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Film festival sheds light on African Diaspora experience
Photos and Story by James Hill
The longest-running annual volunteer-run African Film Festival in the United States starts up this February.
The 22nd Annual Cascade Festival of African Films raises the curtain on more than 20 films that will be shown from Feb. 3 through March 3 at three locations – Moriarty Auditorium, PCC’s Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.), Hollywood Theatre (4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd.) and McMenamins Kennedy School (5736 N.E. 33rd Ave.).
The festival, which is free and open to the public, shows films ranging from full-length features to documentaries and short films. More than 5,500 people attend the festival annually. Since its inception, the festival has been organized and run entirely by a group of college and community volunteers.
Opening night spotlights reasons for Arab Spring
The film festival’s opening night will feature, “Scheherazade: Tell Me a Story,” (7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 3) at the Hollywood Theatre. Though made two years before the events in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, “Scheherazade” captures the fusion of oppressive politics, repression, and the desire for freedom and creativity that have fueled the Arab Spring. The film will be preceded by a short celebratory performance by the Jefferson Dancers II.
Guest directors show the African Diaspora experience
This year’s visiting directors include two young filmmakers who focus on the lives of Africans newly arrived in the United States. Andrew Dosunmu, a filmmaker, photographer, and creative artist raised in Nigeria, will show his acclaimed first feature film, “Restless City.” This film is set in the volatile world of West African immigrants in New York City and will be shown at noon, Thursday, Feb. 9 and 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10 at the Cascade Campus.
In her film, “Broken Dreams,” (2:20 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, Cascade Campus) Fathia Absie focuses her lens on young Somali-Americans in Minnesota who have disappeared and presumably have gone to Somalia to fight for Al-Qaeda-related groups. Absie is a former Voice of America journalist from Somalia. Presented in partnership with the Somalia American Council of Oregon, the film will be followed by a discussion with the director and members of Portland’s Somali community.
For more on director biographies, visit the Cascade Festival of African Films website.
Documentaries will be shown Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4, and 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18 – all at the Cascade Campus venue. This year’s documentaries reveal a number of topics and issues, including the impact of the growing number of Chinese in Africa, Kinshasa’s Kamanguiste Symphony Orchestra, the lost manuscripts of Timbuktu, new perspective on war trials and the hidden lives of Somalis living in Maine and Minneapolis.
One of last year’s most talked-about international films was the action thriller from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “Viva Riva.” The film is a frank presentation of violence, drugs, corruption, and sex in present-day Kinshasa. It has an underlying story of an outsider fighting for recognition and survival against all odds. It will be shown at noon, Thursday, Feb. 16, Cascade Campus and at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 17, Hollywood Theatre.
Family Film Day
This day (Saturday, Feb. 25) focuses on films that appeal to younger audiences (ages 5 and up). This year, the animated African folk tales to be presented include “Tinga Tinga Tales” at 2 p.m. and “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” at 3 p.m. Storyteller Baba Wagué Diakité of Mali will carry on the tradition of introducing the films with traditional stories from West Africa.
Women Filmmakers Week
The final week of the festival (March 1-3 at the Cascade Campus) coincides with Women’s History Month and features three films by female directors. “I Sing Well” is set in the time of the ancient Mali Empire, blending historical epic and romantic melodrama. “Perfect Picture” is Ghana’s top-grossing film. It is a romantic comedy about three young women struggling together through life, love, and marriage. “War Don Don” explores the Sierra Leonean rebel leader Issa Sesay and his role in the country’s civil war.
Showings are: “I Sing of a Well” at noon, “Perfect Picture” at 1:45 p.m. and “War Don Don” at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 1. “I Sing of a Well” will also be shown at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 2, and “Perfect Picture” at 7:30 p.m., March 3.
Interested in more events during Black History Month? Visit the PCC Library’s website.