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PCC raises curtain on 21st African film festival
Story by James Hill.
Portland Community College’s 21st Cascade Festival of African Films, organized by dedicated volunteers, is bringing an acclaimed director to Portland Community College in the month of February.
The festival honors Black History Month and is held Thursdays through Saturdays from Feb. 4 through March 5. It will open with the visit of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, who will show his latest award-winning film, “A Screaming Man,” at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, Feb. 4. The director hails from Chad and lives in France. “A Screaming Man” won the prestigious Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 and Haroun’s previous films have been festival favorites over the years. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the director and learn about his artistic process, his vision and the cultural foundation of his work.
Every year, the Cascade Festival of African Films attracts more and more visitors to its nearly two-dozen film showings. Last year, a record 5,500 people attended the festival and, since its inception in 1991, more than 54,000 film enthusiasts have attended films. The festival is offered to the public free of charge and at convenient locations that include: PCC’s Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.), The Hollywood Theatre (4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd.) and McMenamins Kennedy School (5736 N.E. 33rd Ave.).
“The purpose of the festival is to educate people about Africa through films by Africans and to build community by bringing people together to view African films and discuss issues of significance,” said native South African Mary Holmström, a co-founder and organizer of the film festival. “The festival has become a well-established Portland community event with a growing audience each year. It includes African expatriates looking for community, African Americans drawn to African issues, students from local colleges and high schools, academics, retirees, returning Peace Corps volunteers who are seeking ways to share their knowledge and experiences with other Americans, and community members with an interest in diversity and cross-cultural experiences.”
In addition to Haroun’s visit, PCC will welcome directors Cambria Matlow and Demetrius Wren to the festival to present their documentaries. Matlow will show her film, “Burning in the Sun,” on Thursday, Feb 17. It documents a young man’s journey to improve the lives of those in his homeland, in Mali, by building solar panels. Wren will present his documentary, “Streetball,” on Thursday, Feb. 24. “Streetball” is a documentary about soccer’s Homeless World Cup, following the South African homeless team through selection, training and competitions in 2008 and 2009.
The Cascade Festival of African Films has expanded from an initial four-film program to an annual offering of 20 to 25 feature and documentary films. Popular festival events include the Opening Night Gala, the Thursday Evening Documentary Series, Family Film Day and Women Filmmakers Week. An important offshoot of the festival is the African Film Collection in the Portland Community College Library, where all of the videos and DVDs purchased by the festival are housed. It is one of the largest collections of African films in the Pacific Northwest and is accessible to students, faculty and the public.
Plus, the popular Family Film Day will highlight the film, “White Lion,” directed by Michael Swan from South Africa. It features a rare white lion’s struggle to survive alone on the African plains, and a young boy’s determination to protect him at all costs. Baba Wagué Diakité of Mali, artist and author, will serve as host and storyteller. And, on the last weekend, Women Filmmakers Week showcases films from Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Mali.