New York African Film Festival Announces 2024 Lineup

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Film at Lincoln Center and African Film Festival Inc. have announced the slate for the 31st New York African Film Festival, a lineup that includes more than 50 films hailing from over 25 countries.

The festival, running from May 8-14, will open with the North American premiere of Over the Bridge, director Tolu Ajayi’s narrative feature set in Lagos, Nigeria. The closing night slot goes to Dilli Dark, directed by Dibakar Das Roy, a narrative feature about a Nigerian MBA student in Delhi, India. Nigerian actor Samuel Abiola Robinson stars in the role of Michael Okeke.

“The whole intent behind it is to not just talk about Africans in Delhi,” Roy told Outlook India. “The intent is to talk about anyone who feels like an outsider in society today, that could be in India, America, or any other place. Michael Okeke is a metaphor for every outsider, whether he is an Indian or foreigner in any society.”

The first edition of the New York African Film Festival took place in 1993. Since its inception, “the festival has been at the forefront of showcasing African and diaspora filmmakers’ unique storytelling through the moving image,” a release notes. “This year’s theme, ‘Convergence of Time,’ explores the intersection of historical and contemporary roles played by individuals representing Africa and its diaspora in art.” [Scroll for full lineup].

‘Fight Like a Girl’

KG28Media

Among North Americans premieres is Fight Like a Girl, directed by Matthew Leutwyler, “depicting the true story of a young Congolese woman (Ama Qamata from the hit Netflix series Blood and Water) who finds liberation after joining an all-women’s boxing club in Goma, led by an ex-child-soldier coach.”

The festival lineup makes space for fiction and nonfiction films. Among documentaries are DELA: The Making of El Anatsui, directed by Oyiza Adaba, about El Anatsui, the world-renowned sculptor from Ghana, which “triumphantly acknowledges the importance of Africa’s rich artistic and cultural heritage.” Yajaira De La Espada’s documentary Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, meanwhile, showcases “the life and empowering legacy of the founding father of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, and the recent presidency of Dr. John Pombe Magufuli.”

NYAFF logo

NYAFF

In a statement, Mahen Bonetti, NYAFF founder and AFF executive director, observed, “The 31st New York African Film Festival has so much to offer in terms of honoring the origins of homegrown, beloved African and diaspora film industry, as well as celebrating their references in modern masterpieces.”

The short film Love Taps, directed by Derrick Woodyard and executive produced by Spike Lee, “comment[s] on masculinity, secrets, and family ties.” Another short premiering at NYAFF, Harold George’s Making Men, will be accompanied by a live dance performance from George and members of his dance troupe, with a discussion afterwards.

Filmmaker Ngozi Onwurah (L) and John Barker speak during the african voices panel at the American Film Market held at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on November 4, 2006 in Santa Monica, California.

Filmmaker Ngozi Onwurah (L)

Thos Robinson/Getty Images for AFM

This year’s Master Class presented by AFF will feature veteran independent filmmaker Ngozi Onwurah, “who will discuss the craft of utilizing cinema as a tool for unmasking the dynamics of the socioeconomic status quo.”

The opening night film will be presented at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. All other screenings, as well as the Master Class, will take place at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center.

Film at Lincoln Center logo

Film at Lincoln Center

Throughout the year, Film at Lincoln Center presents retrospectives, new releases, and film festivals including the New York Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, Rendez Vous with French Cinema, and the New York African Film Festival.

“We’ve had these programs now 25, 30, 40 years. They’re terrific,” Lesli Klainberg, president of Film at Lincoln Center, tells Deadline. “And I think it’s important for us because it not only brings in so many different kinds of audiences to our theaters, but because it reflects the diversity of filmmaking and film in our world. It’s just so critical to us that we explore all these different ways that people are using this art form and we want to make that accessible to the audiences here. That’s what we’re here for.”

Below are full details on the 31st New York Africa Film Festival program:

Opening Night

Over the Bridge

Tolu Ajayi, 2023, Nigeria, 99m. English and Yoruba with English subtitles

North American Premiere

Folarin is an accomplished investment banker with a beautiful wife and a life most people can only dream of. When a high-profile government project his company was hired to manage goes awry, he starts to question everything he’s ever known to be true. After going missing, he discovers himself in a remote fishing village and starts to put together the missing pieces—but will he ever find his way back home?

Screenings: Wednesday, May 8 at 6:30pm – Q&A with Tolu Ajayi. Thursday, May 9 at 2:00pm

Closing Night

Dilli Dark

Dibakar Das Roy, 2023, India, 100m. English, Hindi, Yoruba, Pidgin, Bengali, and Gujarati with English subtitles

New York Premiere

New Delhi is not as “new” as the name might suggest. It is an ancient, cosmopolitan city that has seen many rulers, invaders, and settlers over the centuries. It is a city that is multicultural, yet hostile—forever playing out the battle between insider and outsider. But though Delhi has seen many kings, one can say that the city is the only true monarch, a god in itself. Michael Okeke is one of the many Nigerians living in the city, part of a larger African diaspora that is often looked down upon by the locals and accused of being criminals, cannibals, and more. He is studying for his MBA and dreams of joining the booming corporate sector in India, but in the meantime works as a small-time drug delivery guy to make ends meet. Living on the fringes of society, the only person who takes him in is a sketchy woman by the name of Maansi, someone who does not discriminate between black and white—but also seems to find no difference between right and wrong, a sentiment being echoed in every aspect of the city’s DNA. As Michael navigates this tricky landscape and tries to please the god that is Delhi, we are taken on a journey into Indian society’s tricky relationship with race, color, and identity.

Screening: Tuesday, May 14 at 8:15pm – Q&A with Dibakar Das Roy

After the Long Rains

Damien Hauser, 2023, Switzerland/Kenya, 90m. Swahili with English subtitles

New York Premiere

Ten-year-old Aisha is given a school assignment to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. She soon realizes that everyone is taking over their parents’ businesses and professions, but she has bigger dreams: She wants to go to Europe and become an actress. Her plan is to become a fisher so that she can sail to Europe, but her mother thinks that fishing should be left to men. Despite all this, she meets an alcoholic fisherman named Hassan, who promises to teach her how to fish.

Preceded by

Timis / Dusk

Awa Moctar Gueye, 2023, Senegal, 16m. Wolof with English subtitles

New York Premiere

Pa Kong-Kong is a mysterious man who lives alone in a deserted, gloomy market in the suburbs of Kajar. Rumor has it he tortures little thieves, runaways, and naughty children. Binta, a curious and courageous girl, decides to confront Pa Kong-Kong in the middle of the night, determined to prove to her friends that girls have the bravery to lead.

Screenings: Sunday, May 12 at 1:00pm – Q&A with Damien Hauser. Monday, May 13 at 2:30pm

La Chapelle

Jean-Michel Tchissoukou, 1980, Congo, 80m. Lingala and French with English subtitles

Set in 1930s Congo, director Jean-Michel Tchissoukou’s comedy La Chapelle humorously portrays the conflicts between African traditions and the Catholic Church during the construction of a chapel. Tensions rise as the village priest clashes with a young teacher, while the villagers navigate the establishment of a school and chapel, frustrating the parish priest.

Preceded by

Jabari

Francis Y. Brown, 2023, Ghana, 6m. English

New York Premiere

Jabari, an orphan raised by seer Hem-Netjer, grows to uncover the mystery behind his birth and the demise of his parents. He takes on mystical giants summoned from the dark realms of the underworld in the course of fulfilling his discovered purpose and saving the innocent people of Aksum.

Screenings: Thursday, May 9 at 5:30pm; Friday, May 10 at 3:00pm

DELA: The Making of El Anatsui

Oyiza Adaba, 2023, Nigeria, 120m. English, French, and Ewe with English subtitles

North American Premiere

DELA: The Making of El Anatsui is a biographical documentary delving into the life of an extraordinary artist, El Anatsui, the world-renowned sculptor from Ghana. His inner musings find vivid expression in art that defies borders and limitations, reshaping the very concept of sculpture. Oyiza Adaba’s directorial debut triumphantly acknowledges and emphasizes the importance of Africa’s rich artistic and cultural heritage in the pantheon of global contemporary art.

Screening: Sunday, May 12 at 3:30pm

Dynamite

Uche Aguh, 2023, Ghana, 60m. English

New York Premiere

Kiki, a songstress managed by her controlling and strong-willed husband Mark, is set to release her latest album when a replacement bassist, Kofi, comes in for a rehearsal with Kiki and her band. Sparks immediately fly, and Kiki is forced to make a difficult decision when she finds herself thrust into this new love affair.

Preceded by

Last Night

Peter Oti Asamoah, 2023, Ghana, 17m [No dialogue]

World Premiere

A man’s desire for a beautiful stranger leads him down a dark and dangerous path, where he discovers a terrifying secret lurking beneath the surface. As he searches for the woman who stole his heart, a battle for survival ensues, and the man’s fate hangs in the balance as he fights to uncover the truth about the woman and her secrets. This gripping tale will keep you on the edge of your seat until the shocking finale.

Screenings: Friday, May 10 at 5:45pm, Tuesday, May 14 at 2:00pm

Fight Like a Girl

Matthew Leutwyler, 2023, Rwanda/Democratic Republic of the Congo, 118m. English and Swahili with English subtitles​​

North American Premiere

A young Congolese woman (Ama Qamata from the hit Netflix series Blood and Water) forced to work in an illegal mineral mine escapes her captors and finds a new life for herself after joining a renowned all-women’s boxing club in the border city of Goma. Based on the true story of an East Congo all-women’s boxing club and their ex-child-soldier coach, Fight Like a Girl was shot on location in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

Screening: Friday, May 10 at 8:15pm – Q&A with Ama Qamata

Making Men with Discussion + Dance Performance

Antoine Panier, 2019, Belgium/Zimbabwe, 60m. English

New York Premiere

Examining the question of masculinity, this dance film zooms in on four individuals in the process of becoming men. As is expected, they proceed unquestioningly into manhood through various stages of their lives, adopting the clearly coded characteristics dictated by society. However, they’re oppressed by a feeling of unease in the very depths of their being, feeling uncertainty but also something else, harder to define…. Shot in the breathtaking landscape of Zimbabwe, Making Men features strong and rhythmical choreography but also special camerawork that intensifies emotions inspired by the movement. This special hour-long event will feature the New York premiere of the 24-minute film Making Men, followed by a discussion and a special dance performance by Harold George and Berrette Macaulay.

Screening: Saturday, May 11 at 1:30pm at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater

MK: Mandela’s Secret Army

Osvalde Lewat, 2022, South Africa/France, 57m; English, German, and French with English subtitles

New York Premiere

MK: Mandela’s Secret Army chronicles the lives of former members of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress. The documentary is an intergenerational reflection on the all-consuming call to take up arms for South Africa’s liberation, heeded by young men and women—some barely in their teens—who gave up their lives and any future to risk death for the dream of a free South Africa. The young guerilla fighters of yesteryear are now aging veterans. How will history remember them? Where are they now, and how have they reconciled a past committed to liberation with a present-day reality that their contribution to a free South Africa has almost been forgotten?

Preceded by

Neighborhood Alert

Ngozi Onwurah, 2024, U.S., 30m; English

North American Premiere

Inspired by a true story, Neighborhood Alert tells the story of a Black mother that is forced to take extraordinary action in order to ensure the safety of her teenage son.

Screening: Monday, May 13 at 5:30pm – Q&A with Ngozi Onwurah

The Rhythm and The Blues

Darryl Pitts, 2024, U.S., 59m. English

New York Premiere

A tale of passion, struggle, and the enduring power of music in an ever-changing world, The Rhythm and The Blues is the true-life story of legendary bluesman Eddie Taylor and his fight for recognition against obscurity, industry corruption, and the British Invasion’s cultural appropriation. Portrayed by actor and musician Leon, Taylor’s battles extend to his family, where an ambitious young wife and idolizing stepson complicate his quest for musical respect.

Preceded by

Funmi!

Siji Awoyinka, 2024, U.S., 12m. English

World Premiere

Funmi! is a visual praise song for a radiant soul on the occasion of his transcendence from man to melody, from brother to memory.

Screening: Saturday, May 11 at 5:30pm – Q&A with Darryl Pitts, Leon Robinson, and Siji Awoyinka

Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense

Yajaira De La Espada, 2023, U.S./Tanzania, 75m. English and Swahili with English subtitles

U.S. Premiere

Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense is a documentary that gives voice to the growing trend of Afro-descendants moving back to the continent of Africa to live. It highlights the life of a professional educator and their journey through the Texas school system to find freedom amid issues surrounding school equity, racism, and miseducation. This is juxtaposed against the life and legacy of the founding father of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who enacted empowering policies such as Ujamaa and Education for Self-Reliance, and the life and times of Dr. John Pombe Magufuli, the president who denounced COVID-19. While the American education system has left more to be desired in teaching about African leaders such as Nyerere and Magufuli, this documentary dissects the issues of culturally unresponsive curricula and harmful teaching practices in the U.S., providing solutions centered on the history of independence and contemporary political policies of Tanzania. Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense helps viewers to imagine a society governed by teachers and the positive impact they bring.

Screening: Saturday, May 11 at 3:00pm – Q&A with Yajaira De La Espada

This Is Lagos

Kenneth Gyang, 2023, Nigeria, 91m

Pidgin and English with English subtitles. New York Premiere

Needing quick cash for studio time, aspiring rapper Stevo works for the psychotic Kojack and his “shoot-rob-run” gang. When their escape from a heist goes wrong, Stevo is separated from the gang. Luckily, he’s the one carrying the loot. In this dark comedy about a musician and his smart city girl, Stevo must navigate the dangers of his criminal past while pursuing his music dreams.

Screening: Sunday, May 12 at 9:00pm

Time Spent with Cats Is Never Wasted

Clive Will, 2021, South Africa, 171m; Xhosa with English subtitles

U.S. Premiere

This stark piece of slow cinema captures one man’s battle with the world around him. Joe, a small-town abattoir worker, leads us on this allegorical journey. His dream to fly has impelled him to construct his own helicopter, a ramshackle assembly of scrap and found objects with no real practical capability aside from standing as a monument to his individuality. When an art buyer offers to purchase the flamboyant creation, it is a mixed blessing that causes a fracas among the people of his community, who unjustifiably demand a stake in the potential spoils. Joe is forced to fight off the avaricious townsfolk or lose all he has worked for.

Screening: Monday, May 13 at 8:15pm – Q&A with Clive Will

Under the Hanging Tree

Perivi Katjavivi, 2023, Namibia, 93m. English, German, Afrikaans, Otjiherero, and Khoekhoegowab with English subtitles

U.S. Premiere

In this first-of-its-kind film that dissects Namibia’s colonial past, Christina Mureti, a hard-boiled police officer from the city, is transferred to a small desert village in Namibia, where she uncovers a series of grisly animal sacrifices perhaps linked to the disappearance of the villagers’ children. Then a German farmer is found hung on the same tree where Christina’s ancestors were hung a century ago during Germany’s colonial war and genocide. It is only when Christina begins to learn about her people’s history and embraces some of its cultural wisdom that she will be able to solve the case.

Screening: Tuesday, May 14 at 5:30pm – Q&A with Perivi Katjavivi

NEW YORK AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL SHORTS PROGRAMS:

ETERNAL SOULS, TRANSIENT BODIES (84m)

Sometimes It Was Beautiful

Christian Nyampeta, 2018, Sweden/Democratic Republic of the Congo, 3m. English and Swedish with English subtitles

A group of unlikely friends gather in a time-knot to watch and critique films made by Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist in the Congo between 1948 and 1952. Their discussion highlights enduring tensions surrounding social transformation, cultural property, and who has the right to representation.

Mångata

Maja Costa, 2023, Germany/Italy, 16m. English, Italian, and Yoruba with English subtitles

New York Premiere

As a child, little Alya is the only survivor of a tragic Mediterranean crossing from Africa to Europe. Many years later, as an astronaut on an important lunar mission, Alya loses communication with her base. She is confronted with her past trauma, and now Mångata—“the road to the moon,” which already saved her life once, will help her again.

For Those That Lived There

Shawn Antoine II, 2023, U.S., 6m. English

New York Premiere

For Those That Lived There weaves a visual tapestry, navigating the poignant impacts of gentrification, the displacement of Black legacies and the emergent migrant narratives.

The Prophecy

Rehanna Ngom, 2023, Senegal/U.S., 20m. English and Wolof with English subtitles

World Premiere

Tabara, a second-generation immigrant from Senegal living in America, suffers from the consequences of a rape, with her trauma manifested in nightmares where a monstrous creature, mutilated above recognition, mocks her. After unsuccessful therapy and advice from her traditional grandmother, Tabara decides to travel to Senegal for the first time to seek treatment from an unorthodox source—an African marabout, a holy man who is believed to have supernatural power.

The Last Bash

Diego de Jesus, 2023, Brazil, 24m. Portuguese with English subtitles

New York Premiere

Young people gather for a party before going into COVID-19 lockdown. They talk about music, arts, work, and the uncertain future, not knowing when they will be able to meet again.

The Wait

Imran Hamdulay, 2023, South Africa, 15m. English, Xhosa, and Afrikaans with English subtitles

World Premiere

After arriving at a Cape Town police station to report a crime, Mzu finds an elderly man has been overlooked while waiting at the back of the queue. The station is busy and the old man is confused with no one to assist him. Mzu takes it upon himself to see that this man is helped but quickly finds resistance from those ahead in line and the stifling bureaucratic system. The Wait is an allegory of South Africa’s complex society, where a sense of powerlessness and hope exist together at all times.

Screening: Thursday, May 9 at 8:30pm – Q&A with Rehanna Ngom and Christian Nyampeta

PERPETUAL CONNECTIONS (98m)

Love Taps

Derrick Woodyard, 2023, U.S., 14m. English

New York Premiere

A young boy trying to cope with his parents’ separation gains a new perspective of his father after discovering his affair with another man.

The Last Joint

Devin Powell, 2024, U.S., 7m. English

World Premiere

Iman indulges in a last joint before he takes a tolerance break. Once all of the herbs are gone, his phone starts to blow up. Texts from his supplier and from his love interest, Tori, pressure Iman to succumb to his environment and pursue more stress-relieving medicine. Through this journey Iman learns if the collapse of his discipline was worth it.

Jeanne

Antoine Paley, 2023, France, 12m. French with English subtitles

New York Premiere

Jeanne Duval, the mixed-race muse and partner of Charles Baudelaire has been forgotten by time and erased by history. But she refuses to remain silenced. In this short we see April 27, 1842: a day in the life of Duval and Baudelaire. As the day goes on, the weight of Charles’s words and needs becomes increasingly difficult for Jeanne to bear.

Mirah

Ahmed Samir, 2024, Egypt/Germany, 18m. English, Arabic, and German with English subtitles

World Premiere

Inspired by a true story, Mirah, an Egyptian immigrant living in Germany, finds a unique way to adapt to the fast life of Berlin. Through the fictional story of Mirah and her journey of self-discovery, the film invites audiences to question the social masks we wear to feel safe.

Papi

Ashley L. Canfield, 2024, U.S., 23m. English and Spanish with English subtitles

North American Premiere

Hector Jr. tries to navigate the complexities of reconciling his self-identity amidst his father’s COVID-19 crisis.

Addis, My Father

Kitoko Diva, 2023, France/U.S., 8m. Amharic and English with English subtitles

U.S. Premiere

A sense of the inevitable fills the silence between Addis and Rahel, a father and daughter, as they work tirelessly in their empty clock and antique repair shop.

Black Dreams

Chiemeka Offor, 2024, U.S., 16m. English

New York Premiere

In a realm of darkness, a young woman harnesses divine visions of God, light, and water to manifest her dreams, unlocking a mesmerizing inner universe of art, beauty, and movement beyond imagination. Black Dreams is a surreal, experimental documentary, an artistic testament to young, Black, queer artists in New York. As they peel back the layers, they unearth their own brilliance, discovering solace and kinship within their community, and a newfound sense that they are never truly alone. Black Dreams is evidence of our magic.

Screening: Saturday, May 11 at 8:00pm – Q&A with Ashley L. Canfield, Naima Hebrail Kidjo, Devin Powell, Ahmed Samir, and Derrick Woordward

VESSELS OF FORTITUDE (101m)

A Quiet Monday

Dika Ofoma, 2023, Nigeria, 22m. Igbo and English

U.S. Premiere

When the leader of a secessionist group in southeastern Nigeria is jailed, his loyalists mandate a compulsory “sit-at-home” on Mondays in protest. Siblings Kamnonu and Ogbonna face danger when they defy the Monday restrictions. 

I Promise You Paradise

Morad Mostafa, 2023, Egypt, 25m. Arabic with English subtitles

New York Premiere

Following a violent incident, Eissa, a 17-year-old African migrant in Egypt is in a quest against time to save his loved ones—no matter what it takes.

Bege (Yearning)

Umar Turaki, 2023, Nigeria, 14m. Hausa with English subtitles

North American Premiere

When Sanda shows up at her front door years after their breakup, Amina plays the perfect host. As the conversation unfolds, they acknowledge the things that time has made plain. But do they have the courage to confront the elephant in the room? Bege (Yearning) shines a light on the oft-unspoken emotional toll that comes about when love falls out of bounds for medical reasons, and examines what happens when the body betrays the heart.

Cape Town Royalty Program

Max Fouchee, 2023, South Africa, 7m. English

New York Premiere

An ad presenter has to sell the dream of the South African city Cape Town as a luxurious yet cost-effective new home to wealthy Europeans. Once she realizes her script is problematic, she tries her best to let the prospective audience know about the daily reality of Cape Town’s citizens.

Wèrè

Dolapo Marinho, 2023, Nigeria, 24m. Pidgin and Yoruba with English subtitles

North American Premiere

A homeless woman relies on the kindness of a stranger to survive. When her lifeline disappears, she is forced to ensure her own survival in a perilous city with devastating consequences.

Where My Memory Began

Priscillia Kounkou Hoveyda, 2023, Sierra Leone, 9m. Krio with English subtitles

New York Premiere

Where My Memory Began follows elder Ballu as she tries to remember a 400-year-old cotton tree.

Screening: Sunday, May 12 at 6:30pm

Master Class: Ngozi Onwurah

Join AFF as veteran independent filmmaker Ngozi Onruwah discusses the craft of utilizing cinema as a tool for unmasking the dynamics of the socioeconomic status quo in an intimate conversation with Ashley Clark, Curatorial Director at the Criterion Collection, in the Amphitheater in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Thursday, April 11, at 11:30am at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater

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