The 2015 Chicago African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) taking place from June 12-18, will showcase 17 documentary and fiction films set in The United States, Angola, Cuba, Brazil, Canada, Haiti, St Vincent, New Zealand, the UK, Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Argentina, Uruguay, and Honduras.
The festival will open with the US Premiere of Black (NWA) (pictured above), a fiction film that chronicles the lives of four people living in a neighborhood plagued by poverty and violence, aspiring to freedom and happiness. “This gritty look at gang culture in Montreal North is incredibly timely in that central to the drama are the tense relations between the police and the black community. This has become a hot-button issue in recent months following a number of controversial high-profile cases of police officers in the U.S. shooting unarmed black men.” – Montreal Gazette. Lead actor Remy St Eloi will be in attendance for a discussion after the screening.
Several films in this year’s ADIFF had their premiere in major international film festivals. Based on a novel by “Whale Rider” writer Witi Ihimaera, White Lies – New Zealand’s entry in the 2014 Oscar competition for best foreign-language film and Toronto International Film Festival official selection – is an intense drama that explores with great humanity and sensitivity such difficult topics as race relations, bleaching and abortion.
First presented at the Montreal World Film Festival is the Chicago Premiere of the impressive epic drama based on a true story, Njinga Queen of Angolaabout a 17th century Queen who fought for freedom against Portuguese colonialism.
Screened at the Toronto and Venice film festival in 2000 is the epic drama Adanggaman, a provocative retelling of the African slave experience, based on facts. ADIFF will also bring back The Pirogue (Cannes Film Festival, 2012), a powerful immigration drama about a group of African men and one woman who leave Senegal for Europe on a fishing boat at the risk of their lives. The pirogue by Moussa Toure is part of the Great African Films collection, a DVD series that celebrates great African filmmakers. The Pirogue can be found in Great African Films Vol. 4 with the work of Khady Sylla, a renowned Senegalese filmmaker.
The strong African retention in New World cultures as expressed through music, dance, and religious traditions is celebrated in four documentaries screening in ADIFF 2015. The program Candomble & Santeria with the screening of Oggun: an Eternal Presence & Summer of Gods explores African based religions. Tango Negro: The African Roots of Tango moves in and out of Uruguay and Argentina as it illustrates the ever present African component in Tango, Candombe, Milongon and other African based musical styles found in the Rio de la Plata region. In Candombe, musician Fernado Nunez sees himself as the heir to “candombe,” a dance and musical expression initiated by his enslaved ancestors.
For its CENTERPIECE, the festival will present the GARIFUNA CELEBRATION program with two documentaries: Revolutionary Medicine: A Story of the First Garifuna Hospital and Homeland (Yurumein) both about the Garifuna people in Honduras and St. Vincent respectively. The screenings will be followed by a discussion with local members of the Garifuna community.
Also premiering in the festival this year are Obama Mama, a documentary about Stanley Ann Dunham, mother of the nation’s first black president,Reshipment, a documentary by Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando about the historical connection between Cubans and Haitians, and the U.S. premiere of Ken Bugul – Nobody Wants Her, a powerful documentary who leads us into the secret world of an assertive African woman artist and writer and her brave fight for freedom and acceptance.
ADIFF CHICAGO 2015 FILM SYNOPSIS
THE SUMMER OF THE GODS
The Summer of the Gods revolves around Lili, a six year old Afro-Brazilian who unites with her native religious ancestry on a summer visit to her family’s rural village. Soon after arriving in Northeast Brazil, where Afro-Brazilian religious traditions still endure, Lili encounters Orishas. As these African deities help her cope with a gift that has previously vexed her, Lili’s grandmother upholds Afro-Brazilian religious practices as a revered local priestess. To ensure that these customs carry on after her grandmother passes, the gifted Lili is led on a mystic and supernatural adventure of initiation. Directed by Eliciana Nascimento, 2014, Brazil/USA, Drama, 21mins, Portuguese with English subtitles.
OGGUN: AN ETERNAL PRESENCE
Gloria Rolando relates the patakin or mythical story of Oggun, the tireless warrior who, enamored of his mother, decided as punishment to imprison himself in the mountains. Only Ochun, goddess of love, succeeded in captivating him when she let fall a few drops of honey on the lips of the god of metal, war, progress, and civilization. Oggun is the first effort of the team known as Images of the Caribbean, now chartered as an independent video group. Directed by Gloria Rolando, 1992, Cuba, Documentary, Spanish, 52 min, Spanish, English subtitles.
BLACK / NWA
BLACK chronicles the lives of four people living in a neighborhood plagued by poverty and violence, aspiring to freedom and happiness. KADHAFI, a 26 year-old aspiring Algerian rapper and ex-member of a street gang, just out of prison, wants to steer clear of troubles. FLEUR, a 17 year-old Haitian mother in an abusive and passionate relationship with her daughter’s father, dreams of leaving the ghetto and becoming a nurse. SUZIE, a 20-year-old white stripper who falls for a gang member. DICKENS, 16 year-old Haitian wants to be part of the street gang controlled by his older brother. Directed by Yves Christian Fournier, 2015, Canada, Drama, 110 min, French/Creole with English subt
A group of African men and one woman leave Senegal in a pirogue captained by a local fisherman to undertake the treacherous crossing of the Atlantic to Spain where they believe better lives and prospects are waiting for them.Directed by Moussa Touré, 2012, Senegal/France/Germany, 86 min, French, Wolof, Spanish, English subt.
Stanley Ann Dunham was an anthropologist with a Ph.D, a lifelong traveler and the mother of the first Black president of the United States. Her intelligence, progressive politics, and activism made for a profound life—one whose inspiration continues to resonate through her son, President Barack Obama. The “largeness of her heart,” as her son describes it, is the centerpiece of this inspiring documentary. Directed by Vivian Norris, 2014, 83 min, United States/Poland/France, Documentary, English.
RESHIPMENT / RE-EMBARQUE
The voices of prominent historians join the memories of Haitians and their descendants in Cuba to understand a chapter of the complex economic and social history of the Caribbean: the presence in the Island of Cuba of thousands of West Indian laborers, especially from Haiti. For many, it was a great bargain of cheap labor. For others, the realization of the dream of every immigrant: make money and return home. Reshipment demonstrates that despite the discrimination suffered by the Haitians since this period, the Creole language, religious and other musical and dance traditions remain in the cultural landscape of Cuba. The film also recalls the Haitian generation who garnered years of stay in Cuba and were victims of a “reshipment” as if they were damaged goods–a forced repatriation to Haiti when they were no longer needed in the sugar cane fields or coffee plantations. As the life of Haitians in Cuba has moved between dreams and setbacks, this film is not only a fitting reminder of the often forgotten chapter in Cuban history but a tribute to the unsung Haitian heroes who wove an important passage between two Caribbean nations. Directed by Gloria Rolando, 2014, Cuba/Haiti, Documentary, 58 min, Spanish, English subt
NJINGA, QUEEN OF ANGOLA
In the 17th century, a warrior woman fights for the independence of Angola. After witnessing the murder of her son and watching her people being humiliated by Portuguese colonizers, Njinga will become a Queen and struggle for the liberation of her people embodying the motto: those who stay fight to win. This epic drama is based on the real life story of Queen Anna Njinga(c. 1583 –1663), also known as Ana de Sousa Njinga Mbande, queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in Angola. Directed by Sergio Graciano, 2013, 109 min, Angola, Biography, Portuguese with English subt.
WHITE LIKE THE MOON
A Mexican-American girl struggles to keep her identity when her mother forces her to bleach her skin. White Like the Moon is a revealing film about a dilemma not very well known outside Latino communities; that of the myth of the light skin superiority in Indigenous and Indigenous descendant communities.Directed by Marina Gonzalez Palmier, 2001, 23mins, USA, Drama in English
Based on a novel by “Whale Rider” writer Witi Ihimaera, White Lies – New Zealand’s entry in the 2014 Oscar competition for best foreign-language film – is an intense drama that explores with great humanity and sensitivity such difficult topics as race relations, bleaching and abortion. Paraiti is the healer and midwife of her rural, tribal people – she believes in life. But new laws in force are prohibiting unlicensed healers, making the practice of much Maori medicine illegal. She gets approached by Maraea, the servant of a wealthy woman, Rebecca, who seeks her knowledge and assistance in order to hide a secret which could destroy Rebecca’s position in European settler society. This compelling story tackles moral dilemmas, exploring the nature of identity, societal attitudes to the roles of women and the tension between Western and traditional Maori medicine. Directed by Dana Rotberg, 2014, New Zealand, 96mins, Drama, English and Maori with English subt.
REVOLUTIONARY MEDICINE: A STORY OF THE FIRST GARIFUNA HOSPITAL
The inspiring documentary tells the story of how the hospital’s alternative health model is transforming communities on Honduras’ Northern Coast and standing as an alternative to an increasingly privatized national health system. Could a remote hospital that runs on solar panels, in a community with no paved roads or electricity provide a new global model for health care? Directed by Jesse Freeston & Beth Geglia, 2013, 41 min, Honduras/Canada/ United States, Documentary in Spanish with English subt.
This is the untold history of the indigenous Carabis/Garifuna of St. Vincent: their near extermination and exile by the British 200 years ago and their return to reconnect with those left behind. A powerful, untold story of Caribbean renaissance, rupture and repair in post-colonial St. Vincent. Directed by Andrea E. Leland, 2014, 50 min, St. Vincent/Garifuna, documentary, English.
Jarreth Merz, a Swiss-Nigerian actor living in Los Angeles, is summoned to Nigeria to bury his father. Nigerian tradition mandates the eldest child to take charge of a father’s burial. Although he accepts the responsibility, he struggles with why he feels morally responsible toward Nigerian tradition and a family whom he hardly knows. Jarreth starts a journey of self-discovery. Directed by Kevin Merz , 2008, 75 min, St. Nigeria/Switzerland, documentary, English and German with English subtitles.
THE STORY OF LOVERS ROCK
Lovers Rock, often dubbed ‘romantic reggae’ is a uniquely black British sound that developed in the late 70s and 80s against a backdrop of riots, racial tension and sound systems. Live performance, comedy sketches, dance, interviews and archive shed light on the music and the generation that embraced it. Lovers Rock allowed young people to experience intimacy and healing through dance- known as ‘scrubbing’- at parties and clubs. This dance provided a coping mechanism for what was happening on the streets. Lovers Rock developed into a successful sound with national UK hits and was influential to British bands (Police, Culture Club, UB40). Menelik Shabazz, 2011, 96mins, UK, musical documentary, English
KEN BUGUL – NOBODY WANTS HER
An expressive aesthetic as rhapsodic as the written words of Bugul herself, Ken Bugul: Nobody Wants Her is a filmic ode to the brilliance of this revered Senegalese writer. Determined to set her own path in life, Ken Bugul (born Mariètou Mbaye Biléoma) left Senegal and spent 20 years living in Europe, only to feel an even deeper loneliness and alienation. She belonged neither here nor there. Encountering crushing rejection upon her return to Senegal, at her most destitute and desperate, Bugul sought refuge in her writing. Her debut novel, The Abandoned Baobab, already captured Bugul’s unique idiosyncratic style and cemented her position as a novelist. Painting a mosaic picture of Bugul’s life and times, this powerful documentary leads us into the secret world of an assertive African woman artist and her brave fight for freedom and acceptance. Silvia Voser, 2013, 62mins, French/Swiss documentary, French with English subtitles.
More than two hundred years ago, there was an influx of slaves from Africa into Uruguay. Long after their empancipation, these individuals continued to comprise the poorest and most marginalized strata in society. Musician Fernado Nunez sees himself as the heir to “candombe,” a dance and musical expression initiated these individuals, his slave ancestors. As the far-reaching, socio-cultural legacy of of candombe has yet to be acknowledged, Fernando Nunez and his friends from the back street quarter of Montevideo have taken on the responsibility of keeping these important cultural roots alive in the consciousness of the Uruguayan people. Directed by Rafael Deugenio, 1993, Uruguay, Documentary, 16 min, Spanish w/ English subt.
TANGO NEGRO: THE AFRICAN ROOTS OF TANGO
Tango Negro explores the expression of African-ness inherent in the dance of the “tango” and the contribution of African cultures to the dance’s creation. Angolan director, Dom Pedro, details the dance’s early cultural significance as a depiction of the social life of captured African slaves and provides an expansive compilation of musical performances and interviews from tango enthusiasts and historians alike. Tango Negro provides a novel insight into the depth of tango’s sub-Saharan African musical influence, a presence that has crossed oceans and endured the tides of forced bondage. Directed by Dom Pedro, 2013, France, Documentary, 93 min, French, Spanish, English subt.
Set in the late 17th century, on the Western coast of Africa, “Adanggaman” is an epic fiction film about a rebellious young man, who refuses to marry his parents’ choice of a bride, flees his village one evening, only to return to find his father and girlfriend slain, his village destroyed and his mother captured by a tribe of Amazon warriors. His efforts to free his mother lead to the kingdom of Adanggaman, where captives are held before sale. Roger Gnoan M’Bala, 2000, 90mins, Ivorian, Burkinabé, French, Swiss and Italian historical drama film, Bambara, Baoulé and French with English subtitles.