Black Positive People : African Diaspora Film Festival Kicks Off

Discussion in 'Black People Doing Positive Things' started by FaithSoulSistah, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. FaithSoulSistah

    FaithSoulSistah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/23/movies/23dias.html

    A Universe of Black Film

    By FELICIA R. LEE
    Published: November 23, 2007

    The African Diaspora Film Festival has grown each year since its genesis in a kitchen-table conversation between a couple of film fanatics frustrated by the shallow pool of black films in New York. Starting today the 15th edition of the festival will offer something for just about anyone interested in the global black experience: 102 films from 43 countries in a 17-day feast of documentaries, comedies, musicals, dramas and romances.

    Reinaldo Barroso-Spech and Diarah N’Daw-Spech, the married couple behind the mom-and-pop venture, had also been casting about for “something important” they could do together, Ms. N’Daw-Spech recalled recently. After coming to New York from Paris in the 1980s and “not being able to see the same breadth and depth of films we saw in Paris, we figured there was a niche, a need,” she said. The couple, who are Columbia University graduates, chatted with a reporter in a lounge at Teachers College in between last-minute festival preparations.

    “The festival has been our kid,” added Ms. N’Daw-Spech, whose day job is as a financial director at a Teachers College center. “The kid is an adolescent now. When we started out, we had no experience, no connections. We knew nobody. We got some film festival catalogs and started calling people.”

    That first festival in 1993 featured 24 films at the Cinema Village in Greenwich Village and attracted about 1,500 people over one week. This year the couple (who also distribute some of the festival films on DVD and video) expect some 7,000 people from tonight through Dec. 9 at six locations throughout the city. The films come from countries including the United States, Jamaica, Haiti, Portugal, Angola, Germany and Britain.

    Forty-five films will receive some sort of premiere at the festival: 23 are being shown for the first time in New York and 22 for the first time in this country. Along with the screenings are panel discussions on themes like “African leaders” and “slavery in cinema,” question-and-answer sessions with the filmmakers and even some parties.

    The New York premieres include John Sayles’s new film, “Honeydripper,” the tale of a rural Alabama lounge owner’s efforts to save his business, starring Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Stacy Keach and Mary Steenburgen. “El Cimarrón” by the Puerto Rican director Iván Dariel Ortiz tells a story of love and slavery in Puerto Rico in the 19th century. “Youssou N’Dour: Return to Goree,” directed by Pierre Yves-Borgeaud, is a documentary about a jazz concert on the island of Goree in Senegal featuring Mr. N’Dour, the renowned Senegalese singer, to commemorate all the Africans stolen from there and brought to the New World as slaves.

    The opening night features the United States premiere of “A Winter Tale,” directed by Frances-Anne Solomon (a Trinidadian working in Canada), a drama about a group of six black men in Toronto who form a support group in the aftermath of the accidental shooting of a 10-year-old boy.

    Like many of the filmmakers Dr. Barroso-Spech and Ms. N’Daw-Spech come from places where different cultures flowed together.

    Dr. Barroso-Spech was born in Cuba of Haitian and Jamaican descent and received his doctorate from Columbia, where he teaches a course on using film in language education. His mother began taking him to films when he was a child in Havana, he recalled. “With the Castro revolution many Africans came to Cuba and with the Africans, film,” he said. “Those films were very important in my formative years. It created in me an understanding of the value of art and culture as a way to uplift me — and not just me, but a whole population.”

    Ms. N’Daw-Spech is of French and Malian heritage. Together, the two now comb film festivals around the world for black images that speak about both common human experiences and the particulars of race.

    They would not disclose the festival’s budget, but they get support from sources that include the New York State Council on the Arts and Teachers College. Ms. N’Daw-Spech, who earned her M.B.A. from Columbia, does the administrative work; her husband does the programming. They have one assistant and hire temporary help for the festival. For the last several years highlights from the festival have been shown at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They also take some of the films to Chicago, Jersey City, Washington and Curaçao for smaller versions of the festival.

    Warrington Hudlin, president of the Black Filmmaker Foundation, estimated that there are more than 20 black film festivals in the United States, exposing audiences of all backgrounds to films they would otherwise miss. The African Diaspora Film Festival, he said, is one of the most important and is distinctive in including so many films from outside this country.

    “Cinema of color is still marginalized,” Mr. Hudlin said. “These films are our refuge. They have a critical importance in our community as reliable venues for access to the artistic evolution in black cinema.”

    As the number of small art houses continues to shrink, it has become even harder to find independent, smaller black films, Ms. N’Daw-Spech said.

    “We want to keep doing everything we’re doing, but at a larger scale,” she said. “The best part is that we know that audiences share what we feel.”
     
  2. FaithSoulSistah

    FaithSoulSistah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    http://www.blackenterprise.com/cms/exclusivesopen.aspx?id=3858

    The Global Black Experience
    by George Alexander

    November 29, 2007--Claiming to be the first festival to showcase the global black experience, the 15th annual African Diaspora Film Festival (ADFF) opened in New York last week. Launching the festival was the U.S. premiere of the Canadian film A Winter Tale. With more than 100 films from more than 40 countries around the world—its largest festival ever— this year’s event will run through Dec. 9 at several venues in Manhattan including Anthology Film Archives, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Clearview Cinema, and Columbia University.

    Some of the highlights of this year's festival include director John Sayles's film Honeydripper starring Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, LisaGay Hamilton and Keb 'Mo; the documentary Josephine Baker: A Black Diva in a White Man's World, on the life of the iconic entertainer; and Youssou N'Dour: Return to Goree, about the famed Senegalese singer's commemorative concert to celebrate the musical contributions of Africans transported to America during the slave trade.

    What makes ADFF so special is not only the sheer volume of the films screened, but also the rich subject matter of the product. Cinema lovers can see people of African descent in every aspect of human life from those rebelling against tribal traditions in Burkina Faso to child soldiers in Sierra Leone to politicos in Haiti. It is a refreshing experience given the oftentimes provincial depictions of blacks in Hollywood movies. "The main goal has been to enrich the cultural scenario of New York. There is also an educational component to the festival,” says Reinaldo Barroso-Spech, who founded the festival with his wife Diarah N’Daw-Spech on the belief that "education is power."

    But in spite of noble pursuits, it's no myth that the movie business can be rough. Getting to a multiplex near you and securing distribution is the most challenging aspect of any film's life. And foreign language films, like other smaller independent films, have met huge hurdles in recent years in the U.S. marketplace as big budget, celebrity-driven Hollywood movies and studio produced yet smaller films have largely dominated the landscape. "I have the impression that many of the films we have in our film festival are not the types of films people are looking for in the film industry [for distribution]," says Barroso-Spech. "It is not only the language, but sometimes the subject matter or the territories covered in the film whether that’s Africa, the Caribbean or blacks living in Europe," he says.

    Nevertheless, ADFF has found avid film enthusiasts at its screenings over the years to the tune of 100,000 attendees since inception, according to its Website. “Our biggest surprise with the festival over the years is the fact that though it's called the African Diaspora Film Festival, very quickly we saw that the audience was very diverse,” says Barroso-Spech. "They are from all walks of life."

    And, as globalization and the rapid growth of broadband Internet access coupled with the streaming and downloading of entertainment content becomes ever more wide spread, some of these powerful stories of hope and the will of the human spirit will perhaps one day find their way to more movie audiences hungry for something original and alternative to typical movie fare. And that prospect seems likely. The success of the upstart cable venture The Africa Channel, which saw its penetration recently hit 10 million homes in the U.S. and in the U.K., though English-language, strongly suggests that there is an American and European audience primed for programming about black people who live far away from Main Street, USA or Buckingham Palace.

    Further, it may also be argued that the behemoth Nigerian movie industry, known as Nollywood, could be a sign of the potentiality films about people of African descent have in the global marketplace. Nigeria’s film business is now reportedly the third largest in the world behind India and the U.S., pumping $250 million annually into the Nigerian economy with more than 1,000 film productions per year. And while the films are largely by and for Africans, the mere size of the industry alone, along with the explosion of technology around the world, could serve to build broader audience appeal.

    Yet the future commercial viability of Pan African cinema is not known. For now, film festivals such as ADFF will remain the chief places to showcase not only the contributions of people of African descent to cinema, but to also present a more panoramic representation of black people from around the world. And in our ever changing global society, this makes such venues far more valuable than just dollars and cents.

    For more information on ADFF visit www.nyadff.org.
     
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