Cascade Festival of African Films lifts curtain on 23rd year
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College’s 23rd Cascade Festival of African Films is set to bring 22 films and three filmmakers to Portland in February.
The longest-running annual African film festival in the United States runs from Feb. 1 through March 2 at two North Portland locations – the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building Auditorium, Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.), and the Hollywood Theatre (4122 NE Sandy Blvd.). The festival, which is free and open to the public, shows films ranging from full-length features to documentaries and short films. More than 5,000 people attend the festival annually. Each evening screening is followed by a discussion led by individuals with expert knowledge of the region shown in that evening’s film.
This year begins with African Diaspora films focused on the Caribbean.
“With recent releases of so many fresh and exciting Afro-Caribbean Diaspora films, we seized the opportunity to program films like ‘Toussaint Louverture,’ ‘Le Mozart Noir a Cuba,’ ‘Le Mozart Noir,’ and ‘Elza,’” said film festival coordinator Tara Foster. “We are excited to open the 23rd season with this significant Diaspora focus.”
This year’s Cascade Festival of African Films is dedicated to the memory of Harold Williams, Sr., who passed away last summer. Williams, Sr., was a long-time member of PCC’s Board of Directors since 1990 and respected community leader.
“Harold was a dedicated champion of PCC’s Cascade Campus and believed strongly in the festival’s mission of connecting members of Portland’s African-American community with their African heritage,” said Michael Dembrow, one of the festival’s founders and current State Representative for North Portland. “We will miss him deeply.”
Film Festival Highlights:
The Cascade Festival of African Films opens with “Toussaint Louverture” at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1, in the Hollywood Theatre. The film’s director, Philippe Niang, will be on hand to share his film, which is based on the accounts of Louverture’s personal life, military genius, and how he led the slave rebellion that sparked the Haitian Revolution. The Jefferson Dancers will perform prior to the screening.
The final week of the festival is Women’s Filmmakers Week to coincide with Women’s History Month and features films from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mali, Kenya and Ghana. At 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28, Penda Diakité will present her documentary, “Tanti and The Neighborhood Kids: Winter Vacation,” which highlights the everyday life of five-year-old Tanti Belo and friends in a suburb of Bamako, Mali. The film will be shown at PCC’s Cascade Campus.
On March 2, director Eliaichi Kimaro visits the Moriarty Auditorium for a special matinee of her film, “A Lot Like You,” at 2 p.m. This self-reflective documentary shows the director on her personal journey in search of her African roots, the part of her complex multiracial identity that she barely knows, but which she learns to love.
Another popular attraction is Family Film Day on Saturday, Feb. 23, which focuses on adventure films that appeal to younger audiences (ages 5 and up). Screenings include “Mwansa the Great,” a short narrative about an eight-year-old Zambian boy on an adventure with his young friends, and “Zarafa,” a feature-length animated film about Zarafa, the first giraffe to travel to France and has adventures along the way. Family Film Day starts at 2 p.m. in the Moriarty Arts & Humanities Building Auditorium, Cascade Campus.
Other highlights include the festival’s centerpiece film “Microphone,” which is a love letter to the vibrant underground arts scene in Alexandria (noon, Thursday, Feb. 14 at Cascade Campus and 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15 at the Hollywood Theatre). A special matinee of “The Black Mozart in Cuba” and “Le Mozart Noir,” which both focus on the life and music of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, will be shown at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Cascade Campus venue.
Publicity stills from this year’s film collection