Inaugural festival celebrates African films

November 19, 2018

2:42 am, Oct 25, 2018

Staff Reporter

The Council on African Studies will screen movies that honor the diverse cultural histories of Africa and challenge perceptions of the continent at its inaugural Yale Africa Film Festival this weekend.

In partnership with Yale African Graduate and Professional Students and the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale, the Council will host five film screenings in locations across New Haven. The film screenings will be accompanied by question-and-answer sessions and panel discussions with film directors on Oct. 26 and 27. Attendees can also purchase tickets for an Afrobeats/Dancehall/Soca after party to celebrate the festival with the filmmakers, panelists and planning team. Yale students will have free admission to all film screenings and panels.

“I truly believe it’s necessary to use spaces like this institution to bring in the voices of artists on and off the continent who through their work are imagining and reimagining various identities and concepts,” said Joan Agoh ’21, a member of the festival’s planning team, which was led by Lolade Siyonbola GRD ’19. “These films add, in their own specific ways, to the various streams of representation which celebrate nuance and explore the heterogeneity of Africanity.”

“Any time we can celebrate black art is a beautiful moment,” Agoh added.

On Oct. 12, the planning team announced the festival’s three featured films: “Mma Moeketsi” by South African filmmaker Rea Moeti, “Kasala” by Nigerian filmmaker Ema Edosio and “Bigger than Africa” by Toyin Adekeye. All three filmmakers will offer question-and-answer sessions following the screenings. Other films on the agenda are “Ephasini Lamabhudango” by Ndumiso Sibanda and “Awani,” a documentary by Aderonke Adeola.

According to Agoh, the planning committee made selections from 57 film submissions and sought films that captured “the complexities of African philosophies, identities, histories and relationships.” The committee also prioritized selecting films that captured the Africa that members of the Yale African Graduate and Professional Students know rather than choosing films that promote narratives that could serve to reinforce stereotypes.

In “Kasala,” a group of friends turn to Lagos street hustlers to learn how to make quick cash after crashing an uncle’s car. “Mma Moeketsi” is a film that follows a mother waiting for her son’s phone call in the wake of the Marikana Platinum Mine wage strike of August 2012. The film juxtaposes the mother’s need to continue functioning physically as a housekeeper in suburbia with the emotional strain she experiences.

“Bigger than Africa” and “Awani” are both documentaries. The former follows the explosion of the Yoruba traditional religion in the Americas and the latter investigates the history of the patriarchy in Nigeria. The final film, “Ephasini Lamabhudango,” is a short in which South African media personality Tsholofelo Maseko spends a day in Johannesburg dressed in traditional Ndebele wear. The Council on African Studies website describes Maseko as “graceful, stunningly beautiful and incredibly powerful as she reclaims her agency from the colonial legacy of her country’s occupiers.”

“I’m super excited for a room full of scholars and professionals to see ‘Ephasini Lamabhudango,’” said Siyonbola. “It’s a provocative and risky film, but if you really watch it closely, it’s mind-blowing, especially in the context of a South Africa that is still trying to reclaim and refashion its precolonial identity.”

The panel discussion on Oct. 27 will feature all three film directors, Mahen Bonetti and Lande Yoosuf. Bonetti is the founder and executive director of the African Film Festival in New York City, and Yoosuf is a writer and director at One Scribe Media and a co-founder of Black Film Space, a grassroots organization committed to building a community of filmmakers from the African Diaspora.

Kelly Osasenaga ’22, a member of the festival’s planning team who helped book the panelists, said that the members of the panel will discuss “how African filmmaking is impacting narratives and promoting dignified images of Africans, how filmmaking can be used as a tool to raise awareness about different issues and opportunities in African film industries and how [the panelists] can see these different industries changing and growing.”

All free reservations available on Eventbrite are sold out, but members of the festival’s planning team expect that students and community members seeking to participate in the festival’s events will be accomodated.

Rianna Turner | rianna.turner@yale.edu .

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