The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is delighted to again present the touring program of the annual New York African Film Festival, which will be screened from Friday, January 27 through Friday, February 7 along with selected favorite films from other international festivals. The African Film Festival offers dramas and documentaries that demonstrate the vibrant talents of contemporary African filmmakers, and offer Bay Area audiences fresh insights into Africa's changing cultural landscape.
Programs will take place at the PFA Theater, which is located at 2575 Bancroft Way near Bowditch Street, on the southern edge of the University of California campus in Berkeley. General admission is $8 for one film, and $12 for double bills. Tickets are available at the door, or in advance during daytime business hours at the Berkeley Art Museum admission desk, 2626 Bancroft Way, evenings at the PFA Theater Box Office, or by telephoning (510) 642-5249.
Among many highlights in this year's festival are The Hero, a touching drama about a wounded war veteran and a fatherless boy. This film won the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Also in the festival are the Senegalese film Niwam, based on a novel by the influential author and director Ousmane Sembene; and Sisters in Law, a new film about justice for women and children in a small town courtroom in Cameroon. Sisters in Law was made by Kim Longinotto (The Day I will Never Forget, Divorce Iranian Style) and Florence Ayisi, and was the only documentary selected for the Directors' Fortnight at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Longinotto will be the subject of a retrospective film series at PFA later this spring. The Golden Ball is a joyful tale-suitable for families-about a young Guinean boy's passion for soccer. Dôlé incorporates Franco-African hip-hop into a vivid portrait of a young man interactions with gangs in Libreville, Gabon. Delwende, from Burkina Faso, is a fictional film about one of that country's actual problems: women being accused of practicing witchcraft.
Program notes for the films follow. For more ticket or program information, please phone (510) 642-1412, or visit bampfa.berkeley.edu .
African Film Festival
PFA presents new and classic films from the touring program of the annual New York African Film Festival along with favorites from other international festivals, offering Bay Area audiences an opportunity to gain insight into Africa's changing cultural and social landscape. Many of the directors featured here are concerned with rebuilding their countries and transforming their societies, as expressed in films that trace the legacy of colonialism or civil war, explore women's attempts to change traditional culture, or document staggering economic challenges. But even beyond urgent social concerns, this series is a chance to experience the vibrant voices and visions of recent cinema from across the African continent, including Angola, Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea, and Niger as well as countries with more established film traditions such as Senegal and Burkina Faso. As Stuart Klawans wrote in The Nation, African productions "are few in number, but they can be extraordinarily good-beautifully clear and poised in style [and] complex in tone (by turns funny, angry, argumentative, and hopeful)."
The African Film Festival Traveling Series has been organized by African Film Festival, Inc. This series has been made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. We wish to thank Mahen Bonetti, director, and Aba Taylor, program administrator, AFF, Inc.
We are grateful to UC Berkeley's Department of African American Studies and Center for African Studies for their generous support in making this series possible.
Prints from African Film Festival, unless otherwise indicated.
FRIDAY JANUARY 27
7:00, 8:50 Delwende
S. Pierre Yaméogo (Burkina Faso/France/Switzerland, 2005)
True-life "witch villages," where outcast women are forced to hide after being expelled from their homes, form the basis of this feminist cry against superstition and injustice, comparable in content and focused righteousness to the acclaimed Moolaadé. Based on a true story, Delwende follows a daughter's effort to obtain justice for her mother, accused of witchcraft after a meningitis outbreak kills several young children. Chased out of town, the mother seeks refuge in a shelter for women similarly accused; but few have a secret as dark as the one she hides. "A fine example of issue-based African cinema" (Variety), Delwende gains further strength from its documentary-like glimpses into modern life in Burkina Faso; in fact, the film was inspired by the director's earlier television news report on the "witch shelter" phenomenon.
• Written by Yaméogo. Photographed by Jürg Hassler. With Blandine Yaméogo, Claire Ilkboudo, Célestin Zongo, Daniel Kabore. (90 mins, In More and French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From New Yorker)
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 2
5:30 Al'lèèssi . . . An African Actress
Rahmatou Keïta (Niger/France, 2004)
Free First Thursday Screening!
Tickets available at the PFA Theater starting at 4:30
Introduced by Lisa Marie Rollins
Lisa Marie Rollins is a Ph.D. candidate in the African Diaspora Program in UC Berkeley's Department of African American Studies.
(Al'lèèssi . . . Une Actrice africaine). When Zalika Souley appeared in her first film at the age of eighteen, she became part of a new film industry in Niger. Defying expectation and custom to embark on a career that hadn't existed in her country, she was the first professional African actress. A fiercely independent woman in Islamic Niger, Souley endured a terrible reputation based on a career playing the bad girl in a country where some hadn't learned to differentiate between cinema and reality. Rahmatou Keïta's warm and revelatory visit with Souley illuminates both her career and the history of African cinema. Through film clips and relaxed interviews with pioneering directors and actors, Keïta traces the history of the industry, uncovering wonderful behind-the-scenes stories, from the giddy early days, when African film was inventing itself as it went along, through the realities of politics, economics, and the current state of the art.-Rachel Rosen, L.A. Film Festival
• Written by Keïta. Photographed by Philippe Radoux-Bazzini. (69 mins, In Songhoy, Hausa, Zarma, and French with English subtitles, Color/B&W, Beta SP, From Women Make Movies)
Gap Inc. is proud to support FIRST IMPRESSIONS: FREE FIRST THURSDAYS AT BAM/PFA.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3
7:00 Sisters in Law
Kim Longinotto, Florence Ayisi (U.K./Cameroon, 2005)
Kim Longinotto (The Day I Will Never Forget, Divorce Iranian Style), working with codirector Florence Ayisi, brings a typically perceptive and compassionate eye to this study of the legal system in Cameroon. Centered around the courthouse in the small southwestern town of Kumba, the film focuses on two women who dispense wit and wisdom in equal measure as they go about their daily business of seeking justice for the women and children who turn to them for help. (Some of the funniest scenes in the film catch the defendants' quaking dread at being called up in front of this formidable duo.) While the details of the cases included in the documentary are often shocking-an abused child; a wife trying to divorce her violent husband; a young woman daring to accuse a man of rape-the film's positive, uplifting approach leaves little doubt that, in the right hands, the law can be a potent force for social change.-Sandra Hebron, London Film Festival
• Written by Longinotto, Ayisi. Photographed by Longinotto. (104 mins, In Hausa with English subtitles and English, Color, 35mm, From Women Make Movies)
9:05 The Colonial Misunderstanding
Jean-Marie Teno (Cameroon/Germany/France, 2004)
Introduced by LaToya Beck
LaToya Beck is a Ph.D. student in the African Diaspora Studies Program in UC Berkeley's Department of African American Studies.
(Le Malentendu colonial). The line connecting religious zeal and colonial conquest is drawn with unerring sharpness in this exposé of the German missionary experience in Africa by Jean-Marie Teno, who was an artist in residence at PFA last year. Teno's investigation moves from the German town of Wuppertal, home of many nineteenth-century missionaries, to Namibia, visiting archives, churches, and historical sites and uncovering the truths, myths, and forgotten stories of Europe's missionary-turned-colonial activities in Africa. He uncovers the breaking point where missionaries of God became ambassadors of Country, and where souls to be saved became workers to be exploited. The Colonial Misunderstanding offers far more pointed and unsettling revelations: the 1904 use of German missionaries to lead trusting Herero tribesmen into concentration camps (the first documented use of the phrase), or the fact that the church's leader in Namibia later became a strident Nazi, and from there one of the leaders of apartheid.-Jason Sanders
• Written by Teno. Photographed by Dieter Stürmer, Teno. (78 mins, In English, French, and German with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 4
4:00 The Golden Ball
Cheick Doukouré (Guinea/France, 1994)
(Le Ballon d'or). The joy and madness of soccer, African style, provides the backbone of this appealing tale for all ages from the football-mad nation of Guinea. Listening to the exploits of World Cup star Roger Milla on the radio, little Bandian shows off his own soccer moves to his village buddies, but the lack of a real ball and the presence of his angry father hold his precocious talent in check. Traveling to the big city of Conakry, Bandian finally has a chance to let his skills shine; there, he encounters a coach (soccer star Salif Keita) anxious to develop talent "for the good of Africa," and a pragmatic businessman who "sells fish, videotapes, and soccer players." A Horatio Alger story with a soccer ball and a drum-powered soundtrack, The Golden Ball is remarkable for its vérité glimpses of Guinean life, such as the slums where Bandian takes refuge, or the electrical tower where hundreds of fans climb for one glimpse of a soccer game.-Jason Sanders
• Written by Doukoure, David Carayan. Photographed by Alain Choquart. With Aboubacar Sidiki Sumah, Agnès Soral, Habib Hammoud, Salif Keita. (90 mins, In Malinké and French with English subtitles, Color, Beta SP)
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 10
7:00 The Hero
Zézé Gamboa (Angola/Portugal/France, 2004)
Introduced by Cornelius Moore
Cornelius Moore is director of the Library of African Cinema, California Newsreel's African film distribution project.
(O herói). The southern African nation of Angola is only recently emerging from a combined forty years of anticolonial and civil war. The Hero intertwines postwar stories of characters from different strata of Angolan society who-like their country-are trying to reconstruct their lives. First-time director Zézé Gamboa compassionately presents the stories of grief, loss, resilience, and hope that are so much a part of the global South. The hero of the title is Vitório (Oumar Makéna Diop), an unemployed and homeless war veteran, awaiting a prosthetic leg to replace the one he lost after stepping on a land mine. In another part of town is the young, streetwise Manu (Milton Coelho), whose father is MIA from the war. By chance, Vitório meets two women who transform his life, one of them Manu's teacher. Gamboa is a unique and acclaimed new voice-The Hero won the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.-Cornelius Moore, S.F. International Film Festival
Written by Carla Baptista. Photographed by Mario Masini. With Oumar Makéna Diop, Milton Coelho, Patrícia Bull, Neusa Borges. (97 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From California Newsreel)
9:15 New Voices from Africa
Prizefighters in 1960s Belgian Congo, the middle-class in modern-day Nigeria, urban refugees in Guinea, and villagers in Burkina Faso: these shorts may span the African continent for inspiration, but all are connected by their focus on the power of economics. African Middleweights (Africains poids moyens) (Daniel Cattier, Zimbabwe/Belgium, 2004, 18 mins, In Lingala and French with English subtitles) uses the boxing arena as metaphor for racial and colonial struggle, as a Congolese boxer must decide between participating in a fixed match against a Belgian fighter or standing up for his pride, and his nation. In Something Else (Nkan mii) (Seke Somolu, Nigeria, 2004, 16 mins, In English and Yoruba with English subtitles), a middle-class man in Lagos finds himself looking downwards towards economic oblivion, while the teens of Be Kunko (Everybody's Problem) (Cheick Fantamady Camara, Guinea, 2004, 30 mins, In Creole, French, and Malinké with English subtitles), stuck in an urban refugee camp and moving from robbery to prostitution, are only looking for a way up. Finally, the young girl of Safi (Safi, la petite mère) (Rasò Ganemtoré, Burkina Faso, 2004, 30 mins, In French with English subtitles) flees from her village to a large city, anxious to find a new life for herself and her infant brother.
• (Total running time: 94 mins, Color, Beta SP, 35mm)
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 17
Imunga Ivanga (Gabon/France, 2001)
(a.k.a. Dollar, Money). "A kind of 400 Blows in Gabon" (California Newsreel), Dôlé combines the French-inspired aesthetic of African art cinema with the street-level commercial flair of Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, or John Singleton in its look at a young boy coming of age in Gabon's colorful port city of Libreville. The quick-witted, doe-eyed Mougler could be a disaffected teenager anywhere, given to reading Raptronic Magazine, flirting with girls, and practicing his gangsta poses (and petty thievery) with friends. Mougler, however, is a teenager in Gabon, a place where options are few, and most hopes are circling around the new lottery game dôlé; the question for his gang is whether to play it, or rob its cashbox. Populist African filmmaking at its finest, Dôlé enlivens its universal coming-of-age-in-a-criminal-world theme with a strong Franco-African hip-hop soundtrack and the camerawork of Dominique Fausset, who captures the specific ambience of the teeming streets and desolate waterways of Libreville.-Jason Sanders
• Written by Ivanga. Photographed by Dominique Fausset. With David N'Guema-N'Koghe, Emile Mepango, Roland Nkeyi, Evrard Elle. (92 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)
Clarence Delgado (Senegal, 1992)
Introduced by Alassane Paap Sow
Alassane Paap Sow teaches Wolof at UC Berkeley.
Based on a novel by Ousmane Sembene, this Senegalese fable expertly uses its deceptively simple story-a husband and wife embark on a journey to cure their dying infant child-to expose the ills of a nation. Seeking aid for their baby, the fisherman Thierno and his wife travel from their small village to the capital of Dakar, hoping to find a doctor but instead becoming trapped in a quicksand of government bureaucracy and urban indifference. Navigating (or trying to) among the poor and the moneyed, the rude and the kind, Thierno must endure a bus ride to his final, even more distressing destination. Director Delgado worked with Sembene as an assistant, and with Niiwam he comes into his own, adding his own distinct touches and directorial flair to the master's pointed critiques of modern Senegal.
• Written by Fidèle Dieme, Delgado, Yves Badara Diagne, from a novel by Ousmane Sembene. Photographed by Guy Chanel. With Samba Wane, Rama Thiam, Abou Carara, Ablaye Dio Dany. (80 mins, In Wolof with English subtitles, B&W, Beta SP)