by Eve M. Ferguson
The African Diaspora International Film Festival returns to the Marvin Center at George Washington University from Aug. 9-11, celebrating “the human experience of people of color around the world.”
This year showcases heroes of African diaspora history, from the opening night with “Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story,” directed by Art Jones, to the closing night film, “The Robeson Effect,” in which actors Danny Glover and Ben Guillory, friends for more than 50 years, tell how actor Paul Robeson affected their lives, leading to the creation of the Robey Theater Company in Los Angeles.
Telling some unknown or seldom-heard stories, the festival always seems to show films that lead to a deeper understanding or a new knowledge of events. In “Ali’s Comeback,” the fascinating documentary tells the unknown saga of how the boxing industry blacklisted Ali for his stance on the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector, and how that blacklist was broken enabling the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) to resume his stellar career.
“Fanon: Yesterday, Today,” introduces the uninformed viewer to Frantz Fanon, the Martiniquan psychiatrist and political philosopher whose seminal works “Black Skin, White Masks” and “The Wretched of the Earth” are still canonical in African and Africana studies some 50 years after his death in 1961.
“Fanon died in December 1961, but his reflection irrigated numerous revolutionary fields throughout the world,” said festival organizers Diarah N’Daw-Spech and her husband Reinaldo Barroso-Spech, who also founded ArtMattan Films, a company designed to distribute African diaspora films.
“What view of this thinker and action man have those who continue the fight today on different fronts against injustice and arbitrariness?” the organizers said. “North and South of the world, activists talk of their struggle and reflect on their connections to Frantz Fanon. The transmission is thus established between the historical dimensions and the diverse contemporary spaces swept by the Fanonian breath.”
In between, 13 other films, from documentaries to feature films, promise to inform and entertain.
“Black N Black,” a documentary that explores the relationship between Africans and African Americans, will be followed by a question-and-answer session. The documentary, filmed in Ghana, Ivory Coast and the U.S., is intended to “present compelling facts and thoughtful opinions intended to spark discussion and learning about each other as a means of building strong and authentic relationships.”
Feature films include “Tazzeka,” the story of a young man who wants to learn the secrets of his grandmother’s traditional Moroccan cuisine and is later inspired in Paris to put those skills to good use when faced with an uncertain future in his new home.
“Dhalinyaro (Youth)” is a coming-of-age story about young women in the East African nation of Djibouti who are looking towards their future and making decisions on school and life. “The Black Mozart in Cuba,” is a historical reenactment of a little known story of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) who became one of the most remarkable, but unknown, figures of the 18th century, where he was influential in both music and politics of his times. He was a composer and conductor, a virtuoso violinist and an expert fencer in Europe, but his story has been erased from memory.
The classic film “Quilombo,” about the uprising led by Zumbi de Palmares in Brazil, will also be shown along with “Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba,” which highlights the remarkable 50-year career of the late South African songstress and activist.
“Fallen Angel’s Paradise,” a comedy from Egypt, “Panama Dreams,” filmmaker Alison Saunders’ search for an ancestor’s story of moving from Barbados to build the Panama Canal, and a program of short films round out the weekend event.