New York African Film Festival Celebrates 30th Anniversary at Film at Lincoln Center


( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) Film at Lincoln Center and The New York African Film Festival Announce The Complete Lineup For The 30th Edition

ENSPIRE Contributor: Madesen Amadeo

Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) will celebrate the kickoff of the 30th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) at FLC from May 10 to 16. The festival was launched in 1993 and was one of the first of its kind in the United States. This festival reflects on the ways African storytellers have used the moving image as a mold to tell stories with their own nuances and eccentricities. The African Film Festival presents over 30 films from more than 15 countries. The audience will be able to explore the infinite realms of African and diaspora storytelling and embrace its visionary, and fearless spirit.

“The New York African Film Festival was founded to counteract the voice-over, where Africans were being spoken for over grim images, and to provide a place where the seventh art could become a weapon for us to reclaim our voices, to reappropriate our images and to add layers to the narrative,” said NYAFF founder and AFF Executive Director Mahen Bonetti. “In each frame presented by the festival over three decades, we have found our connection with each other and our footing in other people’s spaces while presenting myriad stories about all corners of the African diaspora and the human experience itself.”

Mahen Bonetti

Opening Night marks the New York premiere of Moussa Sène Absa’s Xalé, the third film in his trilogy focused on women. When twin brother and sister Awa and Adama’s grandmother passed away, their Aunt Fatou and Uncle Atoumane pledged to marry to preserve the family union. Tired of waiting to consummate their marriage, Atoumane commits an act from which there is no return. The Centerpiece selection is the U.S. premiere of Hyperlink. Composed of four short films and directed by South African filmmakers Mzonke Maloney, Nolitha Mkulisi, Julie Nxadi, and Evan Wigdorowitz, who reflect on the captivating, and at times the treacherous reality of the internet. Using humor, suspense, and social criticism, this production sketches a society dominated by idealized versions of our dream selves.

Four festival features are U.S. premieres: Fatou Cissé’s A Daughter’s Tribute to Her Father: Souleymane Cissé, an intimate portrayal of the life and career of Souleymane Cissé, one of Africa’s most celebrated filmmakers; Ottis Ba Mamadou’s Dent Pour Dent, a comedic drama placing the unemployed Idrissa in the position of being entirely dependent on his wife after budgetary restrictions imposed by the IMF and seeking revenge; Katy Léna N’diaye’s Money, Freedom, a Story of CFA Franc, a revealing account of why a currency holdover resulting from French colonialism is still in use to this day; and Ery Claver’s Our Lady of the Chinese Shop, a delicate urban tale that reveals a family and city full of resentment, greed, and torment in Luanda, Angola, in part because of a peculiar, holy plastic figure of Our Lady.

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A Daughter’s Tribute to Her Father: Souleymane Cissé

The festival is also proud to host the U.S. premieres of two short films. Chadrack Banikina and Cecilia Zoppelletto’s Ota Benga is an animated film that captures a moment in the true-life story of Ota Benga (1883–1916). The Pygmy which was exhibited at the Bronx Zoo; and Babetida Sadjo’s Hématome, is about a woman who after twenty-five years, breaks her silence for a rape she suffered as a child and seeks justice.

Other highlights from the slate include the New York premiere of Know Your Place, Zia Mohajerjasbi’s slice-of-life drama set in present-day Seattle. An errand undertaken by Robel, a 15-year-old Eritrean-American, transforms into an odyssey across the rapidly gentrifying city. and Souleymane Cissé’s Den Muso, an exploration of repercussions of a mute girl’s assault, that shines a light on the societal and economic challenges facing women in urban Mali during the 1970s. The film was restored by Cissé – who was among the first wave of sub-Saharan African filmmakers – and La Cinémathèque française in 2020, in collaboration with the Cinémathèque Afrique and the French Institute, thanks to the support of Pathé.

NYAFF will present a Town Hall at The Africa Center on Thursday, May 4, at 6:00 pm. Featuring African and diaspora artists displaying and discussing work that explores the festival’s theme Freeforms. Participants include Assane Sy, Senegalese photographer and film curator of Jollof Films; Ladan Osman, Somali-American poet, and filmmaker; Bocafloja, rapper, poet, and spoken word artist; and Khane Kutzwell, hair stylist and barber for film and TV. Moderator Maboula Soumahoro is a French-Ivorian scholar and writer, whose book, Black is the Journey: Africana the Name (2021), will contextualize the program.

Acclaimed Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Sène Absa will present a free masterclass on Saturday, May 13, at 11:30 am, which will show the impact of migration on family and community bonds. Paying particular attention to the perspectives of immigrant mothers. The event takes place in the Amphitheater at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center with tickets available through

Two free talks are Safi Faye Memorial Talk: Women of African Cinema, a conversation which will bring together contemporary African directors and curators to reflect on Faye’s legacy in the wake of the pioneering filmmaker’s death in February, and what her work means for feminist African cinema today; and In Conversation with Souleymane Cissé, a special keynote talk with the acclaimed Malian director about his career and legacy, in conjunction with retrospective screenings of Den Muso and Yeelen. Yeleen was screened during the first NYAFF. Both events will be held in the Amphitheater at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Evoking poet Lucille Clifton’s call to “sing for red dust and black clay” in her book of poetry Good News About the Earth, Nigerian-American artist Zainab Aliyu invites thirty filmmakers working within African diasporic cinema to explore pottery as a metaphor that points towards the potential of free forms in her video piece, From red dust to Black clay. This free digital art exhibition will run from May 10 – 16 in the Amphitheater.

The festival continues at Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem from May 19 to 21 and culminates at the Brooklyn Academy of Music under the name Film Africa from May 26 to June 1 during Dance Africa. Ticket prices are $17 for the general public; $14 for students, seniors, and persons with disabilities; and $12 for FLC Members. See more and save with the $79 All-Access Pass or the $39 Student All-Access Pass. Contact for information about attending the Opening Night Party.

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