Reparations, Race and Religion at 10th African Diaspora International Film Festival

August 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

This year the African Diaspora International Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in Washington, DC at the Marvin Center on the campus of George Washington University. Over the course of three days, from August 19-21, the festival showed narrative and documentary feature films and short films from just about every corner of the African diaspora. The biographical documentary BadddDDD Sonia Sanchez, (2015) shared the opening night with another movie, Discipline. Noted Black Arts Movement poet Sonia Sanchez herself was in attendance together with one of the film’s directors Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, for a Q&A which was followed by a VIP reception where attendees

Sonia Sanchez (right) takes questions with the director of BadddDDD Sonia Sanchez, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon

Sonia Sanchez (right) takes questions with the director of BadddDDD Sonia Sanchez, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon

got to mingle, take photos with, and get autographs from Ms. Sanchez. The closing night films focused on celebrating the African religions still vibrant in Brazil and Cuba. Oggun, an old classic by Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando and Yemanja: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil, (2015) directed by Donna Roberts, who participated in a lively Q&A after the film’s screening.

Karen Mafundikwa

Karen Marks Mafundikwa, director of The Price of Memory

In between opening and closing night at the ADIFF were plenty of interesting films from Haiti, the United States, Cuba, Nigeria, the Congo, and Jamaica. But it was one in particular from Jamaica that I was dying to see, a documentary from filmmaker Karen Marks Mafundikwa called The Price of Memory, which deals with a group of Rastafarians from Jamaica that petitioned the Queen of England to pay reparations for slavery. The issue is itself highly controversial in the United States, and in other African diaspora areas like the Caribbean at that time – this was back in 2002 – it was still a pretty revolutionary idea. The lack of serious coverage given the incident by the mainstream media led Mafundikwa to do a bit of research, and very soon the Jamaican director knew there was a good documentary film to be made. Since those early “noughties,” (00s) the movement for reparations has grown quite substantially, region-wide. In 2013 members of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, set up a Reparations Commission, and by 2014 they had hired a law firm in the UK and presented their case to the British Parliament. Mafundikwa, whose film took 10 years to complete, has already screened the documentary at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, and the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, but this was the first time it was showing in Washington.

Festival organizer Reinaldo Spech says films like these are just the type that they welcome at the ADIFF. He started the festival in New York together with his wife, Diarah N’Daw-Spech, and expanded it to Chicago and Washington, DC. They also run a film distribution company, Artmattan Productions, in New York City that distributes films from the African diaspora. Afrofusion TV spoke with Reinaldo Spech and Karen Marks Mafundikwa after the screening of her film; check out the video above. Watch for our full interview with Karen Marks Mafundikwa on later, and let us know what you think about the issue of reparations in the comments below. Bless…

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