October 25, 2012 § 2 Comments
Listening to Hugh Masekela speak on art, music and politics would make you think he is the eternal pessimist. But that would be only when it comes to politics. The 73 year-old trumpeter, composer and singer recently performed Songs of Migration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC together with Sibongile Khumalo and a cast of singers, dancers and musicians. He took a moment to sit down with Kwame Fitzjohn from The African World on MHz to rap about his new show, politics, mines in South Africa, and what he optimistically calls “Heritage Restoration.” Songs of Migration, produced by Sibojama Theatre and directed by James Ngcobo, is Masekela’s tribute to late 19th century migrants from all over Africa heading to work in Johannesburg’s mines. Backed by a five-piece band, it is an effervescent display of song, dance « Read the rest of this entry »
June 12, 2012 § 2 Comments
Mother Africa and her Talents was a night of African Fashion and music last Sunday, with a diverse array of fashions from designers around the diaspora. MCeed by talk show host Sinota Odu, and radio personality David Vandy, it was headlined by Sierra Leone singer Shady, and featured performances that ranged from pop to Gospel to dance. According to founder Fatmata Koroma, the annual event which takes place in the Washington, DC area aims to showcase the beauty, sophistication and diversity of African style and African culture. Be sure to check out the gallery/slideshow of photos that Afrofusion took at the event. Bless…
- Sierra Leone fortunes change as diamond trade brings back investment (guardian.co.uk)
March 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Why is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf still the only female head of state in the whole of Africa? The answer to that question stumps Sengbe Kona Khasu director of the documentary No More Selections, We Want Elections. His film featured recently at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland, as part of the New African Films Festival, sponsored by TransAfrica Forum and Afrikafe. That’s where Afrofusion caught up with Khasu and his father James E. Roberts, co-Executive Producer of the documentary. The film chronicles the events leading up the momentous election of Johnson Sirleaf in 2005 but, that historic win notwithstanding, the filmmakers tried to focus the narrative on the process rather than on any one particular candidate. Indeed, most of the people interviewed in the film characterized the runoff election between Sirleaf and former football (soccer) star George Oppong Weah as one between political experience and immaturity. More important for them, and especially the filmmakers, was for Liberia to be able to come together after years of civil strife and hold peaceful, legitimate democratic elections, the first since the military coup of 1980. Still, according to Roberts, Liberia has a legacy of firsts in Africa that sometimes goes unacknowledged. He is proud not only of the film, but of the Liberian people’s resolve in sticking to the democratic process. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
Do the cast members of the hit broadway musical Fela! ever get a breather? Even while on tour with the show, many of them take time out to do work in the community. US-based Life Giver Entertainment has been sponsoring a tour of master workshops and dance classes run by some of the cast members as they go from city to city. Having just left Washington, DC, the show is now on a week-long run in Atlanta, and they are heading to Connecticut next week. Afrofusion TV was able to catch two of the cast members as they ran a workshop at Howard University’s Dance Studio in Washington, DC. As djembe drummer Talu Green kept the rhythm going with his hands, Guinean dancer and instructor Ismael Kouyaté led the class through some basic West African dance steps and sequences. Talu Green, who travelled with the Broadway cast to Nigeria this past April « Read the rest of this entry »
September 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
For any artist who is part of a community, networking and sharing information become somewhat second nature. When former film festival director Nadia Denton decided to write her first book, the idea of what to write about came to her quite quickly.
“It just occurred to me that there was a need for a reference manual for black filmmakers, and this is a particular area that I had a fair amount of expertise in because of my relationship with filmmakers in terms of the work that I’ve done,” she says.
Some of that work involved founding and running the film club for Black Filmmaker Magazine, which she did for 7 years, holding film screenings, working with institutions such as the US Embassy and the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and then serving as director of the BFM International Film Festival in 2008 and 2009. A lot of what she learned working in the industry is what she’s sharing in the new book, entitled The Black British Filmmaker’s Guide to Success. It features interviews with 42 key black filmmakers and decision makers from around the world, including Ryan Harrington of the Tribeca Institute, US actor and director Tim Reid, and Congolese filmmaker Djo Tunda wa Munga. The book will be available as a free download starting October 1st 2011. You can find out more information on Nadia Denton and her new book here.
I called up Ms. Denton to congratulate her, and decided to do a quick telephone interview. I asked her about her noble effort to share her knowledge and expertise with emerging black filmmakers in the Diaspora. Here’s an extract of what we talked about:
Afrofusion Lounge: What is the status of Black British Filmmaking? A lot of black filmmakers in the United States struggle to find funding and distribution for their films. How would you compare the two, is it the same kind of struggle?
Nadia Denton: I would say yes, in a sense. I think some of the differences I’ve noted – and I’ve tried to highlight in my book – is that there’s a small niche of filmmakers who basically have an attitude of not really caring about the establishment in the sense that they’re not looking to the establishment for acclaim in terms of the aesthetic of their work and in terms of the politics of their work. And they’re quite happy to raise finance for their projects privately. And these filmmakers seem to be garnering quite a bit of success, one because they’re quite independent minded about how they’re getting their money. Many of them do other types of work, and the filmmaking may be part of an expression of the politics or views they want to put out. Also, they tend to have quite a keen understanding of their audience. So because they are sort of taking alternative methods in terms of making films and getting the finance, they tend to make films that have a higher degree of social currency or relevance, so many of them get good returns in terms of self distribution with their DVDs, and in terms of screenings and so on.
AL: How important do you think it is for Black British Filmmakers and Black American Filmmakers to work together with other Diaspora Filmmakers?
ND: Certainly one of the things that I found – to my dismay – is that I’m not sure that there’s enough sharing of good practice among filmmakers. What I’ve observed is that people sort of tend to get together and enjoy the camaraderie and the socializing, and you know, having fairly peripheral conversations about their craft and their product. And maybe a few of them will sit down and go a bit deeper, but I tended to find in my one-to-one conversations with the filmmakers that it’s very clear what they’re doing and why some are more successful than others. And it sort of baffled me why some of the other filmmakers haven’t been able to observe this, and from what I’ve seen standing on the sidelines I’m not certain that when they’re all together they necessarily ask the right questions or if people are prepared to open up. Whereas I think because I have had these one-to-one relationships with many of these filmmakers, perhaps they were quite prepared to tell me things that maybe they wouldn’t normally talk about in a public forum. So yes, certainly I do feel that there’s a great amount of good practice and expertise and techniques that filmmakers have been picking up at their different environments. In fact I think the information sharing is probably more valuable than the money or the fundraising, which is what people tend to focus on.
AL: That brings me to my next question, which is that I know you cover almost the whole spectrum, from financing to distribution. Is there one area you think Black filmmakers should be focusing on?
ND: Well, I think it makes an overall collective picture, but if I were to choose particular tools that they should have in their toolbox I think filmmakers need to surround themselves with information sources. So they need to be surrounded by structures, whether it’s organizations or individuals, whether it’s even just books or attending courses that are going to help them gather the information. I’ve noticed that the filmmakers who have a strong infrastructure to rely on – whether it’s, for instance, Owen Alik Shahadah who made 500 Years Later and Motherland, he has the organization Halaquah Media, or whether it be someone like Ishmahil [Blagrove] from RiceNPeas Films who had his journalistic background and his organization RiceNPeas, where they did community development work – these filmmakers who’ve been able to sort of fall back on another structure and sort of get information in a different way seem to have been a bit more successful. I find sometimes filmmakers can focus too much on one particular aspect, so they can focus a lot on perhaps what kind of technology they have or equipment they have, or the ideas – which are great, you definitely need brilliant ideas – but the fact is there are a lot of filmmakers who’ve made quite a bit of money and they didn’t have particularly riveting ideas; their ideas were actually quite straightforward. It’s just that it had a particular relevance to an audience.
AL: What’s next for you after the book?
ND: Well I’m actually planning to write an international version. Obviously I’m very conscious of the fact that all of my references in this book exceptionally are Black British. I have interviewed filmmakers in the past which were from other backgrounds, for instance I’ve interviewed Tim Reid who’s obviously African American. I have a number of African and Caribbean filmmakers who are included as well. But I am looking with the next book to focus specifically on Europe, in terms of Black people in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, obviously the States, and I’m even also interested in Australasia, so activities in places like Australia and Micronesian communities.
AL: You’re offering the book as a free download; is it going to be available in any other format?
ND: At the moment, no; it will only be available as an e-book, CF version, but if I get sponsorship then it’s likely that there might be some limited editions printed up into hard copy. So those would be free, this book is a free book.
AL: Well thank you very much, Nadia, for talking to Afrofusion Lounge!
ND: Thank you, you’re welcome.
- The Dominican Republic to Host Meeting of African and Caribbean Filmmakers (repeatingislands.com)
August 31, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It was on the day the earth shook up much of the east coast of the United States that Afrofusion ventured out to the National Mall to see this great monument to freedom, peace and justice. Fearing that it had been closed, as had other monuments and federal buildings, we nevertheless braved the beast that was DC traffic to get a glimpse. And it was open! This was DC day, set aside by the monument foundation for residents of Washington and its suburbs to get a chance to enjoy the memorial before its day of dedication. Unfortunately that day of dedication has been postponed, due to the threat of Hurricane Irene, to an as yet undetermined day in the next couple of months. And just like the « Read the rest of this entry »
August 16, 2011 § 3 Comments
When I think of Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde I invariably
think of Eduardo Mondlane, Samora Machel and Amilcar Cabral. Phrases like A luta continua, and the heat of the revolutionary struggles in Portuguese controlled Africa come to mind. But on a late July night at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, DC the cool, jazzy sounds of Loide’s music turned them into places of love and longing as she transported us back to where her roots lie. Loide was born in France with both Mozambican and Guinea-Bissau heritage, and then raised in California. That rich, diverse background filters through her music; she sings in Portuguese and English with influences ranging from Sarah Vaughn and Miriam Makeba, to Sade and Cesaria Evora. On that night in July it « Read the rest of this entry »
July 27, 2011 § 5 Comments
The movie is called The Three Way, and it nabbed three awards at the San Diego Black Film Festival this past January. Written and directed by New York-based filmmaker Julian Renner, the film is a comedic drama “where lovers and friends are forced to reveal their secrets and confront their own lies.” On Saturday July 30 Renner’s movie will have its New York premiere at the Manhattan Film Festival, starting at 2:30pm. Renner will be in attendance, as well as a few of the cast members like Medina Senghore, Sofia Rodriguez and Karmia Berry. The 86-minute movie won Best Comedy Feature and the Filmmaker’s Choice Award at the San Diego Black Film Festival, and Julian « Read the rest of this entry »
July 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
At the Kennedy Center July 12, it was an evening that music site Okayafrica called a celebration of hip hop’s new African renaissance. As part of the 10th Anniversary of the Hip Hop Theatre Festival, the show started with a “warm up” dance class led by Zimbabwean dancer Rujeko Zumbutshena (Fela!) to prep the audience for the rest of the night. She guided a fairly sizable group through hip-hop and African dance moves. Local rap star Tabi Bonney was the host of the show, and introduced Baltimore native Maimouna Youssef, an amazing grammy-nominated singer, MC and poet. Youssef got the crowd on its feet, taking them through an energetic mix of African infused hip hop and soul, « Read the rest of this entry »
July 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
It’s a delicate dance that some new African film directors have to do when aiming for worldwide success with their films. By success I speak in terms of both critical acclaim and sales. This issue came to my mind when I attended a special screening of the Congolese movie Viva Riva! at the AFI theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland early last month. The movie opened in New York and LA on June 10th, and in the UK and DC on June 24th. It has already won a number of awards, most recently an MTV Movie Award for Best African Film. It trounced the competition at the African Movie Awards – it took 6 – and won Angolan actor Hoji Fortuna a best supporting actor award for his role as Angolan gangster Cesar in the film. Viva Riva! also won best feature Film at the 2011 Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles. It was during the question and answer session at the AFI with the film’s director Djo Munga that a woman in the audience took issue with the film’s scenes of sex and violence, that she felt would serve to reinforce stereotypical images of Africa. « Read the rest of this entry »