Magou Seck in "Mossane"

Magou Seck in “Mossane”

*Celebrating its silver anniversary, The New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) has returned to The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and will run through May 12.

The 22nd edition of one of the nation’s premier film festivals celebrating African cinema opened with “Cold Harbour” by Carey McKenzie. The Centerpiece film is “Red Leaves” by Bazi Gete, and Closing Night film is “Mossane” by Safi Faye.

Under the banner of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024), the 22nd edition of the festival presents a diverse crop of 15 features and 13 short films from Africa and the Diaspora. The NYAFF continues throughout May at the Cinema at the Maysles Documentary Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek. The festivities take place as the African Film Festival (AFF) celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Isa Cucinotta, Film Society of Lincoln Center Programmer said: “We are thrilled by this year’s selection of films exploring the breadth and depth of the African experience both on the continent and beyond. Through comedy, drama, and documentary, the striving of a people on the move is vibrantly expressed. We are happy to be able to share the dreams and hard work of today’s artists.”

“As we reach our anniversary, it is clear that on many levels we have achieved all we set out to do some 25 years ago in creating a festival to challenge the prevailing narrative about Africa through the cinematic arts,” said AFF Executive Director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti. “As we revisit our mission this year, we see that our community has not only helped bring our masters to the attention of global audiences but that we continue to push to the forefront new voices that celebrate Africa in this important moment in our history.”

The sub-theme “Digital Africa: The Continuum” allows the NYAFF to note the numerous ways in which Africans—especially the youth—are using digital technology and art to connect with cultures around the world and create new visions of Africa and “Africanness.” Films include the small-budget, huge-impact digital film “Love the One You Love” by Jenna Bass as well as the U.S. premiere of a slew of titles on the vibrant arts scene taking place on the Continent.

Dismay on student's face not allowed to take exam because of fees in "National Diploma"

Dismay on student’s face not allowed to take exam because of fees in “National Diploma”

The film “100% Dakar–More Than Art” by Sandra Krampelhuber explores the young artists in the Senegalese capital who have taken on the role of agents of change for their generation. “Afripedia” by Teddy Goitum, Benjamin Taft, and Senay Berhe is a five-part documentary short series that focuses on art in Kenya, Ghana, Angola, Senegal, and South Africa. “The Prophecy” documents two artists (photographer Fabrice Monteiro and designer Jah Gal) merging art with environmentalism through a photographic project taking on Senegal’s environmental destruction. The accompanying free art exhibition “The Prophecy” will run through May 17 at the Amphitheater in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Through the subtheme “Women in the Media,” the festival explores the incredible strides female filmmakers have made over the past decade and a half. Additionally, Shorts Program #2: Women in the Media presents seven insightful and diverse films by women ranging from a retelling of the story of Rosa Parks in Akosua Adoma Owusu’s “Bus Nut” (starring actress MaameYaa Boafo of “An African City” fame) to a young girl’s encounters with Orishas in Brazil in “The Summer of Gods” by Eliciana Nascimento.

Of all the engaging offerings, the most heartfelt is “National Diploma,” that should remind those who receive  free public education, to be more mindful of its benefits. “National Diploma” follows a group of Congolese high school students about to take the state exam in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dieudo Hamadi’s documentary closely follows them as they prepare for the test, from the benches of the school they are regularly ejected from because they haven’t paid the fees the teachers unfairly inflict upon their students, to the communal house where they gather to study, and the chaotic city streets of Kisangani they walk trying to find a living.

Following its opening leg at Film Society of Lincoln Center, NYAFF then heads to Maysles Cinema Institute in Harlem (May 14-17) and concludes over Memorial Day Weekend (May 22-25) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music BAMcinématek as part of its popular dance and music festival DanceAfrica.

For information on all films at the Festival, events, Talks, and tickets, go to www.africanfilmny.org.

Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]