Film is a powerful educational tool, able to engage children emotionally and intellectually. It also allows them to make connections between their own lives and those lived in different countries and cultures depicted onscreen. AFF’s educational programs bring the unique educational power of film to New York City students by integrating African cinema into existing curriculum, illustrating and bringing to life aspects of African culture that students have been studying, and counter negative images from mainstream media. Students participating in AFF’s education programs gain a sense of pride, learn that Africa’s culture remains vital, and make connections between their personal history and Africa’s history.
In addition to providing students with a window into contemporary and historical Africa, students learn about storytelling in the medium of film. Through the program, students often not only have their first opportunity to view an African or an international film, but also a film that is not Hollywood-produced. Furthermore, by having filmmakers participate in the program, students can learn firsthand about the artists’ intentions, helping students gain competence in visual literacy and an understanding of how filmmakers’ choices shape how stories are told. In this way, students begin to employ analytical skills in understanding artistic works.
Young Adults Education Program
The Young Adults Education Program brings together New York City middle and high school students each year to a special matinee program during the annual New York African Film Festival. Two to three short films are screened, both documentary and fiction, that are age-appropriate and with themes relevant to African history, geography, politics, and culture. AFF’s Education Coordinator provides teachers with materials for student orientation before the screenings, and then facilitates a discussion afterward with the filmmakers. Teachers use AFF’s materials (including an overview on African history, culture and cinema, program notes on the films, maps, an extensive bibliography) to prepare the students before the screening. Discussion topics after the film often include how African folklore and traditional storytelling techniques were used in films, the relationship of traditional African values to contemporary African and Western culture, as well as the similarities and differences between African and American culture. Back in the classroom, teachers ask students to write essays about the film. Occasionally, AFF will ask students to fill out a questionnaire to aid evaluation of the program.
AFF is in its eleventh year of bringing African film and culture into New York City middle and high schools. The program continues to bring filmmakers and film scholars from all over the world into the classroom to provide intimate and in-depth instruction in film theory, the historical context of each film, as well as the technical aspects involved in the production of the works presented. This is unique for students to not only learn about film (and the ever-changing technology that makes production more accessible), but also gain exposure to topics related to African history, culture and society through the artistic expression of media.
Some of the special guests that have participated in the In-school Program include: renowned Malian musician Salif Keita; Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Madison Davis Lacy; African art scholar and curator, Dr. Carol Thompson; and Fode Bangoura, a prominent member of Guinea’s leading ballet company who led a hands-on drumming workshop.
Since our initial partnership with East Harlem School at Exodus House (EHSEH), in 2000, AFF has had the privilege of partnering with other schools and youth organizations, including, Harlem Children’s Zone, Groundwork. Additionally, AFF works with the Global Kids Network at the following locations—Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School, International High School at Prospect Heights, and Long Island City High School.
AFF is pleased to offer the In-School Program to other educational facilities, which we can tailor to meet the education goals of the individual schools as well as the age-level of the students. A curricular consultant will conduct two 2-hour curricular development sessions with teachers from your school to ensure that the program complements the students’ regular coursework and reading assignments. For more information, contact Toccarra Thomas at or call (212) 352-1720.