2013 Statement

Under the banner “Looking Back, Looking Forward: 20 Years of the New York African Film Festival,”our 2013 edition is dedicated to commemorating half a century of African cinema and two decades of work introducing American audiences to the best of this cinema.

This year, NYAFF is paying homage to Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, the ‘father ofAfrican cinema,’ and to the first generation of African filmmakers, while passing the baton to a new group of storytellers who continue to challenge our understanding of the Continent. This two-month multi-venue event will present a unique selection of classic and contemporary African films, running the gamut from features, shorts, and documentaries, to experimental films and archival footage, not to mention a wealth of supplementary educational programs. Filmmakers will also attend screenings and Q&A sessions. We are also proud to be launching a publication in honor of these talented directors. As always, we give the artists the floor, believing that they are the best spokespersons for their craft.

For our tribute to Ousmane Sembène, we have chosen two jewels: Borom Sarret, the first African short, and Guelwaar, one of the most trenchant comic portraits of contemporary Africa to date. Two award-winning movies from Abderrahmane Sissako will bridge the gap between first-generation African filmmakers and their younger counterparts. Life on Earth, a poetic letter to the filmmaker’s father at the turn of the millennium, will be shown along withOctober, an Afro-Russian love story in black and white touching on central themes of the African in exile as nostalgia and displacement.

With this year’s contemporaries we travel through a broad range of countries, styles, and themes. We cross the waters of the Atlantic to meet the dreams of freedom spread by the CaribbeanDiaspora in Philippe Niang’s Toussaint Louverture, and embark afterwards on a road trip through the continent in the Senegalese bus in Moussa Touré’s TGV. Lonesome Solo’s noir Burn It Up Djassa, tragicomedy Nairobi Half Life by David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga, and Faouzi Bensaïdi’s Death for Sale, show a new urban generation aiming to write their own future.

Women’s presence in African cinema has exploded and this year we are showing some of their most vital contributions. Virgin Margarida is a tale of female solidarity and struggle by veteran filmmaker Licinio Azevedo’s. Patricia Benoit’s Stones in the Sun deals with the traumas of memory of Haitian refugees in the US. Chinonye Chukwu’s autobiographical Alaskaland opens a window onto the conflicts of a young Alaska-raised Nigerian struggling with his cultural heritage.

Documentary forms a significant proportion of the program: Osvalde Lewat and Hugo Berkeley’s Land Rush reflects on the economic and political forces behind international agricultural investments in Mali. From the tandem of Claudia Palazzi and Clio Sozzani we have Jeans & Marto, a story of education fighting against the burdens of tradition and obstructionism in Ethiopia. Christine Delorme’s interview with this year’s dedicatee, Ousmane Sembène Tout à la fois, offers a sensitive testament to the charismatic filmmaker, and Cosima Spender’s Dolce Vita Africana is a journey into Mali’s recent history through a portrait of one of Africa’s most famous photographers: Malick Sidibé.

The 20th New York African Film Festival was organized by Robert Koehler, Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center, and Mahen Bonetti, Founder and Executive Director, African Film Festival, Inc. with Jessica Sederquist, Micah Trippe, Hellura Lyle, and Muriel Placet-Kouassi.

Thanks are due to the AFF Board of Directors and Jane Aiello, Joan Baffour, Luca Bonetti, Francoise Bouffault, Rumbi Bwerinofa, Herve Deswattenne, Aminata Diop, Mamadou Diouf, Gabriele Donati, Jacki Fischer, Sean Jacobs, Beatriz Leal, Lilli Maier, Alexander Markov, Belynda M’Baye, Ngozi Odita, Prerana Reddy, Mohammed Sillah, Alonzo Speight, Cheryl Duncan & Company Inc. Public Relations, Kojo Associates and AFF’s volunteer team.