Annual African Film Festival celebrates cultural, linguistic diversity

Senay Behre, a vital voice in filmmaking, will discuss his mission to change the way we understand Africa at the 11th Annual African Film Festival that begins Friday, April 1, at Washington University in St. Louis.

Sehre is co-founder of Afripedia, a visual guide to art, film, photography, fashion, design, music and contemporary culture. “Afripedia: Angola,” the first in Afripedia’s acclaimed five-part documentary series, will screen at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 2. The episode will explore the heavy electro music known as kuduro.

Festival founder Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences and senior lecturer in African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences, said the festival and Afripedia share the same goal — to offer an engaging look at the continent’s many cultures and concerns.

“This year’s lineup of award-winning comedy, documentary, drama and animation showcases the cultural and linguistic diversity of the continent,” Toliver-Diallo said.

Gaylyn Studlar, the David May Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and program director in Film & Media Studies in Arts & Sciences, calls the festival a terrific introduction to both Africa’s best filmmakers and the continent’s cultures and concerns.

“Year after year, the films screened in this festival eloquently demonstrate how moving image media can give us important perspectives on Africa, and on the shared concerns of humanity in the 21st century,” Studlar said.

The festival, which will take place in Brown Hall on the Danforth Campus, runs through Sunday, April 3. Other highlights include:

  • “Ayanda,” a charming romance about a 21-year old Afro-hipster who works as a mechanic;
  • “L’Oeil du Cyclone,” a gripping  drama about a young idealistic lawyer assigned to defend a rebel accused of war crimes; and
  • “Sembene,” a documentary about Ousmane Sembene, the pioneering sub-Saharan African filmmaker.
"Legacy of Rubies"
A still from “Legacy of Rubies”.

The festival also includes a youth matinee, which this year will feature two films: “Legacy of Rubies,” winner of an African Movies Academy Award; and “Adama,” an audience favorite and winner at many festivals around the globe. Afterward, families who attend the screening at The Saint Louis Art Museum are invited to make a craft.

Festival campus partners include African & African American Studies and Film & Media Studies, both in Arts & Sciences; the African Students Association; and the Brown School African Students Association.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. will sponsor a reception following Saturday evening’s screening. Funding for the festival has also been provided by the Women’s Society of Washington University and the Missouri Humanities Council with a grant by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

The festival is free and open to the public. For times and a complete list of films and speakers, visit the African Film Festival website.

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