The New York African Film Festival’s 5th Annual African Mini “Video” Film Festival, on December 2, 2000, was held again, at the Bob Marley Theatre in association with a newly formed group, Friends of Liberty Hall, which has taken on the responsibility of reestablishing Marcus Garvey’s Liberty Hall in Kingston.
The Bob Marley Theatre opened its doors in 1996 with the first installation of this festival, which was cosponsored by Tuff Gong Pictures and the New York African Film Festival (AFF). Because of the overwhelming response to this event, we decided to make this an annual event. In Jamaica, we are predominantly of African descent. There are certainly more surviving mores and expressions of African culture and and Jamaicans have a very strong identification with Africa. Examples of such identifications are seen in our music, dance, language, and cuisine.
This year the festival was proud to screen Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako’s timely La vie sur terre (Life on Earth), a poetic meditation on Africa at the beginning of the new millennium. He depicts a fictional documentary of a day in the life of Sokolo, his father’s dusty village near the border of Mali and Mauritania, “where life on earth” is still conducted on foot, by donkey cart, or on bicycle. Audiences were also treated to the screening of the very last film made by legendary Senegalese director, Djibril Diop Mambety, titled La petite vendeuse de soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold The Sun). In this hymn dedicated to the courage of street children, Mambety documents the tenacity and fortitude of a little paraplegic girl, who despite the taunts of others, makes a living selling Senegal’s national newspaper, The Sun. Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno’s offering, Afrique je te plumerai, deconstructs the last 100 years of his country’s colonial history by analyzing everything from old French newsreels to current Cameroonian television. Finally, audiences were treated to Malian director, Adama Drabo’s Taafe Fanga (Skirt Power), a sly comedy about gender roles that is set against the majestic cliffs of Dogon country.
Despite torrential downpours, audiences anticipating the festival fought the rain to attend the screenings. To us, this confirms our feeling that the people of Kingston are really in need of more programming like the kind AFF provides. Resort towns in the Caribbean usually have the opportunity to host larger film festivals and we aim to provide Kingston audiences the same access to quality films. Also, by seeing how Black filmmakers from Africa have overcome huge hurdles to make their own work, the festival will excite Jamaicans to further develop their own filmmaking capabilities. The need for the development of an indigenous film industry continues to get little focus, and it has therefore become critical that the efforts of AFF continue as interest and support grow each year.