PAFF 2014: What to see


This year, PAFF has selected a total of 172 films, representing 46 countries,
including  Argentina, Brazil, Bahamas, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and of course, the United States.

Highly Recommended US Features & Galas:

Steve Pink’s “About Last Night” Leslye Headland’s witty script and a strong cast make for a sophisticated romantic comedy. Centerpiece Gala Tues, Feb 11 ArcLight Cinerama Dome, 6360 Sunset Blvd 7:30pm)

R. Malcolm Jones’s “The Magic City”. Narrated by young Tiana, the film details the journey of two sisters, abandoned by their drug-addicted mother then swallowed up by the Florida foster care system. (Wed, Feb 12-3:20p; Thu, Feb 13-7:50p; Sun, Feb 16-7:10p)

Chris Eska’s detailed period drama “The Retrieval” is a poignant chronicle of the evolution of a father-son bond and an indelible portrait of the anguish and hopefulness of African Americans caught in the upheaval of the Civil War. (Fri, Feb 7@7:30p; Tue, Feb 11@1:20p; Thu, Feb 13@5:35p)

Recommended “And Then there Was You” (Gala Sat, Feb 8@8:00p ($16) and
Fri, Feb 14@6:10p): Jolene Adams’s ‘The Boarder” (Mon, Feb 10@6:15; Sat, Feb 15@1:00p),

Katherine Nero’s family drama “For the Cause” is set against political issues from the past (Fri, Feb 7-3:55p; Thu, Feb 13-5:10p);

Norry Niven’s stylized “Four Above” is a multi-cultural Greek-Shakespearean tragedy starring Danny Glover. (Thu, Feb 13@8:30p*; Sat, Feb 15@6:45p (Gala $16)

Thomas K. Phillips’s ‘The North Star” is based on the true story of Benjamin “Big Ben” Jones and Moses Hopkins, two slaves who escape from a Virginia plantation in the late 1840s and make their way north to Buckingham, Pennsylvania where they receive help from Quakers.
(Sun, Feb 9@7:30p; Tue, Feb 11@10:)

Highly Recommended World Features
“Felix” Roberta Durrant’s spirited crowd pleaser was at hit this year’s inaugural South African Arts Fest SAAF, LA. After getting a scholarship to an exclusive (“white”) private school, 13-year-old Felix is immediately treated like an outsider by his fellow students and faculty. Attempting to prove himself, Felix, a penny-whistle virtuoso, auditions for the school’s jazz concert. But he soon finds that his affinity for jazz and his talent on the penny-whistle are not enough. He must learn to read music and play a “real” instrument. Alas, his mother hates the “devil’s music” ever since Felix’s musician-father drank himself to death. When Felix finds photos of his infamous father and his father’s old saxophone in a hidden trunk, he defies his mother and begins to secretly meet with two of his father’s aging band mates who not only help him prepare for the school jazz concert by giving him a crash course on the saxophone but teach him about his father and his musical roots. Stars Hlayani Junior Mabasa, Linda Sokhulu and Janet Suzman. (Sat, Feb 8@1:25p; Mon, Feb 17@11:00a)

“The Forgotten Kingdom”
South African director Andrew Mudge’s humorous, magical road movie follows a young Johannesburg hustler, Atang, on a reluctant journey to bury his estranged father. As Atang travels to his ancestral land in the rural mountain kingdom of Lesotho to fulfill his father’s last wish, he must quickly adjust to the more spiritual rhythms of the Basotho people. Atang falls in love with his childhood friend Dineo, now a radiant young schoolteacher. Because he is unable to pay the bride price, her father removes Dineo to an even more remote village to keep them separated.  Atang pawns his only article of value, the ring he took from his father’s finger, to finance his journey to follow his love. He also befriends a precocious eleven-year-old orphan, who becomes both his companion and spiritual guide. Throughout his journey, Atang begins to encounter villagers who lead him further on this unexpected, often mystical, journey into his past. Stars Zenzo Ngqobe, Nozipho Nkelemba, Jerry Mofokeng, Moshoeshoe Chabeli, Lillian Dube, Lobohang Ntsane and Sam Phillips.
CRITCS NOTE: Exquisite cinematography by Carlos Carvalho frames a road movie of psychological familial redemption.
Winner of the Audience Awards at Ashland Independent Film Festival, Cambridge Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Woods Hole Film Festival, and Woodstock Film Festival, where it also won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature. A MUST SEE
(Mon, Feb 10@3:45p; Sun, Feb 16@9:30p)

“The Great Kilapy” (O Grande Kilapy)
*Kilapy- a word from the Angolan native language Kimbundu meaning coup, scheme, fraud, borrow without paying.
Zézé Gamboa’s film is set in the period from the 1960s to the mid-1970s and on the eve of Angola’s independence from Portugal.  Angolan João Fraga, a good-hearted playboy and irresistible bon vivant, appears to slip into a life of crime in order to support his affluent lifestyle. When he pulls off a massive swindle at the expense of the Portuguese colonial administration in Angola he is persecuted by the Portuguese dictatorship as a subversive political figure. Imprisoned, he becomes a legend amongst his people. The historical question remains–was he a real spy for the MPLA (the liberation movement) or a sophisticated hustler? Inspired by a real figure, acclaimed Angolan director Zézé Gamboa’s decade-spanning historical drama is a refreshing take on the national liberation story in southern Africa and turns its conventions upside down with elegance and humor. Shot in sepia tones, this film stars the number one African Brazilian actor Lázaro Ramos (“Madame Sata”), João Lagarto and Pedro Hossi.
CRITICS NOTE: Zézé Gamboa’s sleek “The Great Kilapy” (O Grande Kilapy) had its World Premiere at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF). It was selected for numerous festivals, including Lisbon’s Festin, The London Film Festival and the Dubai Film Festival.  A MUST SEE (Fri, Feb 14@8:35p; Sat, Feb 15@7:25p)

As in the original paradise, the inhabitants of the Bissagos archipelago, located on the west coast of Africa, live according to ancient traditions and in absolute respect for nature, until a gang of drug dealers occupies their sacred islands. The medicine man dies and everything seems lost, until his young successor decides to step forward and fulfill his destiny, saving the village from the invaders. Stars Rubilson Velho Delcano, Beti Moreira Vaz, Rui Manuel da Silva and Isabel N’Fanda M’Bali.
CRITICS NOTE: Iconic director Sana Na N’Hada shot “Kadjike” in Lembérem, a small village located in the South of Guinea-Bissau, filming in the lush subhumid forest of Mata de Cantanhez; and Bubaque, the main island in the Bijagós Archipelago.
 Sana Na N’Hada, the director of the National Institute of Cinema of Guinea Bissau studied at ICAIC (the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industries). Returning to Guinea, he filmed newsreels of the war of independence. In 1976 he co-directed two shorts with Flora Gomes “The return of Cabral” and “Anos assa luta no”. During the 1970s-80s, he worked on many films including Chris Marker’s “Sans Soleil” and Flora Gomes’ “Nega Mortu”. He shot his first short film “The days of Ancono” in 1978. “Xime” (1994) was his first feature film. (Sun, Feb 9@9:55p; Tue, Feb 11@3:00p

“The Kampala Story”
Donald Mugisha & Kasper Bisgaard 62 minute feature packs a punch.
A decade ago, only 300,000 people in Uganda had access to a telephone. Today more than 3,000,000 people own a mobile phone, used for communication, commercial purposes and especially for mobile phone banking. Apio, a 14-year-old Karamojong girl, and her mother run their household on money wired through mobile money service from her father who works at the security firm in Kampala.  Apio’s mother is pregnant and may need a medical operation, Apio’s father suddenly stops communicating and Apio must travel alone to Kampala to find her father to send urgent money back home. New to Kampala and knowing no one there, Apio’s maturity is tested as she navigates the mean streets and alleyways of Uganda’s capital. Shot in a docu-drama style,  “The Kampala Story” offers a view of one of Africa’s largest cities and insight into the people who struggle to survive there. Stars Apio Mary Reste and Olem ‘Lot’ Bonny.
CRITICS NOTE: A clean documentary style and strong performances, especially from non-actress Apio Mary Reste make this a MUST SEE. North American Premier at 2013 Seattle Film Festival (Sat, Feb 8@3:25p; Thu, Feb 13@3:20p)

“Ninah’s Dowry” 
Runtime     95 minutes     Country     Cameroon/US
Directed by     Victor Viyuoh     Cinematographer     Emile-Aime Yibain
At 20, Ninah is the mother of three children stuck in an abusive marriage with little hope of change. Her family lives off her meager earnings from farm work while her husband, Memfi, drinks away his equally meager earnings as a shepherd. When news of her gravely ill father reaches her, she disobeys her husband’s orders and goes to his deathbed so she could speak her peace to the man who put her in this marital bondage. After her father dies, Ninah refuses to return home and stays in town to run a small restaurant. When news reaches her husband that Ninah is pregnant, he comes with two cohorts to recover the dowry he paid or take the woman he feels he owns. Dragged kicking and screaming through the streets Ninah finds no supporters to help her escape her tormentor in Cameroon’s patriarchal society. Stars Mbufung Seikeh, Anurin Nwunembom and Norbert Kecha. (Sat, Feb 8@9:30p; Fri, Feb14@3:20p)

“Papilio Buddha”
Originally banned in its native country, Jayan Cherian’s “Papilio Buddha” is a fierce attack on caste oppression, mainstream Gandhism and environmental degradation in the Western Ghats of India. The indigenous but landless Dalit peoples (known as ‘untouchables’ for their ostracized status) have embraced Buddhism in order to escape from caste oppression and taken over government land resulting in an ongoing land struggle with the local authorities.

Shankaran, an educated but apolitical Dalit and Jack, an American lepidopterist, hunt for rare Papilio Buddha butterflies in the mountains of a government reserve. Shankaran’s father Kariyan, an Dalit activist and former communist, leads the struggle against discrimination s and agitates to lay claim to the land on which the Dalits “squat”.

Unhappy with the presence of an American among the Dalits, the Indian authorities arrest Shankaran and Jack for illegally catching butterflies.  Jack is forced to leave. Shankaran is imprisoned and tortured. Shankaran joins his father’s movement. He begins an affair with strong-minded Manju, a schoolteacher, Buddhist and female rickshaw driver. Rejecting the sexual advances of a lecherous union leader, Manju is brutally raped and her rickshaw burned. Outraged, the Dalit community revolts vehemently rejecting Ghandian calls for peace. A provocative probe of ethnic and gender discrimination in Indian society.  Stars Kallen Pokkudan, Saritha and Prakash Bare.
CRITICS NOTE: Banned in India in its original form, the film sustained numerous cuts before it was accepted at the International Film Festival of Kerala, where it won the Kerala State Film Special Jury Award for Best Direction. It also won the Kerala Film Critics Association Award for Best Debut Director; Best Cinematographer (M.J.Radhakrishnan) and Best Art Director (Manu Perunna) at the 2013 Oaxaca FilmFest of Mexico and the second prize for Best Narrative Feature at the 2013 Athens International Film & Video Festival. Premiering at the 27th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival it also screened at Montreal World Film Festival and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. “Papilio Buddha” was the only Indian film selected by the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. Cherian filmed in the Western Ghats, one of the last rainforests in southern Asia. The environmentally sensitive area is under severe ecocide by corporations and the mining companies. Black-stone and red-stone mining, a cash cow for local political upper class, is displacing the “untouchable” Dalits. (Thu, Feb 13@1:00p; Sun, Feb 16@5:10p)

Recommended World Features:
“Azú'” (US Premiere)
Set in 1780 on a Sugarcane plantation in Venzuela, A new African slave woman’s
ancestral destiny disrupts the order of the plantation. Action, mysticism and identity come together in this story wrapped in magic and the struggle for freedom.
Stars Pedro Durán, Carmen Francia, Maryelis Rivas, Flora Sylvestre and Juvel Vielma. (Sat, Feb 8@6:30p; Fri, Feb 14@6:30p)

“Bahamian Son” (West Coast Premiere)
Reggie Henderson’s warm-hearted indie “Bahamian Son” was the Opening night film at Bahamas International Film Festival 2013.
Kevin sets out to find his father, whom he hasn’t seen in over thirty years. What happens in the Bahamas opens Kevin’s eyes to a world and a history he never knew existed and what it means to be a son, a father, and a man. (Fri, Feb 7@5:30p; Mon, Feb 10@1:15p)

“The Children’s Republic” (Director Flora Gomes)
In an unidentified African country, the citizens are ruled by a violent and unjust political and economic system. One day the adults run away, exhausted by the wars they started, leaving their children behind. The children must rebuild their world and form a stable and prosperous country. Stars Danny Glover, Hedviges Mamudo, Melanie de Vales Rafael, Joyce Simbine Saiete, Bruno Mauro Armindo Nhavene and Anaïs Adrianopoulos.
CRITICS NOTE: In her 30-year career iconic Guinea-Bissau director Flora Gomes has made five fiction features, all financed with European monies on shoe-string budgets.

“Confusion Na Wa”
Kenneth Gyang’s dark comedy follows a group of urban strangers whose fates become intertwined over the course of 24 hours. At the heart of everything is a phone found by two opportunist wasters Charles and Chichi who, having read through its contents, decide to blackmail the owner Emeka. Little do they realize that their misdemeanors have set in motion a chain of events that will lead to their own downfall. Best Film and Best Nigerian Film, 2013 African Movie Academy Awards. Stars O.C. Ukeje, Ramsey Nouah and Ali Nuhu.
(Sat, Feb 8@9:00p; Wed, Feb 12@8:40p; Mon, Feb 17@6:35p)

“Girl With Big Eyes (A Menina dos Olhos Grandes)”
Directed by     Alexis Tsafas & Fonseca Soares
Based an adaptation of a popular Cape Verdean fairy tale, a Creole girl returns from Europe to her homeland due to the sudden death of her father. Stranded in what is for her a foreign country and having to live with her stepfather, she begins to look for her new identity. She witnesses the harsh reality of an African country and experiences the ghosts of her past; she is distraught by the absence of her European mother and awkwardly awakened by her developing puberty. Her return is transformed into a journey revealing the charm of the Creole culture of Cape Verde, the mix of two completely different cultures at a crossroads between Africa, America and Europe. Stars Laura Branco, Elisabete Goncalves, Fonseca Scares and Gabriela Mendes. (Sat, Feb 8@5:40p; Sun, Feb 9@10:30p)

“Horizon Beautiful”
Runtime     90 minutes     Country     Ethiopia/Switzerland
Swiss director Stefan Jäger’s “Horizon Beautiful” can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Soccer industry magnate Franz travels to Addis Ababa as part of a campaign promoting his sport as a fountain of hope to humanity. The more he realizes that his effort is a purely tactical move to save his damaged reputation, the more his task turns into something personal — proving to himself that deep inside he isn’t really a mean person. For Admassu, a 12-year-old street kid, the chance to show off his artistry on the ball to the big boss himself seems like a magic door to a future as soccer pro. When Franz ignores him, Admassu cooks up a scheme with some street thugs to kidnap the big boss so that he can save him and win the boss’s gratitude. But life is more complicated than dreams and things go wrong, taking both Franz and Admassu on a journey of self-discovery through the Ethiopian countryside and bringing them together in ways they could never have anticipated. Stars Henok Tadele, Kenny Allen, Stefan Gubser and Rahel Teshome.
(Sun, Feb 9@4:50p; Mon, Feb 10@1:05p)

“Something Necessary”
Runtime     85 minutes     Country     Kenya/Germany
Directed by     Howard Allen     Cinematographer     Yinka Edward
Anne struggles to rebuild her life after Kenya’s civil unrest killed her husband, gravely injured her son, and left her isolated farm in ruins. Joseph, a quiet and troubled young gang member who took part in the countrywide violence, is drawn to Anne and her farm, seemingly in search of connection and redemption. This powerful story of forgiveness and reconciliation presents an intimate look at the aftermath of violence on both perpetrators and victims. Stars Kipng’eno Kirui Duncan, Hilda Jepkoech, Carolyne Chebiwott Kibet and Anne Kimani.
(Mon, Feb 10@9:30p; Sat, Feb 15@3:00p)

Runtime     85 minutes     Country     UK
Directed by     Charlie Cattrall     Cinematographer     Paul Berriff
Titus is the story of a virtuoso African-American jazz musician whose damaged soul has made him a “nobody”. Living in London, far from home, he’s wasting away, estranged from his one true love, his vintage alto sax. All hope looks lost until a visitor arrives, Jessica, the daughter he abandoned as a baby. Over the course of a day and night together, old demons are laid to rest and new ones are stirred, and for one last time the future is back in Titus’ hands. The poetic and soulful story of one man’s final shot at redemption – when all he’s ever known is hell. Stars Ron Cephas Jones, Ann Mitchell and Jasmine Cephas Jones.
CRITICS NOTE: Charlie Cattrall’s Indie back and white film features a poetic introspective script and a strong original jazz score featuring Archie Shepp.
(Fri, Feb 7-10:05p; Thu, Feb 13-10:30p; Mon, Feb 17-1:40p)

“Urban Rhythm”
Michael Ibiayo’s musical film casts original Afrobeat acts in the UK and
stars Lateef Lovejoy, Material, and Gabriel Rinu. It also features Maydaz, Zeeza Sadiq, Yvonne Hays, Sabrina Chiemeka, Jessica Okonkwo, Ade Bello, and Brereton Horne.

“Young Artist” Material finds himself in need of a lawyer when he is charged with a petty crime. Sean, a successful private defense attorney is assigned to the case. Both characters met once before, when Sean was mugged by the Material’s friend and mistakenly took him for part the youth gang who planned the whole thing. Working together on the case, they realize they share a common interest in music, which they can use to help each other achieve their individual ambitions. (Sun, Feb 9@2:00p; Mon, Feb 10@2:00p)

PAFF has assembled a powerful selection of documentaries.

Highly Recommended World Docs
“Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992”
Runtime     79 minutes     Country     Germany
Audre Lorde’s incisive, often-angry, but always brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the US-American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and women of color movements of the 1970s and 1980s. “Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992” documents an untold chapter of Lorde’s life: her influence on the German political and cultural scene before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a decade of profound social change. The film explores the importance of Lorde’s legacy, as she encouraged Afro-Germans – who at that time had no name or space for themselves – to make themselves visible within a culture that until then had kept them isolated and silent. Dagmar Schultz’s personal archival video-and audio-recordings reveal with stunning images a significant part of the private Audre Lorde as well as her agenda – to rouse Afro-Germans to recognize each other.
(Sun, Feb 9@11:30a; Fri, Feb 14@1:15p)
CRITICS NOTE: Dagmar Schultz’s incisive doc, which Premiered at the Berlinale Panorama Documentary section (2012) has screened at over 50 film festivals. A MUST SEE

“Big Men”
Runtime     99 minutes     Country     US/UK/Denmark
Rachel Boynton’s “Big Men” is a real-life “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, an epic tale about ambitious people who uncover a massive and exquisitely rare pot of gold in one of the poorest places on earth. In 2007, US-based Kosmos Energy discovers the first oil in the history of the West African Republic of Ghana. What follows over the next five years is a twisting tale of greed and deception, which director Rachel Boynton films with razor-sharp journalistic skill. While in Ghana she makes side trips to nearby Nigeria, whose own oil reserves have been responsible for a vicious cycle of exploitation with little appreciable benefit to the country itself. Big Men travels from company meetings about oil deals worth billions to gatherings of heavily armed militants preparing to strike. And along the way it poses vital questions about what fundamentally motivates us: is unbridled greed an intrinsic part of human nature? And can what unites us ever be greater than what divides us? A remarkable suspense story about global capitalism with breathtaking access to everyone involved. (Sun, Feb 9@11:55a; Tue, Feb 11@1:10p)

“Black Che, the First Disappeared” (Negro Che, los Primeros Desaparecidos)
(Los Angeles Premiere) Runtime     88 minutes     Country     Argentina
Directed by     Alberto Masliah     Cinematographer     Mariana Russo
Is there a black community of Afro-Descendents in Argentina? Most people in Argentina would say no, and most foreigners with a deep knowledge of the country would certainly agree on that–but they would be wrong. Today, Afro-Descendents struggle to survive and fight against isolation, assimilation, discrimination and oblivion while resisting a “whitening process” that for centuries has encouraged them to move towards a European society. Taking pride in their culture and ancestry, they give testimony, shedding light on an old myth of their so-called disappearance promoted by the state and the great majority of Argentina’s population.  (Wed, Feb 12@3:25p; Thu, Feb 13@6:10p)

Cuba: An African Odyssey
Runtime     118 minutes     Country     Egypt/France   
Jihan El-Tahri’s exciting, enlightening and entertaining documentary focuses on a little-known aspect of the demise of apartheid and shows why President Fidel Castro was the first person outside the African continent to be visited by President Nelson Mandela upon his release from Robben Island. Cuba’s military engagement in Angola involved 450,000 Cuban troops sent to fight alongside Angolan and Namibian freedom fighters. They defeated the white apartheid South African army at the pivotal and decisive Battle of Cuito Carnavale. This military victory, along with the Black unions and student led people’s uprising inside South Africa, coupled with the world-wide anti-apartheid movement imposing sanctions against South Africa led to the freeing of President Mandela and the destruction of the apartheid system. The film traces the pivotal role played by Cuba’s international policy in helping independence struggles on the African continent beginning with Che Guevara’s mission into the Congo to avenge the death of Patrice Lumumba and then Cuba’s support of Amílcar Cabral’s uprising in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. (Fri, Feb 7@9:55p; Fri, Feb 14@8:20p)

“Melvin & Jean: An American Story”
Runtime     60 minutes     Country     US/France
“Melvin & Jean: An American Story” traces the journey of Melvin and Jean McNair from their childhood growing up poor in North Carolina to their lives as valued members of their community in France. Along the way, it tells the poignant tale of two people of the radical Sixties, crime in the name of a cause—and second chances. In their early 20’s in 1972, the McNairs made news when they hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria to join Eldridge Cleaver and the International Section of the Black Panther Party. Simultaneously an act of political resistance to racism and the Vietnam War, the hijacking was also an act of desperation committed by two young people who saw no other way to escape the constant state of racial oppression in the United States. This dramatic hijacking, previewed in the film’s opening, marked a beginning of a long journey for the McNairs, transforming them into fugitives from American justice and a cause célèbre in France where they sought political asylum. Granted asylum after serving several years in prison in France for the hijacking, the McNairs remained in France and, for 35 years, have lived as model citizens in their adopted country. Now, over forty years later, the two are still coming to terms with their act and its lifelong consequences as they try to gain the ability to return to the United States without spending the rest of their lives behind bars.
CRITICS NOTE: Already a widely distributed success on French television and in cinemas, Maia Wechsler’s fascinating doc sneak previewed at DOC NYC.
(Fri, Feb 7@10:40p; Thu, Feb 13@10:05p)

Music Docs: “The African Cypher “(Los Angeles Premiere)
CRITICS NOTE: South African director Bryan Little’s documentary was a hit at LA’s inaugural SAAF. (South African Arts Festival).
This is the physicality of the dance–the awe of a body flowing through space, flipping, spinning, and snaking as if giving birth to a new means of self-expression. Across South African cities and townships, dance has long been a mirror of the community, replaying allegorical stories that both educate and entertain. Director Bryan Little harnesses the energy of the unique and diverse performance styles of isiPantsula and sBhujwa to Krump and B-boy. Crime and poverty may be a challenging reality in township life, but the dancers featured describe how their art has enriched their lives with new avenues, and pay it forward by engaging with youth through mentorship and dance training that breaks the cycle of crime and offers hope. Little’s survey of dancers and styles returns often to an extraordinary duo, the Movers & Shakers, eventually following them to the expected narrative trope of the “Big Dance Competition.” (Fri, Feb 7@12:45p; Wed, Feb 12@1:00p)

“Brothers Hypnotic” (US Premiere)
Runtime     87 minutes     Country     Netherlands/US
With a fusion of jazz, funk, Afrobeat and more than a smidge of hip-hop, the group’s horn-dominated arrangements are magical. Lively, funny and at times philosophical, Reuben Atlas’s “Brothers Hypnotic” tackles the challenges of maintaining an independent music career, as well as some knotted generational conflicts. The sons of Chicago jazz sage and Black Consciousness figure Phil Cohran (who played with the Sun Ra Arkestra), the brothers all grew up in a huge, unconventional family of 24 siblings (from the same father but different mothers, all extraordinary musicians in their own right, two of whom helped raise the communal brood side-by-side). Music practice started at 5am every day with the group of siblings performing in the Phil Cohran Youth Ensemble.
In forming Hypnotic, the brothers made a partial break from their father, struggling to re-evaluate and reinterpret their patriarch’s uncompromising musical and political ideals for a modern era. This dilemma becomes ever more acute as the group’s profile rises, highlighting an intriguing microcosm of the tensions between the hip-hop generation and its civil-rights-era forebears. [Based on a review written by Andrew Barker in Variety.]
(Sat, Feb 8@6:15p; Thu, Feb 13@6:05p; Mon, Feb 17@11:15a)

Three Music and Roots road films:
“Learning How to Read to Teach My Fellows” (Aprender a Ler Pra Ensinar Meus Camaradas)    Directed by João Guerra     Country Brazil/Angola 
Sights and sounds elevate this incredibly beautiful spiritual expedition by two Angolan musicians who travel to Bahia, Brazil, on a journey in search of traces of their lost ancient roots preserved in an Angolan culture outside of the geographical area of Angola. From food to customs, religion to music the people of Angola share elements of their culture with people in Bahia, despite geographical distance and centuries of slavery. The musicians recognize elements of their indigenous culture, some of which have been obscured by modernity. They journey through Bahia, speaking with a variety of cultural workers, exploring the connections and acquiring insight into elements of their own identity as they come across interesting discoveries. As musicians, the two explorers participate in a major concert, meeting and interacting with other musicians. (Sun, Feb 9@4:15p; Mon, Feb 10@4:30p)

“Tango Negro, The African Roots of Tango”
Runtime     93 minutes     Country     France
Angolan filmmaker Dom Pedro explores the expression of tango’s Africaness and the contribution of African cultures to the creation of the tango. Tango was a reflection of the social life of the slaves who were taken to South America — including Argentina and Uruguay — mostly from central Africa, particularly from the former Kongo Kingdom. Director Dom Pedro reveals the depth of the footprints of African music on the tango through this rich movie combining musical performances and interviews from many tango fans and historians in Latin America and Europe, including the renowned Argentinean pianist Juan Carlos Caceres.
(Wed, Feb 12@6:00p; Sun, Feb 16@2:20p; Mon, Feb 17@11:30a)

“They Are We”
Runtime     90 minutes     Country     Sierra Leone/Cuba/Australia/Liberia
Joanna MonteroJosefa held her village’s songs and dances in her heart. Captured in Africa, she treasured them as she was loaded into the gruesome hold of a slave ship and then sold as a beast of burden in Cuba. Toiling on a plantation, she taught the songs and dances to her children and grandchildren, words and rhythms that lost their original meanings but still resonated with the cadences of their stolen identity. Now, 160 years later, might those same songs and dances enable her descendants to make their way home?

Emma Christopher’s “They Are We” tells the story of how Josefa’s descendants have kept some of their origins alive. It shows the incredible search for their African roots and then follows the two halves of the family as they try to overcome their problems—the Africans’ extreme poverty and the Cubans’ lack of freedom to travel—to meet again. It is a story of surviving the worst of human experience and how family ties can outlast just about anything.
(Fri, Feb 7@8:20p; Sun, Feb 9@2:05p)

Highly Recommended Documentaries:

“The Last Song Before the War” Kiley Kraskouskas’ visually stunning doc, rich with musical performances, captures the inspiring rise and uncertain future of Mali’s annual Festival in the Desert. Told from the perspective of the co-founder and festival director, Manny Ansar, the musicians who perform and the intrepid travelers from around the world who make the long journey to attend the festival.

Mounted against challenging economic and political circumstances. The Festival in the Desert came to a halt in 2012 when Tuareg rebels and Islamic militants seized control of Northern Mali. “The Last Song Before the War” chronicles the 2011 Festival—perhaps the last edition that still captured its original goals—a global display of peace, reconciliation, and the healing power of music, before being forced into exile. (Mon, Feb 10@7:25p; Sat, Feb 15@5:40p)

Other US music docs include: “A Lovely Day”, “American Beatboxer”,  “The Curators Volume 1”, “Finding the Funk”, “Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence”, “Til Infinity: The Souls of Mischief” and “We Won’t Bow Down.”

“Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” (Los Angeles Premiere)
When poised, beautiful African-American Hill sat before a Senate committee of 14 white men and with a clear, unwavering voice recounted the repeated acts of sexual harassment she had endured while working with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas American women of all colors were transfixed. Anita Hill’s graphic testimony was a turning point for gender equality in the U.S. and ignited a political firestorm about sexual misconduct and power in the workplace that resonates still today. An American icon, Hill empowering millions of women and men around the world to stand up for equality and justice.

Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Frieda Mock’s homage to Anita Hill’s legacy
offers a rare glimpse into Hill’s private life with friends and family, many of whom were by her side that fateful day 22 years ago. Anita Hill courageously speaks openly and intimately for the first time about her experiences that led her to testify before the Senate and the obstacles she faced in simply telling the truth.  (Sun, Feb 9@2:30p)

“Freedom Summer”
Stanley Nelson’s “Freedom Summer” highlights an overlooked but essential element of the Civil Rights Movement: the patient and long-term efforts by both outside activists and local citizens in Mississippi to organize communities and register black voters — even in the face of intimidation, physical violence and death. With archival footage, rare photographs and insightful interviews of participants, Nelson chronicles the struggles of a diverse coalition of Americans that lead directly to the election of America’s first African American President.
CRITICS NOTE:  Among Nelson’s notable films are Freedom Riders (2011), Jonestown: The Life & Death of People’s Temple (2006), The Murder of Emmett Till (2003), A Place of Our Own (2004), Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice (2005), Wounded Knee (2009). Any film by award-winning master documentary filmmaker/producer Stanley Nelson is a MUST SEE. (Fri, Feb 14-9:00p; Mon, Feb 17-8:30p

“Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China”
Jeanette Kong’s documentary tracks the fascinating journey former NBC broadcast executive and Afro-Jamaican entrepreneur Paula Madison takes to find her roots in China. Growing up in an impoverished single-parent household in Harlem, Paula and her brother Elrick Williams built the family fortune, making them majority shareholders in The Africa Channel and owners of the WNBA Basketball Team the Los Angeles Sparks as well as other investments.  Born in Jamaica in 1918 to a Chinese shopkeeper, Samuel Lowe, and a young Jamaican woman, Albertha Campbell, Nell at three was separated from her father and never saw him again. Paula was determined to find the other descendants of her grandfather a Chinese-Jamaican shopkeeper. A family trip to Shenzhen, China culminates into an unforgettable family reunion that transcends race, space, and time.
(Sat, Feb 8@3:55p; Fri, Feb 14@1:00p)

“The Lessons of Hayti”
Byron C. Hunter & Edward J. Harris, Jr. look at the historical rise and fall of Black economic and political power since the Civil War won Best Documentary at the 2013 Harlem International Film Festival. (Fri, Feb 7-3:15p; Tue, Feb 11-6:00p)

“Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights”
Nevline Nnaji’s thoughtful documentary studies the history of black women’s political marginalization between the male-dominated Black Power movement and the predominantly white and middle-class Feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s, and the mobilization of black and other women of color into a united feminist movement. (Sun, Feb 16-4:30p)

“Black and Cuba” (World Premiere)
Robin J. Hayes’s “Black and Cuba” follows street-smart Ivy League students who are outcasts at their elite university as they band together and adventure to Cuba to see if revolution is truly possible. With cutting-edge style and humor, this inspiring documentary illuminates how racial equality is an international human rights issue. The film also reveals a fresh perspective on the US-Cuba conflict. (Fri, Feb 7@5:15p; Sat, Feb 8@3:20p; Tue, Feb 11@1:30p)

“Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
Documentary”, Thomas Allen Harris” film explores the history of Black photography and representation, and how contemporary artists use this material as inspiration in their visual storytelling. (Fri, Feb 7-7:35p; Sun, Feb 9-1:30p; Wed, Feb 12-1:10p)

“Small Small Thing” Jessica Vale’s study of the brutal Liberian village rape of nine-year-old Olivia Zinnah is a tragic cocktail of supposed witchcraft and traditional values. Shunned by their tribe for seeking outside help at JFK Hospital in Monrovia, they must appeal to President Sirleaf’s government. (Mon, Feb 10@3:20p; Sun, Feb 16@4:50p; Mon, Feb 17@1:40p)

Highlights of International Shorts include Beret Strong’s Bolivian “Saya: Dance and Survival in an Afro-Bolivian Village” and Jacques Randrianary’s “Second Burial: Surviving Guilt and Grief” from Madagascar, a documentary short program showing on Wed, Feb 12@3:25p:

Narrative shorts: Finbarr Wilbrink’s “Bounty” from the Netherlands -Sat, Feb 8@5:35p; Tue, Feb 11@8:10p): Shane Vermooten’s “Freedom Road” from South Africa (Sat, Feb 8@3:25p; Thu, Feb 13@3:20p): Akosua Adoma Owusu’s “Kwaku Ananse” from Ghana (Sun, Feb 9@2:20p; Mon, Feb 10@1:00p; Mon, Feb 17@11:05a and Cédric Ido’s “Twaaga “from France/Burkino Faso (Fri, Feb 7@9:55p; Tue, Feb 11@1:00p.)   

Short Documentaries: Ilse van Lamoen’s long short “Daughters of the Niger Delta” from the Netherlands/Nigeria Fri, Feb 7@1:00p; Tue, Feb 11@6:50p): Joyce Guy’s “Dancing Like Home” from US/Senegal  (Wed, Feb 12@8:40p; Sat, Feb 15@3:05p; Sun, Feb 16@2:05p); Omelga Mthiyane’s “Hitting the Waves” (Kushaya Igagasi) from South Africa (Fri, Feb 7@6:10p; Sat, Feb 15@11:15a).

Nominated US Shorts: “Danger Word”, “Death of a Wizard”, “Desi Holiday”, “Goodnight My Love”, “Heaven”, “Nehemiah”, “Red”, “Sketch”, “Victim of Circumstance”.

February 6-17, 2014  Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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