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African Film Festival slated for November

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 09 - October 24, 1996

The African Film Festival will be presented November 14-16, in the Lyric Theatre and on campus.

According to Fred Carlisle, in recent years there has been a growing interest, among both popular and academic audiences, in African cinema-in African feature and documentary film.

"This is a rapidly maturing art form. Within the last 20 years, African directors have made a number of impressive films and have achieved international reputations for their work. Many directors are trying to develop a distinct African voice-an indigenous African-film language-that draws on contemporary cinematic art and the technology of film but expresses an African perspective and identity. Their purpose is closely related to the distinct voice many African writers and artists are trying to achieve," Carlisle said.

"We are showing films which have themselves gained international reputations. I originally conceived this `festival' as a modest program to gather together the Africanists and African students on campus to see films and talk about them. After several conversations with J.D. Stahl and David Ericson in the English Department and with Sandy Wiedegreen at the Lyric, we decided to turn it into a public event and show the feature films in 35 millimeter at the Lyric."

The festival is being sponsored by the William E. Lavery Professorship (held by Carlisle), the Department of English, the Black Studies Program, and the Virginia Tech African Studies Association, with assistance from the African Students Association.

The films being shown in the series are as follows:

Thursday Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., Lyric Theater. Hyenas. Director: Djibril Diop Mambety. Senegal, 1992. In Wolof with English subtitles. Mambety "adapts a timeless parable [the film credits Dürrenmatt's, The Visit] of human greed into a biting satire of today's Africa-betraying the hopes of independence for the false promises of western materialism."

Friday, Nov. 15, 3:15 p.m., 110 Randolph. Video projection. These Hands. Director: Flora M'mbugu-Schelling. Tanzania, 1992. "Who would have thought that a 45-minute documentary about women crushing rocks, without narration or plot, would offer one of the most unforgettable and rewarding experiences of recent African cinema? M'mbugu-Schelling's quiet tribute to women at the very bottom of the international economic order ultimately deepens into a meditation on human labor itself [and stimulates] viewers to rethink documentary and to question their own role as consumers in a global economy."

Femmes aux Yeux Ouverts. Director: Anne-Laure Folly. Togo, 1994. The film "presents portraits of contemporary African women from four West African nations: Burkina Fasso, Mali, Senegal and Benin. The film shows how African women are speaking out and organizing around five key issues: marital rights, reproductive health, female genital mutilation, women's role in the economy and political rights."

Reassemblage. Director: Trinh T. Min-ha. 1982. "Women are the focus but not the object...a complex visual study of the women of rural Senegal. Through a complicity of interaction between film and spectator, Reassemblage reflects on documentary film making and the ethnographic representation of cultures."

Friday, Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m., Lyric Theater. Udju Azul Di Yonta (The Blue Eyes of Yonta). Director: Flora Gomes. Guinea-Bissau, 1991. "One of the few recent African films to make the disillusionment of the revolutionary generation its primary subject-and offer a glimmer of hope for the future." The film can "only end by leaving the world of narrative for that of symbol. All that remains is the faith that the young will come up with dreams of their own, dreams, which Flora Gomes hopes, will not hold them hostage, but inspire them to make something real in a real Africa around them."

Saturday Nov. 16, 2 p.m., Lyric Theater. Camp de Thiaroye. Director: Ousmane Sembene. Senegal, 1987. "A powerful fact-based drama which...deals with the dilemma of African troops in the French army at the end of World War Two (a turning point in African history when the colonial myth of white superiority began to collapse and an African consciousness emerged)."

Saturday, Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m., Lyric Theater. Quartier Mozart. Director: Jean-Pierre Bekolo. Cameroon, 1992. "The story of 48 hours in the life of a working-class neighborhood in Yaounde. It recounts the not-very-sentimental education of a young schoolgirl, Queen of the `Hood, whom a local sorceress helps enter a young man's body so she can see for herself the real `sexual politics' of the quarter. The director has said: "I've tried to make a popular film where people can seem themselves and be amused. African cinema won't have much of a future if it does not reach the African public."