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Afro-Mexican history highlights 16th annual African film festival
Photos and Story by James Hill
One of the largest African film festivals on the West Coast is exploring uncharted territory.
This year, the 16th Annual Portland Community College Cascade Festival of African Films, featuring 28 films from the African continent and attracting more than 4,200 film-goers, will spotlight films exploring the untapped subject of the African legacy in Mexico. The film festival runs from Feb. 3 through March 4 and is organized entirely by volunteers and is free and open to the public.
At 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, Mexican film director Rafael Rebollar Corona will present and discuss his film, "The Forgotten Root," which focuses on the rarely noted history of the African presence in Mexico. Corona’s Afro-Mexican trilogy, "The Forgotten Root," "From Florida to Coahuila," and his work-in-progress "Incursions into the Hills," will be shown at the symposium on the African legacy in Mexico and community conversation from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11.
In the afternoon the director and other experts in the field will speak on the Afro-Mexican identity, followed by a community conversation with local activists and audience members. Both events will be held in the new Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building auditorium (Room 104) at the Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth St.
"In fact, each of these communities is itself a complex mix, and, as these films reveal, there is a great deal of unacknowledged overlap between them," said Michael Dembrow, film festival committee co-chair. "With the help of director Rafael Rebollar Corona and other experts, the symposium will explore the history of this overlap and then the community conversation will allow us to bring the subject home to Portland."
Corona, born in Mexico City in 1949, received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and went on to post-graduate work in cinematographic realization at UNAM’s University Center of Cinematographic Studies. The documentaries stem from a research proposal by Corona to produce a television "Afromexico" trilogy on the historical role of African descendents in the formation of Mexican identity.
Until recently and with rare exceptions, few historians and scholars studied or discussed the cultural contributions Africa descendents made to Mexico. To this day the deep cultural and economic impact that Africans had in Mexico is neither accepted nor acknowledged in the official history of Mexico. Corona set out to document this history through his trilogy.
"Yesterday," directed by Darrell Roodt, will be another of the 28 films shown at the 16th Cascade Festival of African Films. The first South African film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, "Yesterday" will be shown at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd. Other film festival features include the acclaimed Angolan film, "The Hero/O Heroi" directed by Z