New films by emerging female directors at the 25th New York African Film Festival are breaking fresh ground


Now in its 25th year, the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) continues to go from strength to strength with its fearless curation of new and classic cinema from Africa and its global diaspora. This is thanks in no small part to its founder, Mahen Bonetti, whose dedication to developing a greater appreciation for African culture through the moving image, and one free from economic, racial and class divides, has seen NYAFF, and her organisation’s diverse year-round programming, become a powerful force. This year’s NYAFF is currently in full swing (until 10 June) and includes a strong focus on young, female visionaries whose voices are forging new and necessary, often intersectional narratives. Here are some of Nataal’s favourites:

Maki’la by Machérie Ekwa Bahango
This directorial debut from Congolese filmmaker Machérie Ekwa Bahango follows 19-year-old Maki’la as she negotiates the realities of living on the streets of Kinshasa. Married to a gang boss, her attempts to escape with a new found friend are met with violent consequences. Ekwa Bahango studied law and worked as a model before stepping into in film by contributing to Alain Gomis’s celebrated feature, Félicité. Maki’la was well received at the Berlin International Film Festival and is an intimate portrait of feminine strength and survival in this sprawling capital.

Vagabonds by Magaajyia Silberfeld
Magaajyia Silberfeld, daughter of Rahmatou Keita, writes, directs and stars opposite Danny Glover in Vagabonds. She plays a young woman in Los Angeles who is forced to live in her car after being thrown out of her uncle’s house, and soon meets an equally struggling actor. Tackling issues of homelessness and familial displacement, this talent, who is from France and Niger, has made the previous shorts, Me There, Ride Or Die and After School.

A pesar de su ausencia by Djali Brown-Cepeda
This film has been warmly received at many film festivals, including winning Best LGBT Short Film at FICMARC 2018, thanks to its sensitive portrayal of the relationship between two women in 1970s New York. Djali Brown-Cepeda is also a native New Yorker and cut her teeth with the web series reign(a). A pesar de su ausencia formed part of her 2018 graduate thesis from The New School.

On Monday of Last Week by Akosua Adoma Owusu
Based on a story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, On Monday of Last Week centres on a Nigerian woman working as a nanny for an interracial couple in the US and becomes a muse for the wife, a reclusive artist. Ghanaian-American director, Akosua Adoma Owusu, is an award-winning filmmaker whose work explores the multiple identities of the African immigrant experience. Previous films include Reluctantly Queer, Kwaku Ananse and Me Broni Ba

Still Water Runs Deep by Abbesi Akhamie
Nigerian American, New York-based filmmaker Abbesi Akhamie produced two shorts, Samedi Cinema and Tween, before directing this story about a stern father (played by veteran actor Toyin Oshinaike) who is forced to question his patriarchal outlook after his son is arrested and goes missing. Still Water Runs Deep was also selected for the Toronto International Film Festival and wets our appetite for Akhamie’s future endeavours.

Sega by Idil Ibrahim
Nataal co-founder Alassane Sy stars in Idil Ibrahim’s latest film, which the celebrated Somali-American director calls “a story of migration”. Sy’s character has failed but survived an attempted ocean crossing to Europe and now has to face his family, and his own shame, back home in Dakar. Sega explores the reasons why Europe is seen as “Eldorado” and worth the risk of death and imprisonment for those struggling with “no job and no hope” in their native countries. Ibrahim was a recipient of the prestigious 92Y’s Extraordinary Women Award last year and was also selected as one of OkayAfrica’s 100 Women for 2018.


Published on 29/05/2018