Idris Elba, Anthony Mackie, Geraldine Chaplin, Epatha Merkerson, Jennifer Connelly, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sonia Sanchez, Rusty Cundieff, Stanley Nelson, and Thierry Michel are some of the names that lead the 23rd African Diaspora International Film Festival.
ADIFF 2015 has selected a total of 57 films from 27 countries. The lineup is rich in topics and themes presenting from different perspectives the human experience of people of color. Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas, Teachers College, Columbia University and Mist Harlem will host this event from November 27 through December 13. With a world premiere, 9 US premieres and 16 NY premieres, ADIFF is more independent than ever with its rich and eclectic selection of films that cover many parts of the world.
Making their world and US debut in ADIFF 2015 are Opening Night film “The Man Who Mends Women, The Wrath of Hippocrates” by Thierry Michel which tells the story of Dr. Denis Mukwege, a man who has dedicated his life to assist women subjected to rape in his native DRC and World Premiere “Julien’s Bed” by Kirk Shannon-Butts, a visually imaginative film with a poetic story line about an African-American in Paris trying to reconnect with his lover. “Julien’s Bed” will screen in the first ever ADIFF LGBT Evening program with the South-African film “While You Were Not Looking” by Catherine Stewart. This beautifully shot drama explores gay life in South Africa with courage and imagination as the issue of class and the building of the New South Africa are very much at the center of the story.
The Black British program highlight will be the NY Premiere presentation of TIFF’s official selection “Second Coming” by Debbie Tucker Green starring Idris Elba as a man who enjoys a peaceful life in a marriage that is about to change due to unexpected circumstances.
The Talking about Chicago program will feature the two NY Premieres “70 Acres in Chicago: Cabrini Green” by Ronit Bezale and “Takin’ Place” by Cyrus Dowlatshahi, two documentaries about Chicago’s South Side and its inhabitants that expose an alternative reality to that traditionally presented in the media.
Among the films that explore historical themes will be the US Premiere of “If Only I Were That Warrior” by Valerio Ciriaci – ADIFF 2015 Gala Screening – which moves in and out of Ethiopia, Italy and the United States to tell us a story of unpunished war crimes, colonial wars and African history. “Invisible Heroes: African Americans In The Spanish Civil War,” by Alfonso Domingo and Jordi Torrent that introduces us to the remarkable story of African Americans who fought as volunteers in Spain for democracy and for civil rights that were denied to them in their own country.
Twenty one of the films in ADIFF 2015 are directed by women including “White Lies” by Dana Rotberg – New Zealand’s entry in the 2014 Oscar competition for best foreign-language- and “Asni: Courage & Glamour in Ethiopia” by Rachel Samuel to be presented in the Ethiopia: Past & Present program.
Two films will explore the role of women in the armed forces: the drama “Stand Down Soldier” by Jeryl Prescott Sale, the story of Sergeant Stacy Armstrong who returns home from three deployments suffering with PTSD, which undermines her 20 year marriage and the stability of her family life. The documentary “A Journey Of A Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers” by Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy follows three women in an all female, predominantly Muslim unit of police officers sent to post-earthquake Haiti as UN Peacekeepers for one year.
The Urban experience is global. “Fevers/Fièvres” by Hicham Ayouch – one of leading films in ADIFF’s Urban film selection and winner of the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, FESPACO 2015 – is a French drama with a strong social commentary that follows Benjamin , a young boy who is at war with the world and himself. Canadian thriller “Noir/Black /Nwa” by Yves Christian Fournier depicts stories of young people living in a Montreal ghetto fighting to survive like Dickens, a 16 year-old Haitian who wants to be part of the street gang controlled by his older brother. Other urban films are “Honeytrap” from the UK by Rebecca Johnson, “Impunity” from South Africa by Jyoti Mistry, “License to Operate” from the USA by James Lipetzky, and “Hear Me Move” from South Africa by Scottnes L. Smith.
Two North African films will have their US premiere in ADIFF: comedy-drama “The Blind Orchestra” by Mohamed Mouftakir, a humorous yet critical look at the life of a group of musicians in Morocco during the early years of the reign of Hassan II and “Private Revolutions” by Alexandra Schneider, a documentary that is a reflection on the life of young Egyptian women after the Spring revolution presented in the Egypt: Before & After the Spring Revolution program to be hosted by Egyptian journalist Barbara Nimri Aziz.
ADIFF 2015 has some delightful encores to offer including titles that had a very short theatrical release and keep audiences talking like “Shelter” – starring Anthony Mackie and Jennifer Connelly- by Paul Bettany, “Tango Negro: The African Roots of Tango” by Dom Pedro, “The Pirogue” by Drissa Touré, “Sand Dollars” -Dominican Republic submission to the Oscars in the Foreign Language category- by Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán and “Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution” -Oscar contender in the Best Documentary Feature category- by Stanley Nelson.
Other important films that will premiere in the festival are “We, Strking” by Denis Gheerbrant about African women on strike against a hotel chain in Paris, Slamdance fest favorite “Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang In Pyongyang” by Colin Offland, and family friendly comedy-drama “White Water” by Rusty Cundieff about a black child obsessed with the idea of drinking water from the Whites Only fountain during the days of Segregation in the South.
ADIFF’s New York Premiere Centerpiece screening of “Cu-Bop: Cuba – New York Music Documentary” by Shinichi Takahashi will be followed with a live concert performance with Afro-Cuban pianist Axel Tosca and his band (U)NITY.
ADIFF will have the honor to host writer/poet/activist/professor Sonia Sanchez for ADIFF’s Closing Night screening of the new documentary celebrating her life and legacy: “BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez” (pictured above) by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Schmidt Gordon.