African Film Festival takes on science fiction, immigration and personal responsibility

Sixth annual film festival March 25-27

A Cannes Film Festival-winning science fiction film from Kenya is one of the highlights of the sixth annual African Film Festival Friday, March 25, through Sunday, March 27, at Washington University in St. Louis.

This year’s eight films, all of which will be shown in Brown Hall, Room 100, focus on themes of immigration and personal responsibility, says Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, PhD, assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences and senior lecturer in African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences.

“In each film, the focus is on using your inner strength to reach your goals versus taking the easy route.” Toliver-Diallo says.

A winner of the Cannes Best Short Film Award last year, the science fiction movie Pumzi (Air) from director Wanuri Kahiu is particularly exciting, she says, because it pushes notions of experimental African film.

A still from the movie Pumzi (Air).

Set in East Africa 35 years after World War III, the picture tells the story of a world with toxic soil and no water and the curator of a natural history museum who decides to plant a seed despite orders not to do so.

“This film received rave reviews internationally,” Toliver-Diallo says. “Kahiu’s film From a Whisper was an audience favorite last year.”

This year’s festival also features a youth matinee at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 26, featuring Africa’s first animated feature-length movie and the world’s first “Junkamation” film, Legend of the Sky Kingdom.

All of the characters in the movie were made using junk, and the Saint Louis Art Museum will provide children in the audience with a take-home craft project using recyclables.

The collection also excels at dispelling outdated ideas about Africa as well as showing the similarities in the human condition among American and African cultures while also highlighting ethnic differences.

“It comes down to strong moral character and personal decisions,” Toliver-Diallo says.

Beside acquiring hard-to-get animated movies, Toliver-Diallo is particularly excited to screen John Kani’s Nothing But the Truth, starring Kani and based on the award-winning play of the same name. The movie is marked by strong performances, she says.

“It is fascinating because he tells the untold story of tensions between two brothers in post-apartheid South Africa.

“One chooses self-exile because of the dangers during apartheid, and one stays,” Toliver-Diallo says. “When freedom comes, many do return but we never think about the unspoken uneasiness between those who stayed and fought the battle and those who returned and reaped the benefits of the struggle.”

The movies, which were culled from other festivals and the African Film Festival National Traveling Series, are suitable for all ages except for Apres L’Ocean. If rated, it would be PG-13.

After Saturday’s viewing of Apres L’Ocean, there will be a reception including Nigerian appetizers sponsored by the St. Louis Metropolitan Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

The festival is sponsored by the African & African American Studies Program, the African Students Association, the Program in Film & Media Studies, and funded in part by a grant from the Washington University Women’s Society.

All of the showings are free and open to the public. Complete listings are available at

For more information, contact Toliver-Diallo at (314) 935-7879 or e-mail