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African film festival raises curtains and awareness
Photos and Story by James Hill
The 17th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films will welcome acclaimed Ghanaian film director Kwaw P. Ansah to Portland to help celebrate African films and Ghana’s 50th anniversary of its independence.
The film festival, held in honor of both Black History and Women’s History months at PCC’s Cascade Campus, will run from Feb. 2 through March 3. The festival, attracting more than 4,000 attendees annually, offers five weeks of films from the African continent and the African diaspora. Since its inception in 1991, the festival has been organized and run by volunteers, and offered to the public free of charge.
“This year’s films cover a wide range of themes and topics, including the quest for freedom and justice, the clash between tradition and modernity, love across class lines, the importance of preserving Africa’s artistic and cultural heritage, the exploration of identity, culture, and sexuality, and women’s ongoing, inspiring struggle for equality and independence,” said Mary Holmstrom, co-director of the film festival.
The festival will open with the award-winning South African film, “Tsotsi,” directed by Gavin Hood, on Friday, Feb. 2 at McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Avenue. There will be two screenings at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. “Tsotsi,” the first South African film to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, is a story of hope and the triumph of love over rage and violence.
A special festival highlight will be the celebration of Ghana’s 50th anniversary of its independence with the renowned Ghanaian film director Kwaw P. Ansah on Feb. 3. Ansah will show several of his recent films as well as two of his classics, “Love Brewed in the African Pot,” one of Africa’s best loved comedies, and his highly praised documentary, “Crossroads of People, Crossroads of Trade.”
The spotlight will also be on the African-American director Thomas Allen Harris and his film, “Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela: A Son’s Tribute to Unsung Heroes,” on Feb. 15. “Twelve Disciples” honors Harris’ stepfather, Benjamin “Lee” Pule Leinaeng, and 11 of Lee’s boyhood friends who were among the first wave of anti-Apartheid exiles from South Africa in the 1960s. Harris’s earlier film, “That’s My Face/É Minha Cara,” set in Brazil, will be shown at Portland State University on Feb. 16.
Kirikou, Africa’s bravest and littlest hero, returns to Family Film Day in the delightful animated film, “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts,” a sequel to the highly popular “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” on Saturday, Feb. 17 at McMenamins Kennedy School Theatre. Local Malian artist and storyteller Baba Wagué Diakité will host the event.
Women Filmmakers Week will be celebrated from March 1 through March 3 with four outstanding films by African women.
“We are very pleased to present a variety of feature and documentary films from the African continent,” said Michael Dembrow, co-director. “The majority of films were made by African directors. They show us pictures of Africa through the eyes of Africans, rather than a vision of Africa that is packaged primarily for western viewers. The films represent African concerns that are political, historical, and social.”
The Cascade Festival of African Films is made possible through support from Portland Community College, Portland State University Black Studies, Washington State University in Vancouver, Wash., Willamette University, Oregon Council for the Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Columbia River Peace Corps Association, Providence Health System, Gerding Edlen Development Company, Albina Community Bank, Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, McMenamins Kennedy School, Hollywood Theatre, and KBOO Community Radio.
For complete information about the festival and descriptions of the films, please visit the festival website, or phone 503-244-6111, extension 3630, for a brochure.