The New York African Film Festival returns on May 16 and is celebrating its 25th anniversary starting with screenings at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. The festival will feature the leading and notable African filmmakers instrumental in introducing a wave of classic movies into the African film industry. To commemorate that, an addition to the festival will bring new and old filmmakers together for a discussion on how their classic films stood with time, and where the upcoming generation will take the new style of African film, said the festival’s founder.
“In this new program, we’re going to be paying homage to the pioneers and we’re bringing the filmmakers in transition and still with us, and we want to bring them together with the emerging filmmakers,” said Mahen Bonetti.
Honouring them while they are still active is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for rookie movie makers, who can learn from their predecessors, she added.
“It’s going to be an intergenerational conversation taking place through the work and we really want them to pass on that baton and show the ropes to young filmmakers,” said Bonetti. “We have to be mindful a lot of trailblazers are passing on and we need to record them and their work, because we are fortunate to have them share their stories on film.”
The two-day intergenerational discussion begins May 21, featuring the film “The Wedding Ring” by Nigerien director Rahmatou Keïta. Her daughter, filmmaker Magaajyia Silberfeldk, will show her short film “Vagabonds,” and the two will lead a discussion about their films. The next day another discussion will take place between Senegalese director Safi Faye and Ghanian-American filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu.
There will also be a free town hall event on May 13, which will be a conversation between young artists and how they use their art for activism, according to Bonetti.
The festival’s lineup has more than 60 films from over two dozen countries, with a large number of them by creators from Burkina Faso and South Africa. Some of the films include the New York premiere of award-winning Burkinabe film, “Borders,” a film documenting one of Africa’s most famous filmmakers — Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako, and a film highlighting the continent’s first film festival — the Carthage Film Festival, according to Bonetti.
The festival kicks off at the with the May 13 town hall, and screening begins at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on May 16. It will continue at BAMcinématek and conclude at Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem with showings of shorts. Bonetti said she wanted people to explore African filmmaking and participate in the conversations that come after a film because they are integral to understanding a variety of contexts each film analyzes for its viewers. “I would like people come in and see the films and engage in conversation. After every film we do post screening and that is just as rich as the film,” she said. “I want people be part of that conversation and just welcome the filmmakers.”