David Tosh Gitonga’s Nairobi Half Life

The 20th anniversary of the New York African Film Festival (AFF) is coming to Film Society April 3 – 9!

“Looking Back, Looking Forward: 20 Years of the New York African Film Festival” will feature works by Senegalese director, and father of African Cinema, Ousmane Sembène; ND/NF newcomer Lonesome Solo’s Burn It Up Djassa; David Tosh Gitonga’s gritty and realistic view of urban life, Nairobi Half Life; the epic crime drama Death for Sale; and some socially conscious films like Land Rush, about foreign investors buying up African soil, and Fueling Poverty, about fuel subsidy management.

“This year’s lineup for the New York African Film Festival will offer a wonderful opportunity to revisit and celebrate the work of the great Ousmane Sembène, while highlighting some of the truly distinctive and entertaining films coming our way from Africa,” said Film Society's Director of Programming Robert Koehler. “Many (films) are discussing and dealing with the issues of the day in a very provocative way.”

Ousmane Sembène's Guelwaar

Highlights from the festival also include the Opening Night screening of the film that started it all 20 years ago, Ousmane Sembène's Guelwaar. On Opening Night in 1992, audiences looked on as Sembène told the story of a political activist and patriarch of the Senegalese Christian community who mysteriously disappeared.

Other Senegalese films include Ousmane Sembène All At Once and Borom Sarret. Directed by Christine Delorme, All At Once explores the man behind the words: “I am a storyteller, an artist striving to express the secret pulsation of my people.” The film also delves into the women of Guelwaar, and the legend Sembène has become on and off screen. Appropriately, All At Once will be screening with Sembène’s short Borom Sarret, about the life of a Dakar cart driver. Known as one of the origin films of Black African Cinema, Borom Sarret is a must-see for any serious African film fan.

Don't miss two U.S. films, Alaskaland, about an Alaska-raised Nigerian, and short Boneshaker, about a Ghanaian family on a road trip to the Pentecostal heartland of Louisiana to find a cure for their troubled daughter (played by Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis).

Claudia Palazzi and Clio Sozzani's Jeans and Marto

Standing tall in a traditionally male field are the women of African cinema; the 20th anniversary of the festival highlights the works of Patricia Benoit, screening Stones in the Sun, about three pairs of Haitian refugees in New York City in the 1980s; directors Claudia Palazzi and Clio Sozzani, screening Jeans and Marto, about a young Ethiopian escaping an arranged marriage; and Cosima Spender’s Dolce Vita Africana, a documentary about Malian photographer Malick Sidibe and the story his iconic images tell of an era of freedom from the late-50s to the early-70s before an Islamic coup. Dolce Vita Africana will be screening with A History of Independence, about one man’s decision to devoutly follow God in hermitage.

Closing out this year's AFF is An Evening with Moussa Touré featuring a screening of his classic film TGV, about the direct bus service between Dakar, Senegal and Conakry, Guinea. The night cannot be missed as Touré will be there to answer the inevitable philosophical inqueries that TGV evokes. The film reveals the motivations of each passenger’s journey to Guinea all the while revealing motivations of our own journeys through life.

The festival will commemorate its long history of bringing the best of African film to New York with the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the New York African Film Festival on Friday, April 5. The benefit gala will be held at the Macaulay Honors College directly following a 7:30pm surprise screening of a film enjoying its New York premiere and presented by its director. That's all we can tell you… for now!

Head to the press release for a full lineup and more details on “Looking Back, Looking Forward: 20 Years of the New York African Film Festival” and check back next Thursday, when tickets go on sale!