​10th annual African Film Festival showcases innovative filmmakers, powerful stories

Filmmaker Ekwa Msangi will discuss her movie 'Soko Sonko' 

“Timbuktu,” the Mauritanian masterpiece about Islamist extremists and the community that dares to defy them, will headline the 10th annual African Film Festival at Washington University in St. Louis.

Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, “Timbuktu” was nominated for the best foreign-language Oscar in 2015 and has been praised as “lyrical and visually arresting” by The New Yorker and “breathtakingly beautiful” by The New York Times.

“Timbuktu” will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 28, with “Beleh,” a short film from Cameroon about a pregnant wife and her irascible husband who wake up one morning to find they have switched bodies.

Festival organizer Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, said the festival takes a nuanced look at Africa’s changing societies and highlights its most innovative filmmakers.

“Not only did we want multiple countries represented to showcase the diversity of the African continent, but it was equally important to showcase the variety of styles employed in contemporary storytelling,” said Toliver-Diallo.

The festival is free and opens Friday, March 27, with “Soko Sonko,” a heartwarming short from Kenya about a father who must take his daughter to get her hair braided, and “Veve,” a political thriller from Kenya. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

African Film Festival

When: March 27-29

Where: Brown Hall, Room 100, Washington University in St. Louis

How much: Free

More info: wupa.wustl.edu/africanfilm

“Soko Sonko” filmmaker Ekwa Msangi will introduce and lead a post-show discussion about her film. Msangi said she hopes the movie offers American audiences a different view of her country.

“Historically, East Africa has been represented on film only as the place where people go to ‘find’ themselves amongst the savannah grasslands, wild animals and exotic Maasai,” said Msangi. “In my film, I’m able to share a slice of what my East Africa looks like — a place where people get up each morning and try to do better than they did the day before, and their stories and decisions don’t necessarily pivot around those of the foreigners who live there. The stories are sometimes tragic, but not always. Oftentimes they carry great humor and a lot of love.”

Ekwa Msangi will speak about her film “Soko Sonko.”

The festival’s Youth Matinee will be presented at 1 p.m. Saturday and features three films from South Africa: “The Case of the Disappearing Daddy,” a charming animated short about a little girl whose father has gone missing at bath time; “KanyeKanye,” a love story set in a town divided by preference for red or green apples; and “Khumba,”a computer-generated adventure about a zebra trying to earn his stripes.

Campus partners include the African and African-American Studies and the Film and Media Studies programs, both in Arts & Sciences; the African Students Association; and the Brown School African Students Association. The Women’s Society of Washington University and the Missouri Arts Council provided funding for the festival.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. will sponsor a reception following Saturday evening’s screening.

For a complete listing of titles and showtimes, visit the African Film Festival website.