African Film Festival

The third annual African Film Festival, presented by Columbia College’s Department of Film and Video, runs this weekend, Friday through Sunday, April 18 through 20, and next weekend as well. All screenings are free at the Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan; the Collins Theater, 624 S. Michigan; and the Hokin Hall Theater, 623 S. Wabash. For more information call 312-663-1600, ext. 5170, or 312-663-1124.


My Footsteps in Baragua and Oggun: Forever Present

Two documentaries by Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando. My Footsteps in Baragua (1995) focuses on the West Indian community in Cuba and three Caribbean intellectuals; Oggun: Forever Present (1992), her first video, is chiefly about Yoruba philosophy and singer Lazaro Ros. Rolando will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 7:00)


Frantz Fanon

An excellent documentary (1996) by British filmmaker Isaac Julien about the psychiatrist and theorist who wrote about colonial oppression and revolution. (JR) (Collins Theater, 9:15 am)

Midnight Ramble

An hour-long 1995 film by director Pearl Bowser and screenwriter Clyde Taylor about the black film pioneer Oscar Micheaux and the early development of black American cinema. (Hokin Hall Theater, 9:25 am)

Maria Antonia

Adapted from Eugenio Hernandez’s play, this 1990 Cuban feature by Sergio Giral, set in Havana in the 50s, concerns a beautiful, rebellious young woman taken to a high priest by her godmother; with Alina Rodriguez and Alexis Valdez. On the same program, a short work from Brazil and the U.S. by Michelle Stephenson, We Choose to Rap (1995). (Ferguson Theater, 9:30 am)

Guimba the Tyrant

The original title of Cheick Oumar Sissoko’s striking and vibrant 1995 folkloric feature from Mali, a film dedicated “to Africa,” is Guimba: A Tyrant, an Epoch. A fantasy complete with magic spells and special effects, it recounts the intrigues that ensue when the title king allows his dwarf son to ride roughshod over their village kingdom to satisfy his lust, demanding that a married woman divorce her husband and marry him. With Falaba Issa Traore and Lamine Diallo. Check this one out. (JR) (Collins Theater, 10:15 am)

Body and Soul

One of the revelations of this early (1924) silent feature by pioneer black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux is his stylistic assurance; in his sound pictures his technique faltered and his syntax was garbled. This picture also stars the great Paul Robeson in a memorable performance as a duplicitous preacher. (JR) (Hokin Hall Theater, 10:30 am)

In a Time of Violence

A two-and-a-half-hour-long political thriller set during the final months of apartheid, made in 1994 as a miniseries for South African television; Brian Tilley directed. (Hokin Hall Theater, 1:40)


The exciting thing about Haile Gerima’s lush, wide-screen folkloric feature about black slavery–independently made and distributed–is its poetic conviction, backed up by a great deal of filmmaking savvy. Born in Ethiopia but based in the U.S., Gerima attended UCLA’s film school around the same time as Charles Burnett, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, and Billy Woodbury. I haven’t seen his previous films–which include Harvest 3000 Years, Bush Mama, and Ashes and Embers–but Sankofa (1993) shows that he has a camera style and political vision all his own. A glamorous black model (Oyafunmike Ogunlano) posing for pictures outside an ancient castle in Ghana where slaves were once bought and sold provokes the ire of a self-appointed tribal guardian of this tourist spot; he hurls a curse that magically transports her into the role of a slave on a Jamaican plantation, where most of the remainder of the film is set. Beautifully shot and powerfully acted, the depiction of slavery from the vantage point of the slaves as they move toward revolt is rendered mainly in English dialogue, with an intriguing score by David J. White that manages to encompass American jazz and blues as well as African elements. It stands to reason that if anything could bridge the radically disparate experiences of being an American black and an African slave it’s poetry, and Gerima puts it to stirring use. With Alexandra Duah, Nick Medley, Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka, and Ghanaian drummer Ghanaba. (JR) On the same program, the short Zajota and the Boogie Spirit (1990). (Ferguson Theater, 2:30)

Exodus 12:21-30

A short film by Carl Seaton, a Columbia College alumnus, about a freak accident that turns a young black man into the angel of death; lead actor Kenny Young was the cowriter. (Collins Theater, 2:30)

In the Name of Christ

A 1993 feature from the Ivory Coast directed by Roger Gnoan M’Bala, described as a “wry tale of religion” featuring a self-styled “cousin of Christ.” (Collins Theater, 3:00)

Aime Cesaire, A Voice for History: The Vigilant Island

Part one of Euzhan Palcy’s three-part documentary about the Martinican author who coined the term “negritude” and launched the movement called the “Great Black Cry.” (Hokin Hall Theater, 4:15)

The Last Angel of History

A half-hour film (1996) by English filmmaker John Akomfrah, described as a “documentary about black science fiction” and “Africa, history, and memory.” On the same program, Akomfrah’s 1993 documentary Seven Songs for Malcolm X. Akomfrah will attend the screening. (Collins Theater, 4:45)

Daughters of the Dust

The first feature of Julie Dash, set in the islands along the south Atlantic coast of the U.S. around the turn of the century (1991). 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) On the same program, Ivan Watkins’s short Zambo; Watkins will attend the screening. (Ferguson Theater, 5:00)

John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk

A 94-minute documentary about the controversial Afrocentric scholar and activist, adviser to the first president of Ghana and confidant of Malcolm X. St. Claire Bourne directed; Wesley Snipes, the executive producer, is the narrator. (Hokin Hall Theater, 5:20)

The Other Francisco

Sergio Giral’s 1975 Cuban film reproduces a 19th-century antislavery novel as its upper-class liberal author wrote it, then runs through the story again with Marxist revisions. It’s an interesting structural experiment, but the ideas are often better than the execution. (DK) (Collins Theater, 6:45)

W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices

Louis Massiah’s two-hour documentary on the African-American writer and educator was crafted with four different screenwriters. (Hokin Hall Theater, 7:15)

Once Upon a Time . . . When We Were Colored

A warm and likable chronicle about growing up black in Mississippi between 1946 and 1962, shortly before the end of jim crow laws, adapted by Paul C. Cooper from Clifton Taulbert’s memoir and directed by first-timer Tim Reid. Even as a southerner and near contemporary of Taulbert, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of every detail here, but on the whole this feels right (even the colors employed in the decor smack of the 50s), and it certainly puts the egregious nonsense of something like Mississippi Burning to shame. The film has its hokey moments, but it also has a good many quiet virtues and strengths, which is perhaps why it was rejected by the trendy Sundance film festival: there’s hardly an ounce of hyperbole in it. The excellent cast includes Al Freeman Jr., Phylicia Rashad, Leon, Paula Kelly, Salli Richardson, Anna Maria Horsford, Bernie Casey, Isaac Hayes, Damon Hines, Taj Mahal, Polly Bergen, and Richard Roundtree. (JR) On the same program, Maureen Blackwood’s 1994 short film from England, Home Away From Home. (Ferguson Theater, 7:30)


See earlier listing. (Collins Theater, 8:35)

Black Skin, White Mask

A film from England by Isaac Julien; no other information available. (Hokin Hall Theater, 9:30)


Mother of the River

Zeinabu Irene Davis’s provocative black-and-white short film about slavery (1995). On the same program, Kim Greene and Camille Tucker’s 40-minute Sweet Potato Ride (1993). Davis will attend the screening. (JR) (Hokin Hall Theater, 10:30 am)

Short Films

Alile Sharon Larkin’s Dreadlocks and the Three Bears (1992), Caran Hartsfield’s Double-Handed (1993), and Kenneth B. Jones’s The Clearing (1991), all from the U.S. The Clearing was scripted by Alice Stephens, artistic director of the African Film Festival; she and Jones will both attend the screening. (Hokin Hall Theater, 11:45 am)


Though I suppose one could critique its sexual politics, this is a lovely, memorable feature from Burkina Faso (1994), directed by Dani Kouyate, about a young boy who’s torn between the influence of a modern schoolteacher and the influence of a griot. Well worth checking out. (JR) On the same program, Maureen Blackwood’s 1994 short film from England, Home Away From Home. (Hokin Hall Theater, 1:45)

The Golden Ball

A 1993 French-Guinean production directed by Cheik Doukoure about a penniless 12-year-old soccer whiz from the provinces who runs away to the city, joins a famous French soccer team, and then has to decide whether to leave his family and country. (Hokin Hall Theater, 3:30)

Love Your Mama

After a long and successful career in day care, Ruby L. Oliver made this, her first feature, originally known as Leola, in her late 40s (1989). It’s a remarkable debut: assured, tightly focused, surprisingly upbeat considering the number of problems it addresses without flinching–and the best low-budget Chicago independent feature I’ve seen. Set in contemporary Chicago, it concerns a 17-year-old girl from the ghetto whose plans for the future are jeopardized when she becomes pregnant. Her brothers are gradually drifting into a life of crime, her mother is having difficulty maintaining a day-care center without a license, and her stepfather is an alcoholic and philanderer. The plotline is concentrated and purposeful, and the cast–including Carol E. Hall, Audrey Morgan (particularly impressive as the mother), Earnest Rayford, Andre Robinson, and Kearo Johnson–is uniformly fine. In addition to writing, directing, producing, and financing the film, Oliver is credited with the casting, served as set decorator and location manager, and sang as well as wrote the lyrics to the film’s theme song. (JR) (Hokin Hall Theater, 5:15)

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photo from “We Choose to Rap”.