By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Ngozi Onwurah's film, Olive Nwosu's coming of age drama and Adé Sultan Sangodoyin's LGBT movie are some of the African dramas which will screen at the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF), which returns virtually December 2-6 with a spotlight on the cinema of two nations: Nigeria and the Sudan.
Presented by Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF), this year’s regional NYAFF will screen six features and eight short films in the FLC Virtual Cinema, as AFF celebrates its 30th anniversary.
The festival will transport audiences to Sudan and Nigeria, two nations whose film industries were disrupted in their nascency — in Nigeria by an economic decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s; in Sudan by the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir.
The Opening Night film is Amjad Abu Alala’s arresting drama "You Will Die at 20," winner of the Lion of the Future “Luigi de Laurentiis” Award for a Debut Film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival and Sudan’s first-ever entry for Best International Feature Film, for the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards. In the film, a young man, who the village’s holy man has prophesied will die as he reaches his second decade, turns 19.
NYAFF’s Centerpiece film is the 40th anniversary screening of "Kadara" (“Destiny”), the debut work of the late Adeyemi Afolayan, considered one of the fathers of Nollywood. Afolayan wrote and stars in the humorous film, which captures the rivalry between a handsome, charming farmer and a rich brute as they compete in a wrestling contest to prove their worthiness for the hand of the kingdom’s beautiful princess.
In "Three Thieves," Udoka Oyeka’s Nigerian comedy, three friends hired to commit a simple theft end up as accidental kidnappers — all while being pursued by the police and the robber whose job they took.
Filmed over four years, Marwa Zein’s documentary "Khartoum Offside" follows the Sudanese Women’s Football Team as they defy a ban imposed by Sudan's Islamist military government against women playing soccer — and in doing so, Zein herself defies the ban against women making movies. The film won Best Documentary at the 2019 Africa Movie Academy Awards, as well as Best Documentary at the Carthage Film Festival (JCC).
Set in South London, Ngozi Onwurah’s "Shoot the Messenger" — winner of the Dennis Potter Screenwriting Award and two BAFTA TV Awards — stars David Oyelowo as Joe, a teacher whose life spirals out of control after he is falsely accused of hitting a student and branded a racist by the local Black community. Another breakout star from this film is Daniel Kaluuya.
“Art generally reflects our reality and the evolution of our world,” said AFF Executive Director and NYAFF Founder Mahen Bonetti. “While our programs might highlight the challenges Africa faces, they also illuminate her greatness and her vast contribution to our global cultures!”
The festival also includes a shorts program featuring Zein’s A Game, an adaptation of the Italian short story “Let’s Play a Game,” depicting a confrontation between a divorced woman and her young daughter; Onwurah’s "Coffee Colored Children," which speaks to the current moment with its story of two siblings of mixed heritage who, faced with racist taunts, try to scrub their blackness away; and Lande Yoosuf’s "Love in Submission," in which a meeting between two Black Muslim women brings a big revelation. Sarra Idris’s "My Sister Sara" captures Sudanese activist and writer Sara Elhassan in conversation with her brother, ESPN NBA Analyst and TV personality Amin Elhassan, about the 2019 Sudanese revolution and her ongoing activism through social media. "Troublemaker," by Olive Nwosu, tells the story of a 10-year-old’s loss of innocence as he hurts his grandfather, reanimating his elder relative’s traumatic memories of the Biafra war. The program is rounded out by Adé Sultan Sangodoyin’s "A Cemetery of Doves," a film about a teenager coming to terms with his sexuality.
This special edition of NYAFF will also showcase a fantastic digital dance piece titled "Forever" (Brother’s Keeper), choreographed and performed by self-taught Nigerian twins, the Ebinum brothers. The performance will include catchy Afrobeat tunes spun by the popular DJ mOma in Zanzibar.
This year, AFF is celebrating three decades of promoting African culture through the moving image.
Virtual tickets are $12, and go on sale on Monday, November 23 at noon. Learn more at filmlinc.org/AFF2020
Movies from Nigeria and the Sudan to showcase at NYAFF
By Samantha Ofole-Prince