By Aundre Burke | Shadow and Act December 27, 2011 at 1:18PM
Sunday, December 11th marked the closing ceremony for the 2012 19th Annual African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF).
The ADIFF is a riveting New York fixture for those seeking a wide-array of imagery and stories on the global Black experience.
Over ADIFF’s 19-year span, it has consistently provided a venue for films on people of African ancestry ranging from continental Africa, the Americas, Europe and all corners of the world.
The festival’s founders and co-directors are Dr. Reinaldo B. Spech and Mrs. Diarah N’Daw-Spech.
The ADIFF’s opening night screenings featured the headliner The Story of Lovers Rock by Barbadian-born and UK-based director, Menelik Shabazz. The movie is a thorough and engaging docu-drama on the reggae sub-genre, highlighting its little known UK origins, spearheaded by Caribbean migrants and first-generation UK musicians largely of Caribbean parentage.
Additionally, one of Mr. Shabazz’ earlier films, Burning an Illusion (1981), was dually screened, and is deemed the “[…] first British film to give a central voice to black women, charting [a] journey to emotional maturity, emancipation and political awakening.”
Offering a rare insider view on the key players within an African political system is Jareth Merz’ An African Election. Mr. Merz provides remarkable coverage on Ghana’s 2008 presidential contest, resulted in a transfer of power from the then incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) led by Nana Akufo-Addo to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its flag-bearer, current president, Dr. John Atta Mills.
Many experts and onlookers alike considered this election proof of Ghana and Africa’s political progression. An African Election strikes a delicate balance of capturing Ghana’s political maturity, while highlighting the administrative (electoral) challenges that remain.
A film which sparked significant buzz amongst festival attendees was Maya Jensen’s Solidarity in Saya: An Afro-Bolivian Music Movement. This 2009 documentary exhibits the music of Bolivia’s small and little known Afro-descendent population, their history, as well as their longstanding struggle against racism and quest for greater political representation. Within a mere 30 minutes, this film does a thorough job of providing insightful interviews and powerful lyrical content through the songs and rhythms of these marginalized but proud people.
Aside from numerous Q&A’s with directors in attendance, the festival offered some very engaging panel discussions. The four panels held this year, were: 1. The life work of Cuban-American director, Sergio Giral (in attendance); 2. The status of multiracial cinema in Europe; 3. Monetizing independent cinema; and, 4. A conversation about Cuba and its cinema.
A major highlight of this year’s program was the Best Film Directed By A Woman Of Color competition. A total of six contender films were screened on various dates; rated by viewers after each screening. Eliachi Kimaro won the distinction with her film, A Lot Like You. Ms. Kimaro's, a daughter of a Korean mother and Tanzanian father, film details her personal journey to learn more about her Chagga tribe roots after deciding to travel with her parents to Tanzania following their retirement and subsequent relocation from the U.S. Many secrets are unveiled in this unique voyage, as well as insights on cross-cultural tensions and the forging of unexpected bonds.
The ADIFF once again provided a remarkable opportunity to gain a broader, more global view of the African Diaspora, with a focus on the commonalities, present-day challenges and triumphs.
The festival’s upcoming 20th anniversary promises to be as entertaining, informative and memorable as its prior years.