What To See at the 2023 African Diaspora Film Festival in New York

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This year’s African Diaspora Film Festival in New York will feature a restored version of the classic Mapantsula, the award-winning Goodbye Julia, and many other African treasures.

The African Diaspora Film Festival (ADIFF) in New York is an excellent opportunity for those eagerly awaiting the chance to witness some of the films that have generated excitement at film festivals worldwide in the previous year. Top films from the Berlinale, Cannes, Toronto, Locarno, FESPACO, and Durban Film Mart are on this year’s roster. Offering in-person and virtual choices, a comprehensive schedule of documentaries and dramas is available.

Every year for a fortnight, Harlem transforms into the epicenter of African cinema, and this Friday, November 24th, marks the beginning of ADIFF. There are almost thirty African films from fourteen nations to watch until December 10th.

SOUTH AFRICA UNDER THE GLOBE

One of the centerpieces of the schedule for this year is a session honoring the South African film industry. This collection, which includes fifteen films from the apartheid era to the present, examines the evolution of the nation’s film industry over the last few decades.

Oliver Schmitz’s 1988 masterpiece Mapantsula, which debuted at the Berlinale earlier this year, will be seen in a recently restored form. Similarly, two movies based on important South African plays will be released: Nothing But the Truth, written and directed by John Kani, which is based on his own critically acclaimed play of the same name, and Marigolds in August, directed by Ross Devenish and based on an Athol Fugard production.

At ADIFF, the well-liked television series Shaka ILembe—which narrates the narrative of Zulu King Shaka—will also make its much-awaited American premiere, starring Nomzamo Mbatha as Queen Nandi KaBhebhe and Senzo Radebe as King Senzangakhona ka Jama.

FESTIVAL PICKS

When they debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Mohamed Kordofani from Sudan and Sana Na N’Hada from Guinea-Bissau’s Nome received positive reviews from reviewers. Nome screened as part of the fest’s ACID Selection program and will have its North American premiere as ADIFF 2023’s closing night movie. This historical drama transports viewers to the guerrilla war for Guinea-Bissau’s independence in 1969.

The greatest in European film, Cineuropa

Goodbye Julia, the first Sudanese feature film to be screened at Cannes and win the Un Certain Regard Freedom Prize, depicts the tense relationships between class, race, and religion in the tensely contested region. It is set against the backdrop of the years leading up to the 2011 referendum in which Southerners decided to secede and form their nation. In Goodbye Julia, two women—Mona from the north and Julia from the south—tell how a string of falsehoods unites their lives. Additionally, the movie has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best International Feature Film category.

EGYPT MIDWAY

At ADIFF, four Egyptian films featuring women in front of and behind the camera will be screened. The Nadia Fares-directed Big Little Women, which debuted at the 2023 Locarno Film Festival, will be the first to screen in the United States. It pays homage to three generations of women who defy patriarchal restrictions and to the director’s loving Egyptian father. Fares will be in New York City for her film’s premiere and discuss Egyptian feminist movements with feminist scholar Nawal El Saadawi.

The festival schedule also includes presentations and panels. The African Youth: Films and Society Program is a free program presented in association with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. It asks, “What’s on the mind of most young Africans?” during a conversation with two young African filmmakers after the screening of the following three films: Otiti by Ema Edosio Deelen (Nigeria), Kinshasa Makambo by Dieudo Hamadi (DRC), and Citizen Kwame by Yuhi Amuli (Rwanda).

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