African Film Festival

The fourth annual African Film Festival, presented by the film and video department at Columbia College, runs Friday through Sunday, March 27 through 29, with some repeat screenings the following weekend. Tickets are $3; children and family film programs are $2 for parents and $1 for children; six-ticket passes are $15, $12 for Columbia students. Screenings will be held at Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan; Collins Theater, 624 S. Michigan; and Hokin Hall Theater, 623 S. Wabash. For more information call 312-344-7170.


Daughters of the Dust

The 1991 first feature of Julie Dash, set in the islands along the south Atlantic coast of the U.S. around the turn of the century. A group of black women carrying on ancient African traditions and beliefs as part of an extended family preparing to migrate north confront the issue of what to bring with them and what to leave behind. Lyrically distended in its folkloric meditations, with striking use of slow and slurred motion in certain interludes, this doesn’t make much use of drama or narrative, and the musical score and performances occasionally seem at war with the period ambience. But the resources of the beautiful locations are exploited to the utmost, and Dash can be credited with an original, daring, and sincere conception. With Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Adisa Anderson, Kaycee Moore, and Barbara-O. (JR) (Ferguson Theater, 11:00 am)

A Powerful Thang

Chicago independent filmmaker Zeinabu Irene Davis directed this 1991 feature about a young black family–a freelance writer, a saxophone player who teaches high school, and a two-year-old child–living in a college town in Ohio. On the same program, Yvonne Welbon’s The Cinematic Jazz of Julie Dash (1992) and Lydia Douglas’s Nappy (1996). Welbon and Douglas will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 1:30)

The Eyes of the Rainbow

Cuban documentarian Gloria Rolando directed this 1997 video about Assata Shakur, Black Panther and leader of the Black Liberation Army, who currently lives in Cuba. On the same program, Rolando’s My Footsteps in Baragua, a 1995 documentary focusing on Cuba’s English-speaking West Indian community and three Caribbean intellectuals. Rolando will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 5:40)

These Hands

Flora M’mbugu-Schelling’s 1992 documentary from Tanzania, about a woman breaking rocks in a quarry. On the same program, Reminiscences, a 1988 film by Alice E. Stephens, who will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 6:00)

Love Bizarre

An African-American student returns home during her spring break, bringing her Vietnamese fiance to meet her family. Director Ernest Goodly will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 7:00)

Naked Acts

Bridgit Davis directed this 1996 independent feature, in which a 27-year-old loses 57 pounds and is then cast in a nude scene. On the same program, Virginia Bailey’s 1992 short Robert and Rande; Bailey will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 7:45)

24-7, the Movie

Bruce Brown’s 1997 feature follows three brothers as they try to survive in the poverty-stricken southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C. Brown will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 9:00)

Alma’s Rainbow

A 1992 feature by Ayoka Chenzira about a repressed black woman threatened by the arrival of her uninhibited sister and the sexual awakening of her daughter. (Hokin Hall, 9:45)


John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk

A 94-minute documentary about the controversial Afrocentric scholar and activist, an adviser to the first president of Ghana and a confidant of Malcolm X. St. Claire Bourne directed this 1996 film, with narration by the executive producer, actor Wesley Snipes. (Ferguson Theater, 9:20 am)

Struggles in Steel

Ray Henderson, a former steelworker, and Tony Buba, an independent filmmaker, created this 1996 documentary feature that follows the black labor movement in the U.S. from 1875 to the present. Buba and Henderson will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 9:30 am)

How U Like Me Now

Writer-director-producer Darryl Roberts’s second Chicago-made feature is a vast technical advance over The Perfect Model (1989), but he still has a lot to learn–in particular, how to tell a story and prune a script. His flair for dialogue and spirited cast keep one of the talkiest movies within memory going; this 1992 comedy about relationships among young blacks bristles with enough issues and personalities to compensate for much of the shapelessness. With Roberts, Darnell Williams, Salli Richardson, Daniel Gardner, Raymond Whitfield, Debra Crable, Jonelle Kennedy, and Charnele Brown. (JR) Roberts will attend the screening. (Collins Theater, 10:45 am)

Short films, program one

Independent films by Jerry Henry, Caran Hartsfield, Michael Wright, and Alice E. Stephens. Wright and Stephens will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 11:05 am)

Po di sangui

Flora Gomes directed this beautiful 1996 feature from Guinea-Bissau–a beguiling piece of African folklore that equates human lives and trees, both traversed by lyrically choreographed pans and cranes. (JR) (Ferguson Theater, 11:10 am)

Sister, I’m Sorry

A 1997 docudrama by Frank Underwood in which black men apologize to black women. On the same program, a 1995 film by Narcel Reedus, For Colored Boys Who’ve Considered Homicide. Reedus will attend the screening. (Collins Theater, 2:30)


Zimbabwean filmmaker Ingrid Sinclair directed this 1996 feature about the war of liberation that changed Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. (Hokin Hall, 2:45)

Tableau ferraille

Moussa Sene Absa’s 1996 French-Senegalese film comments on the problems of a developing Africa. Daam, an idealistic politician from the town of Tableau Ferraille (whose name means “junk scene”), ascends to power and tangles with a local construction firm, President & Company. The personal and the political become ensnarled as President wins a bridge contract by bribing one of Daam’s two wives for confidential information and Daam then faces corruption charges. The film itself is a nuanced tableau of the conflicts faced by contemporary Africans, but the camera rarely does more than center the action on the screen. (FC) Absa will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 2:45)


Albert Wandago’s 1997 feature from Kenya about a pastor’s daughter who becomes pregnant and gets expelled from school. On the same program, Vanessa, the Orange Thrower, a 1993 video by Kimberly Caviness about a Puerto Rican teenager who pretends she’s pregnant to win the attention of her family. Wandago and Caviness will attend the screening. (Collins Theater, 4:20)

Asbury Park

Chriss Williams directed this 1997 feature about a black teenager who flees a murder in New Jersey for his uncle’s cabin in the country. Williams, winner of the Gordon Parks Independent Film Award for best direction, will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 4:30)

The Final Insult

Charles Burnett’s first foray into digital video, released in 1997 and running 55 minutes, is a fictional story about a homeless middle-aged man (Ayuko Babu of When It Rains) interspersed with a lot of documentary footage about the homeless, including several interviews. Both blocks of material have their own strength and validity, but they seldom mesh comfortably, and their juxtaposition tends to distract one from the subject at hand. (JR) On the same program, short films by Henry Zhou and Malcolm D. Lee. (Hokin Hall, 5:00)

Ca twiste a Poponguine

Moussa Sene Absa directed this 1993 Senegalese coming-of-age film, set in an African village during the 60s. (Collins Theater, 6:05)

Tears of a Clown

An expert ladies man in Harlem who’s riddled with financial woes (Andre Blake) sets about teaching his technique to his brother (Mekhi Phifer), an upstanding journalist who has less luck with women. The premise periodically threatens to become slick and misogynistic, but this fairly serious 1997 independent comedy manages to wind up both modest and likable. With Michele Morgan and Tangi Miller; written, produced, and directed by Mandel Holland. (JR) Holland will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 6:10)

Love and Fate

A love story set in a mental asylum, directed by Kenneth B. Jones (The Clearing). On the same program, Tracy Clark’s 1997 short Stay Black; Jones will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 7:00)


Craig Ross Jr. wrote, directed, and produced this 1997 postnoir feature. The film’s 16-millimeter black-and-white cinematography is beautiful, and its actors are mainly good, but the Eric Dickey story that Ross bases the film on is pretty familiar stuff, a torrid tale of adulterous passion straight out of the Body Heat bin, and it never gets beyond artificiality. This is technically quite impressive for a feature that cost under $10,000, but I wish it gave me more to sink my teeth into. With James Black, Angelle Brooks, and Jennifer Lee. (JR) Ross will attend the screening. (Collins Theater, 7:50)

The Man by the Shore

Raoul Peck’s 1993 semiautobiographical tale of unrest in early 60s Haiti. With Jennifer Zubar, Toto Bissainthe, and Jean-Michel Martial. (Hokin Hall, 9:00)

Aristotle’s Plot

An intriguing and often funny, if at times confusing, 1996 feature from Cameroon by the talented Jean-Pierre Bekolo (Mozart quartier). Originally intended as the African entry in the British Film Institute’s “Century of Cinema” documentaries, which recount the histories of various national cinemas, it took on too many other agendas to fulfill that assignment. It’s partly a comedy about the taste of action-movie fans in a small town in southern Africa, partly a meditation on the difficulties of making films in Africa. (JR) (Ferguson Theater, 8:00)

Dancehall Queen

Set in the Kingston ghetto, this 1997 reggae crime musical is reportedly the highest-grossing movie in Jamaican history and the first to be shot on digital video. Its heroine, a street vendor and single mother, comes into her own after entering a dancehall contest in hopes of keeping various thugs and potential protectors from controlling her life. The narrative isn’t especially gripping, and the film lacks the drive and momentum of The Harder They Come, but there’s plenty of local color; the Jamaican accents are charming even when you can’t follow the dialogue entirely, and the dancehall costumes, though poorly served at times by MTV cutting, certainly glitter. (JR) (Ferguson Theater, 9:25)


Short films, program two

Films by Caran Hartsfield, Cilia Sawadogo, Steve Foley, and Keyth Scales; Foley will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 9:30 am)

Short films, program three

Henry Has a Problem, a new short by Alice E. Stephens, and Carmen Coustaut’s 1987 short Extra Change. Stephens will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 10:40 am)

Wend Kuuni

A 1982 fable from Burkina Faso about a mute orphan boy who suddenly learns to speak, set among the Mossi people of West Africa and directed by Gaston Kabore. (Hokin Hall, 1:20)


Charles Burnett’s fifth feature (and the first he didn’t write), made for the Disney Channel in 1996. Adroitly scripted by coproducer Bill Cain from Gary Paulsen’s sketchy and rather lurid short novel for young adults, this is a powerful, skillful tale about one antebellum plantation slave (the title character, played by Carl Lumbly of To Sleep With Anger) teaching another slave (the narrator, a 12-year-old girl played by Allison Jones) how to read. As a parable about empowerment through reading this is at least as strong as Fahrenheit 451, and as a didactic fairy tale about the relationship between slavery and literacy it’s even stronger. In keeping with their Disney origins, Burnett delivers the story and drama in broad strokes, though he depicts even the white villains with humanity and some complexity (as in his only other film involving white as well as black characters, The Glass Shield). A wonderful, fully realized work–passionate, stirring, and beautiful. With Beau Bridges, Lorraine Toussaint, Bill Cobbs, and Kathleen York. (JR) Admission is free for this screening. (Hokin Hall, 2:45)


Darryl Lemont Wharton directed this schoolroom drama about five students given detention by their teacher one Friday afternoon. Wharton will attend the screening. (Hokin Hall, 4:30)

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Nappy film still.