Film at Lincoln Center and The New York African Film Festival Announce the Complete Lineup for The 30th Edition, May 10–16, 2023

Judith Davis
4 min readMay 9, 2023

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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. Launched in 1993, the NYAFF is one of the first film festivals in the United States to reflect on the myriad ways African and diaspora filmmakers have used the moving image to tell complex nuanced stories of cultural and aesthetic significance. Under the banner title, Freeforms, the festival will present over 50 films from more than 25 countries that explore and embrace the visionary, probing and fearless spirit of African film and diaspora storytelling.

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.”

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 passes away, their Aunt Fatou and Uncle Atoumane pledge 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, comprised of four short films and directed by South African filmmakers Mzonke Maloney, Nolitha Mkulisi, Julie Nxadi, and Evan Wigdorowitz, who reflect on the seductive, and at times treacherous, illusory reality of the internet. Using humor, suspense and social criticism, this collective production sketches a society dominated by idealized projections of the dreamt self.

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 due to a peculiar, holy plastic figure of Our Lady.

The festival is also proud to host the world premiere of Chadrack Banikina and Cecilia Zoppelletto’s Ota Benga, an animated film that captures a moment in the true-life story of Ota Benga (1883–1916), the pygmy who was exhibited at the Bronx Zoo. It will also feature the U.S. premiere of Babetida Sadjo’s Hématome, 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 in which 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.

Acclaimed Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Sène Absa will present a free masterclass on Saturday, May 13, at 11:30 am, which will probe the impact of migration on familial and community bonds with particular

The event takes place in the Amphitheater at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center with tickets available through www.africanfilmny.org.

The Opening Night premiere of Xalé will take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th Street). All other films will screen at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 W. 65th Street).

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Judith Davis

A professional writer, content manager, and web producer who has worked for quite a few high profile brands. https://twitter.com/JudithD_NYCGirl