This weekend will be your last chance to experience the 2018 African Diaspora Independent Film Festival. For the last quarter century, business/life partners Reinaldo Spech and Diarah N’Daw Spech have somehow cobbled together one of most geographically, ethnically, culturally, thematically, and linguistically diverse series of films addressing the African experience. It’s a real big thing that too few New Yorkers support.
On Friday the festival will feature Tony Morrison, Miriam Makeba, and the Afro-Mexican experience. These films will be screened at the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem Valley.
MAMA AFRICA is a music-infused biography of the South African freedom fighter, political exile, actor, and singer. From her super-star debut in the 1959 film Come Back Africa, to her biggest stateside hit record Pata Pata, to her associations with Hugh Masakela, Kwame (Stokely Carmichael) Ture, Dorothy Masuka, and Harry Belafonte, Ms. Makeba personified role of the artist as risk-taking truth teller. Blacklisted in America because of her political opinions, she overcame every obstacle placed in the way of her ambitions.
FOREIGNER’S HOME takes as its starting point Nobel Prize-winning novelist/professor Toni Morrison’s (Beloved, Sula, Song of Solomon) Paris museum installation. Through interviews, animation, and news reel footage she examines the historical meanings of migration, race, home and foreign-ness.
LA NEGRADA (BLACK MEXICANS) This film uses a non-professional, Afro-Mexican cast to present one of the first cinematic explorations of our southern neighbor’s Black population. Lest we forget, opposition to African slavery was an underlying cause of the Mexican-American war. In the southwest, thousands of enslaved Africans gained freedom and emancipation by crossing the Rio Grande. This film begins to tell the story of their descendants. Like the Afro-Cubans or the Haitians, the Afro-Mexicans are literally our “foreign” language-speaking cousins.
Saturday’s theme is Law, Justice, and Police Brutality. It offers a series of documentaries, and a filmed adaption of a play, that spotlight the criminality within the criminal justice system. While police sponsored brutality and murder more often victimize males, several the film offerings show that women are also targeted. The festival’s closing location will be at Teacher’s college, columbia University In Harlem Heights.
MY NAME IS MYEISHA -the 1998 murder of Tyisha Miller inspired a theater piece called “Dreamscape.” Now the play has been adapted for film. With hip-hop, spoken word, and dance elements, the film imagines Tyisha’s final thoughts as she contemplates her death.
SAY HER NAME, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SANDRA BLAND -How does the intersection of a “routine” traffic stop and a fearless, tell it like it is Black woman result in death? This HBO documentary follows the victim’s family as they try to understand what happened. The initial highway stop, and video from inside her detention facility are included. “Sandy” was a committed activist, whose previously-recorded comments on racism, police brutality, and society read like a planned narration for the filmed story of her death.
Sunday’s festival closing looks at an Afro-American, orthodox Muslim woman and her efforts to divorce her unfaithful husband. MUSLIMAH’S GUIDE TO MARRIAGE takes a comedic approach to a very serious subject. Bottom line, this is a homegirl whose embrace of Islam in no way detracts from the work, family, friendship, and romantic circles we must all navigate. Or from her intimate knowledge, through life experience, of the Black community in general and the long-established Muslim segment thereof. Director Aminah Bakeer Abdul Jabbar will have a Q and A session post screening.
This is a partial listing of what is a weekend full of educational, atypical, and entertaining films. Give the NFL a rest; a take a virtual excursion to other times and spaces. Or escort your children to get the geography, sociology, and social studies information that is missing from the public schools.