousmane Sembène’s landmark first feature, 1966’s Black Girl (La Noire de…). Today, she looks back on her experience as a Black actress in the 1960s.
Friday, May 13th at 6:30pm (Q&A with Amil Shivji)
Monday, May 16th at 2:00pm

Abderrahmane Sissako, un cinéaste à l’Opéra
U.S. Premiere

Charles Castella, 2021, France, 55m
French with English subtitles

Abderrahmane Sissako, un cinéaste à l’Opéra

With Le Vol du boli (The Flight of the Boli), filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako takes up an unexpected artistic challenge: to stage, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, an opera based on the history of Africa. English musician Damon Albarn, front man of Blur and the virtual band Gorillaz, composes and conducts the music. The two artists from ostensibly different universes join forces to design a work as powerful as it is engaged.

Preceded by:
Shaka – iNkosi Yamakhosi
U.S. Premiere
Manzini Zungu & Nick Cloete, 2020, South Africa, 15m
Zulu with English subtitles
A meek young boy, Manzini, is attacked by three bullies on his way home from school in an incident that almost costs him his life. Manzini confesses to his Gogo (grandmother) his desire to quit school. In response, she narrates a profound tale of resilience, chronicling the coming of age of a great warrior and King, Shaka Zulu, to inspire her grandson through the strength of his lineage.
Sunday, May 15th at 4:30pm (Q&A with Manzini Zungu, Charles Castella and Baba Sissoko)

U.S. Premiere
Ahmed Farah, 2022, Somalia/Kenya, 90m
English, Somali, English, and Swahili with English subtitles


Ayaanle is a 21-year-old man living in Nairobi who aspires to become an actor and conquer Hollywood. Despite his conservative upbringing and impoverished background, he remains optimistic about making it in the film industry, and hopes to emulate his hero Denzel Washington. His life is turned upside down after a series of unlikely events that lead him to become the most wanted man in Kenya, linked with terrorist activities across East Africa.
Sunday, May 15th at 7:00pm (Q&A with Ahmed Farah)

For Maria Ebun Pataki
Damilola Orimogunje, 2020, Nigeria, 75m
English and Yoruba with English subtitles

For Maria Ebun Pataki

After the complicated birth of her first child, Maria, Derin (Meg Otanwa) becomes withdrawn from family life, unable to engage in the celebrations around her newborn. Her bewildered mother-in-law insists that she is not a good enough parent, while her increasingly worried husband Afolabi (Gabriel Afolayan) watches from the sidelines as she becomes a shadow of herself in this honest but empathetic account of postpartum depression.
Virtual – May 13 – 17, 2022

The Gravedigger’s Wife
Khadar Ayderus Ahmed, 2021, Somalia/France/Germany/Finland, 83m
Somali with English subtitles

The Gravedigger’s Wife

Guled and Nasra are a loving couple, living on the outskirts of Djibouti City with their teenage son, Mahad. However, they are facing difficult times: Nasra urgently needs an expensive surgery to treat a chronic kidney disease. Guled is already working hard as a gravedigger to make ends meet: how can they find the money to save Nasra and keep the family together?
Virtual – May 13 – 17, 2022

Jom, The Story of a People
Ababacar Samb-Makharam, 1982, Senegal/West Germany, 80m
Wolof with English subtitles

Jom, The Story of a People

Senegalese filmmaker Ababacar Samb-Makharam said, “‘Jom’ is a Wolof word which has no equivalent in English or French. ‘Jom’ means courage, dignity, respect… It is the origin of all virtues.” To celebrate the concept, Samb-Makharam uses the griot (oral historian) as the nexus of multiple stories drawing from Senegal’s collective memory. To inspire striking workers, the griot tells of a legendary prince, Dieri Dior Ndella, who sacrificed his life during colonialism, and Koura Thiaw, an entertainer who took up the cause of oppressed domestics in the 1940s, with both becoming heroes to their people.
Tuesday, May 17 at 7:00pm (Q&A with Ghaël Samb Sall)

Juju Stories
Abba T. Makama, Michael Omonua & C. J. Obasi, 2021, Nigeria/France, 84m
English and Pidgin with English subtitles

Juju Stories

Juju Stories explores juju in contemporary Lagos through three stories. In “Love Potion,” by Omonua, an unmarried woman agrees to use juju to find herself an ideal mate. In “Yam,” by Makama, consequences arise when a street urchin picks up seemingly discarded money from the roadside. In “Suffer the Witch,” by Obasi, love and friendship turn into obsession when a young college woman attracts her crush’s interest.
Virtual – May 13 – 17, 2022

New York Premiere
Nganji Mutiri, 2021, Belgium/The Democratic Republic of the Congo, 85m
French and Swahili with English subtitles


Shot in Belgium and the DRC, Juwaa is a subtly powerful drama offering African characters rarely seen on screens. Years after a traumatic night, a son and a mother reconcile and slowly peel away the layers of their complex relationship.
Monday, May 16th at 6:30pm (Q&A with Nganji Mutiri)

Above Water / Marcher sur l’eau
Aïssa Maïga, 2021, Niger/France/Belgium, 89m
French with English subtitles

Above Water

From one end of the globe to the other, water is becoming increasingly scarce. For a billion people, access to safe drinking water is almost nonexistent—a crisis with huge consequences. As a result, millions of families spend their lives trying to get access to this basic necessity. Houlaye, 12 years old, lives in a village in Tatis, Niger, and walks several kilometers every day to fetch water. It is abundant during the rainy season, but in short supply during the dry season. However, a source exists just 200 meters below the ground. When Houlaye’s aunt Suri convinces an NGO to build a well in the village, it brings the promise of renewal for those men and women who, unknowingly, had been walking on water all their lives.
Saturday, May 14th at 3:30pm (Q&A with Aïssa Maïga)

Simply Black / Tout simplement noir
Jean-Pascal Zadi & John Wax, 2020, France, 90m
French with English subtitles

Simply Black

JP, a failed 40-year-old actor, decides to organize the first large-scale Black solidarity march in France. But his often-farcical encounters with influential personalities from the community and the self-serving support he receives from French humorist Fary find him torn between his desire to be in the limelight and his genuine commitment as an activist.
Saturday, May 16th at 8:30pm (Q&A with Jean-Pascal Zadi)
Tuesday, May 17th at 4:00pm

The Sun Rises in The East
Tayo Giwa, 2021, USA, 58m

The Sun Rises in The East

The Sun Rises in The East chronicles the birth, rise, and legacy of The East, a pan-African cultural organization founded in 1969 by teens and young adults in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Led by educator and activist Jitu Weusi, The East embodied Black self-determination, building dozens of institutions, including its own African-centered school, food co-op, newsmagazine, publishing house, record label, restaurant, clothing shop, and bookstore. The organization hosted world-famous jazz musicians and poets at its highly sought-after performance venue, and it served as an epicenter for political contemporaries such as the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and the Congress of Afrikan People, as well as comrades across Africa and the Caribbean. In effect, The East built an independent Black nation in the heart of central Brooklyn. The Sun Rises in The East is the first feature-length documentary to explore The East and its continued influence on the fabric of Black Brooklyn. The film also examines challenges that led to The East’s eventual dissolution, including its gender politics, financial struggles, and government surveillance. Featuring interviews with leaders of The East, historians, and people who grew up in the organization as children, The Sun Rises in The East delivers an exhilarating and compelling vision for today’s movement for racial justice, showing just how much is possible.

Preceded by:
Precious Hair & Beauty
John Ogunmuyiwa, 2021, UK, 11m
New York Premiere

English and Yoruba with English subtitles
John Ogunmuyiwa’s vibrant short is an ode to the mundanity and madness of the high street, told through the window of an African hair salon in London.
Sunday, May 15th at 2:00pm (Q&A with Tayo Giwa)

African Voices in Changing Climates: Post-Production and Social Impact Cinema
Mayors Make Movies, an initiative by Let’s Talk About Water, was created to promote wider engagement and participation in water policy and water science communication through short-film production amongst mayors, youths, and filmmakers in cities across the African continent. This program presents films created through the MMM initiative, and discussions with Linda Lillenfield, creator and director of Let’s Talk About Water; members from the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI): and Alain Gomis, filmmaker and founder of Centre Yennenga in Dakar, Senegal.

Senegal – Keur MassarCentre Yennenga, 2022, Senegal, 5m
Wolof and French with English subtitles
In Keur Massar, Senegal, following annual flooding, residents and community organizers show the effects on their lives and homes of poor infrastructure and the increasing impact of climate change. This short film shows how the residents live with and through the flooding, and explores the causes of and possible solutions to this crisis.

Grand DakarCentre Yennenga, 2022, Senegal, 5m
Wolof and French with English subtitles
Residents of Grand Dakar renting apartments in big, crowded buildings elect to use public water taps for their everyday needs rather than the city’s system. This short film explores the economic reasons behind their decision, and the challenges posed by municipal water pricing to the city’s residents.

The Gambia – Banjul
Mystic Production, 2022, The Gambia, 4m
Pidgin and English with English subtitles
In Banjul, a group of activists and members of the youth council speak about the need for decentralization of water management in the city and the country at large. Mayor Roheyatou Lowe focuses on the importance of women as primary water users, and invites the aid of partners interested in working on water in Banjul.

Morocco – Chefchaouen
Rachid Kasmi, 2022, Morocco, 5m
Arabic and French with English subtitles
In Chefchaouen, Morocco, a group of students learn about water resource management while walking around their city. Mayor Mohamed Sefiani leads us through Chefchaouen’s conservation efforts for its drought-prone region, and explains what could be done to improve water access in the city.

Interview of Secretary-General Elong-Mbassi
Rachid Kasmi, 2022, Morocco, 5m
French with English subtitles
Secretary-General of the United Cities and Local Governments – Africa (UCLG-A), Jean Pierre Elong-Mbassi opens a conversation on the role of African Mayors in leading local climate action and water security. 

Interview of Aziza Akhmouch
OECD, 2022, France, 4m
Aziza Akhmouch describes the role of African mayors in ensuring water security and how film can raise the voices of underrepresented voices in climate change. Akhmouch the Head of the Cities, Urban Policies and Sustainable Development division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and manages the OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers.
Saturday, May 14 at 1:30pm (Q&A with Linda Lilienfeld, members of CUAHSI and Alain Gomis)

Through the New York Lens – Shorts Program
Intimate stories told through the lenses of filmmakers living in New York.

The Couple Next Door
Abbesi Akhamie, 2020, USA, 11m
A single woman’s feelings of loneliness begin to stir when an eccentric African couple moves in next door to her.

‎Masquerade / Egúngún
Olive Nwosu, 2021, Nigeria/UK, 14m
English and Yoruba with English subtitles
Salewa must return home for her mother’s funeral, to Lagos, a place where she once had to hide herself. At the funeral, she runs into an important person from her past, and is forced to go in search of her own peace. Egúngún (Masquerade) is a meditation on home, memory, and identity—on the many versions of ourselves that haunt us.

Tisa Chigaga, 2022, USA, 8m
World Premiere
English and Bemba with English subtitlesAn older undocumented migrant is summarily dismissed from her housekeeping position. Cast into desperate uncertainty, she roams the city in despair. 

Afro AlgorithmsAnatola Araba, 2022, USA, 14mThis 3D-animated short film in the Afrofuturist genre explores topics of AI and bias. In a distant future, an artificial-intelligence entity named Aero is inaugurated as the world’s first AI leader. However, she soon finds that important worldviews are missing from her database, including the stories of the historically marginalized and oppressed. A slate of well-known Black performers lend their voices to the film, including Robin Quivers, Ava Raiin, and Hoji Fortuna.

A Lisbon Affair
Hoji Fortuna, 2021, Portugal/Croatia, 14m
World Premiere
Portuguese with English subtitles
Waldo and Shey are in love. Waldo, who lives in Berlin, travels to Lisbon to meet Shey. Their encounter will test the emotional strength of their bond and expose uncertainties about their Afro-Portuguese cultural and historical identities.

What is Mine Cannot Be Lost / Nkemefuna
Kaelo Iyizoba, 2021, USA, 15m
New York PremiereNkemefuna follows Nkem and Ike, a pair of Nigerian-American siblings still dealing with the death of their father, who perished in the Twin Towers. Nkem left home after his death; upon her return years later, her presence precipitates unresolved issues with her brother, leading to a public confrontation. As the siblings struggle to work through their issues, a looming threat crystallizes.

Menes De Griot: Baba Mpho Shanto, Keeper of the Kulture
AnAkA, 2022, USA, 12m
World Premiere
This short film is the beginning of a larger project documenting Baba Mpho Shanto, AKA Menes De Griot. A culture keeper of our time, Baba Mpho is actively preserving African traditions in the global community. Having grown up a member of the Komfa Spiritual Church in Guayana, Menes De Griot is continuing the works of his lineage by performing ceremonies for marriages, elders, births, and more. A phenomenal drummer, Kwe Kwe (pre-nuptial ritual) specialist, herbalist, and natural lifestyle consultant, Baba Mpho was initiated into the Ifa tradition by Chief Solagbade Popoola in Trinidad and Tobago. He has been playing drums for almost 60 years (professionally for more than 45 years), and he continues to perform ceremonies in Brooklyn and elsewhere. He is truly a force to be reckoned with.
Friday, May 13th at 8:30pm (Q&A with Olive Nwosu, Tisa Chigaga, Kaelo Iyizoba, Anatola Araba, Ellie Foumbi and Baboucarr Camara)

Mzansi Shorts
Reflections on history, memory, and personal narratives in South Africa.

A Dream Deciphered / Ukuhlolwa Kwephupha
Hlumela Matika, 2022, South Africa, 6m
U.S. Premiere
A woman asleep begins to dream. It is a dream that distorts her perception of time and space in relation to her mundane daily tasks—an illusion that evokes a surreal experience of the self.

The Ant / Mier
Oliver North, 2021, South Africa, 26m
U.S. Premiere
English and Afrikaans with English subtitles
Oliver North’s Mier covers two days in the lives of Oupa, a San hunter/gatherer who lives in the desert, and Boetie, a ‘colored’ boy from a nearby settlement to which his people were relocated. Boetie is struggling with his own inner demons when he meets the older man, who shares his traditional values with the stubborn and proud youngster. Over the course of the story, we find out that they are hunting on this land illegally and that they have more in common than either would suspect.

Mother of Moeketsi / Mma Moeketsi
Reabetswe Moeti, 2018, South Africa, 25m
New York Premiere
Sotho with English subtitles
Based on true events, this film recounts a 2012 massacre in which a group of South African mine workers went on a wage-increase strike, leading to a national tragedy in which 34 miners were brutally killed by the police.

Intelligent / Botlhale
Reabetswe Moeti, 2022, South Africa, 35m
U.S. Premiere
Botlhale, who’s mentally ill, makes new friends and finds love when he’s institutionalized. The comrades plan an escape to Chicken Heart, a fast-food joint, where they’ll live out their fantasies of being high-society people. But their outing collides with the shutting down of their home, forcing the friends to confront tragedy and death head-on.
Saturday, May 14 at 6:00pm (Q&A with Hlumela Matika, Reabetswe Moeti, and Oliver North)

Freedom Songs – Shorts Program
A program of shorts evoking the sounds of liberation, self-expression, and love.

Athi Petela, 2021, South Africa, 24m
English, isiZulu, and isiXhosa with English subtitles
Ayanda’s double life comes crashing down around her when a surprise visit from her mom upsets the carefully built closet she hides in. Torn between traditional family expectations and career aspirations, Ayanda tears her relationship apart. But somewhere in the heart of it all, acceptance is found.

Two or More
Ifeyinwa Arinze, 2021, USA, 9m
Wrestling with the loss of her mother, a young girl questions her faith when she is asked to pray for her grandmother’s healing.

A Birthday Party
Victoria Adeola Thomas, 2021, UK, 12m
The close relationship between twin sisters is shattered irrevocably when one insists on upholding tradition through the circumcision of her daughter.

The K-Z
Enricka MH, 2019, France, 14m
French with English subtitles
“The K-Z” is the slang term for a leisure activity that the young boxer Moussa views with suspicion. But a friend advises him to give it a try in order to attract the attention of the beautiful Sanaa.

Born Again
Candice Onyeama, 2020, UK, 11m
English and Igbo with English subtitles
A magical-realist film set in London, Born Again follows Nwa, a British-Nigerian woman tormented by her inability to have children. However, a transformative baptism leads her on a journey of healing and rebirth.
Virtual – May 13 – 17, 2022

Master Class with Haile Gerima
A master class led by renowned Ethiopian filmmaker, Haile Gerima, will take place on Saturday, May 14 at 11:30am in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Amphitheater. The class, titled “Cinema of Liberation: From Inception and Execution to Exhibition,” will center on the content, form, and aesthetics of liberation cinema, empowering one’s particular narrative logic and the construction of audiences for partnership in liberation.
Saturday, May, 14 at 11:30am