The 2016 African World Documentary Films

“Tear the Roof Off:” The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic

Bobby J. Brown (USA) - 57min

The untold true story: The rise and fall of one of the greatest funk band ever, Parliament Funkadelic. The film explores the group from its origin in the late 1950s in Plainfield, New Jersey as the Parliaments to its fall. By the early 1970s the groups Parliament and Funkadelic were operating concurrently and consisted of the same stable of musicians playing different types of funk music for two different labels. The name "Parliament-Funkadelic" became the catch-all term for the multiple bands. By the late 1970s the collective had grown to include dozens of musicians recording and touring under many different group names and solo projects. Overall, the collective achieved thirteen top ten hits in the American R&B music charts between 1967 and 1983, including six number one hits. Parliament-Funkadelic with their funk sound and socially conscious lyrics has been especially influential for later R&B, hip hop, and rock music.

Alive & Kicking

Lara-Ann de Wet (South Africa) - 20min

Filmed in Limpopo, South Africa the film takes us on an emotional journey as neglected grandmothers take on the sport of soccer. These village grannies, "Vhakegula Vhakegula", lace up their soccer boots and start kicking their way through centuries of subjugating taboos. Through their camaraderie on the field, the grandmothers erupt into laughter and song, helping to fuel their singular struggle towards decent lives, health and a true taste of joy in an otherwise harsh and desolate world.

Althea

Rex Miller (USA) - 77min

Althea Gibson, a truant from the rough streets of Harlem, emerged as a most unlikely queen of the highly segregated tennis world of 1950. Althea's life and achievements transcend sports. Her roots as a sharecropper's daughter, her family's migration north to Harlem in 1930, mentoring from Sugar Ray Robinson and others and her unwillingness to participate in the early civil rights movement, all bring her story into a much broader realm of Black History. Late in life, forgotten by the tennis establishment and barely able to make ends meet, she became reclusive, enveloped by bitterness. But, as the film explores, much of her failure to find financial success exposed a tragic flaw, as she was bull-headed and unwilling to listen to others.

Am I: Too African to be American or Too American to be African

Nadia Sasso (USA, Sierra Leone) - 44min

A documentary film that explores the complex identity formations of young African women living in America and West Africa who identify bi-culturally. It is a multimedia intervention with a discussion on politics of identity with respect to immigrant populations and movements back and forth of the diaspora. The film explores 7 women’s histories with their bi-cultural identity, and looks into how these women wrestle with concepts of race, complexion, gender, and heritage among other issues.

Art Connect

Miquel Galofre (Trinidad and Tobago) - 74min

This feature length documentary reveals the impact of art and creativity on a group of teenagers from Laventille, a notoriously violent district of Port of Spain.

Becky’s Journey

Sine Plambech (Nigeria, Denmark) - 24min

Becky, a 26 year-old Nigerian woman, wants to go to Europe in search of a better life. She has already tried twice. After failing once, she decides to begin a deadly journey through the Sahara, hoping to embark on a migration boat bound for Italy. The film is about migration, sex work and human trafficking as seen from Becky’s perspective.

China Remix

Melissa Lefkowitz, Dorian Carli-Jones (China, USA) - 29min

The city of Guangzhou is home to China's largest community of African immigrants. This short documentary explores the city’s burgeoning African entertainment industry through the lives of three African hip-hop artists who are trying to find success in the face of China’s challenging labor and immigration laws. The film follows the entertainers as they prepare for their shows, perform, and live their daily lives with their Chinese and African family members and friends despite facing prejudice and the risk of deportation.

Fatherland

Tarryn Crossman (South Africa) - 71min

Fatherland is a coming-of-age documentary set in the remote South African Bush. It follows a group of Afrikaans boys over 9 days at a military-style camp in the spirit of their fathers before them. However, what starts out as basic military training, fitness and camaraderie soon intensifies as the true nature of the camp is revealed and the boys are forced to question their place in the 'New South Africa.’

Ferguson Documented: In 36 Hours

Carla Usher (USA) - 15min

On August 5, 2014, Michael Brown an 18 year-old black teenager was killed by a white police officer in the town of Ferguson, Missouri. What appeared to be yet another police involved shooting of an unarmed black man proved to be something more. The outrage over the killing of Michael Brown served to mobilize not only residents of Ferguson’s black community, but the incident sparked massive protests and public demonstrations in both large and small communities across the country. The events of Ferguson forced white, middle class America to confront issue of racism and policing in communities of color. The documentary explores these issues through a diverse collection of voices sharing their experiences

Good Business

Rob Schermbrucker (South Africa) - 25min

What role can businesses play in transforming a society? What might be the role and outcome of a man's fight to build an ethical company in an unethical country? Through the true story of Raymond Ackerman (founder of South African retail giant, Pick n Pay), we encounter the power of love, forgiveness and compassion in overcoming the apartheid legacy of injustice, prejudice and hatred in South Africa; and begin to see how 'Doing good, is good business’.

Her Story: Educate a Woman, Educate a Nation

Sally Nuamah (Ghana) - 37min

A short film on the experiences of three girls from low income families in Ghana striving to become the first females in their families to go to college. Sally Nuamah returns to the homelands of her parents, Ghana to do a field research on the determinants of academic success for female students in urban Ghana today. In her research, she takes a rare look into the lives of young women who attend secondary school in Ghana and realizes that collectively there is an overarching story. By taking a brief look at the lives of these young women, the film maker helps us understand the spirituality, discipline and determination that gives these students the ability to surpass the obstacles presented by their present circumstances and be academically successful.

If Only I Were That Warrior

Valerio Ciriaci (Ethiopia, Italy, USA) - 70min

A film about the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1935 and its unresolved legacy today. Driving this investigation is the story of a recently constructed monument to Rodolfo Graziani, a Fascist general remembered for war crimes committed during the invasion and occupation of Ethiopia, which sparked international protests and brought this this chapter of history back to the forefront of public discourse. The film addresses the unpunished war crimes Graziani and others committed in the name of Mussolini’s imperial ambitions. The stories of three characters, filmed in present day Ethiopia, Italy and the United States, take the audience on a journey through the living memories and the tangible remains of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia — a journey that crosses generations and continents to today, where this often overlooked legacy still ties the fates of two nations and their people.

In the Shadow of Ebola

Gregg Mitman, Sarita Siegel (UK, Liberia, USA) - 27min

An intimate story of a family and a nation torn apart by the Ebola outbreak. The film makers follow a Liberian student and his family living divided between the United States and Liberia, who open our eyes to the ripple effects the outbreak is having on Liberians living through this crisis. As the crisis unfolds, loved ones are isolated in Monrovia where the government is shut down, schools and markets are closed, and food prices are rising. Liberians find themselves fighting an invisible war that is painfully reminiscent of the chaos and confusion of the fourteen-year Liberian civil war, which ended a mere decade ago. As the death toll from Ebola climbs, the mistrust and disbelief are replaced by compassion and inner resolve to combat the spread of the virus. With international aid slow to arrive, Liberians turn to each other for help. The steps toward community empowerment and action help to build trust and stabilize the number of new Ebola cases.

Kenya: A Guidebook to Impunity

Lucy Hannan (Kenya, Netherlands) - 62min

A film about a Kenyan presidential candidate and his running mate, both charged with crimes against humanity by International Criminal Court, succeed in cornering the 2013 general election in the country. It left the country deeply divided: was the election used to push back the charges and destroy the International Criminal Court? The film artfully deconstructs the election that had extraordinary consequences, and left thousands of victims without justice. Narrator Maina Kiai - Kenyan human rights defender and UN Special Rapporteur - uses his own on-the-ground experience as voter, observer and activist, to tell a gripping international story of power and impunity.

Kissed by the Sun: A Study of Nile Valley Cultural Continuity

Steffan Spencer (Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan) - 15min

The documentary celebrates the cultural continuity and the historical importance of the nations of the Nile Valley known today as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan - once known to the world as Khemet, Axum/Punt and Nubia. Till this day, these lands feature monuments and traditions viscerally know by the world, which still retain their power to invoke wonder. From the days of antiquity, to classical civilizations, ‘Kissed By The Sun’ studies how the people have creatively endeavored to understand themselves, and the world, while honoring the vibrant traditions & cultural achievements that bind the great Nile Valley Civilizations.

Mully

Scott Haze (Kenya) - 81min

Mully is no ordinary rags-to-riches tale. It’s the true story of Charles Mully, whose unlikely stratospheric rise to wealth and power leaves him questioning his own existence, searching for meaning in life. Against the better judgment of family and community, Mully sets out to enrich the fate of orphaned children across Kenya. Jeopardizing his own life and the security of his family, Charles Mully risks everything and sets in motion a series of events that is nothing short of astonishing.

Nascent

Jonathan Kasbe, Lindsay Branham (Central African Republic, USA) - 6min

A short documentary about two children on the opposing sides of Central African Republic’s sectarian civil war. Bintou, a Muslim girl, and Gaus, a Christian boy, are on opposing sides of the sectarian civil war in Central African Republic. With escalating personal, tit-for-tat revenge violence, both Bintou and Gaus must discover who they are. The film is about how social identities are constructed and deconstructed through the circle of interactions with others and the self and how social identity influences why war is waged. Nascent explores the dichotomies of otherness and distills the conversation through the clarifying stories of two children and their individual yet unifying desire to move forward..

Nascent

Jonathan Kasbe, Lindsay Branham (Central African Republic, USA) - 6min

A short documentary about two children on the opposing sides of Central African Republic’s sectarian civil war. Bintou, a Muslim girl, and Gaus, a Christian boy, are on opposing sides of the sectarian civil war in Central African Republic. With escalating personal, tit-for-tat revenge violence, both Bintou and Gaus must discover who they are. The film is about how social identities are constructed and deconstructed through the circle of interactions with others and the self and how social identity influences why war is waged. Nascent explores the dichotomies of otherness and distills the conversation through the clarifying stories of two children and their individual yet unifying desire to move forward.

Obama Mama

Vivian Norris (USA) - 82min

Stanley Ann Dunham was more than the mother of the first black President of the United States of America. As an anthropologist with a PhD and as a lifelong globetrotter, her intelligence, progressive politics, and activism made for a profound life - one whose inspiration continues to resonate through her son, President Barack Obama. Through interviews with high school friends and colleagues, film clips, and archival footage, the documentary explores Dunham’s travels from small-town Kansas to Seattle, Hawaii, and Indonesia as well as her work in the Civil Rights and Feminist Movements. The film explores her dedication to raising awareness of global poverty and her development of microcredit programs to address poverty in rural villages. Dunham is indirectly responsible for some of the greatest contributions to American and global history, especially Obama’s revolutionary health care bill. The “largeness of her heart,” as her son describes it, is the centerpiece of this inspiring documentary.

Ota Benga

‘Niyi Coker, Jr., Jean Bodon (USA) - 60min

In 1904 an African was removed from the Congo and brought to the New York City Bronx Zoo and placed in a cage with primates. He passed his nights at the monkey house. He was to be the ultimate example of the missing link and proof of Darwin's theory of evolution. This is his story. Over a century after this incident how far have we come with race relations in the United States?

Ọya: Something Happened on the Way to West Africa

Seyi Adebanjo (Nigeria, USA) - 30min

The documentary follows the journey of a Queer, gender Non-Conforming Nigerian returning home to connect with Orisa (African God/dess) tradition, and follow a trail back to the powerful legacy of a great grandmother, Chief Moloran Iya Oloya. The film vibrantly investigates the heritage of command, mythology, gender fluidity, woman’s power in indigenous Yorùbá spirituality. This personal and political journey is to locate the gender fluidity that is an important part of the Yorùbá inheritance. Gender dynamism supports a traditional legacy of power. While encountering obstacles of a national strike and anti-gay marriage legislation to find the roots of the practice, will the film maker be able to find affirmation for self as a person between genders/worlds and take on this inheritance?

Pan! Our Music Odyssey

Jerome Guiot, Thierry Teston (Trinidad and Tobago) - 80min

Pan, an instrument, an ensemble and music, created in Trinidad during the 1940's by urban street gangs turned into orchestras, shaping oil drums into tonal instruments. Today Pan has adherents from all over the world. Still Trinidad remain the Mecca, where each year man and woman who stake all on their art and passion come to compete for the world championship of Pan, the Panorama, with philharmonic orchestras of over 100 musicians. The fictional part, the violent story of the ones who through their struggle carried the destiny of this new instrument, brings the keys to the understanding of the modern characters and of this global human adventure.

Return To Cuba

David Fabrega (Canada, Cuba) - 78min

A documentary about the return of a Cuban migrant to her homeland. After 18 years living in Italy, Barbara Ramos returns to live in Cuba. In the town of Santa Clara, she discovers through family and friends what has changed in Cuba but also what has not and will likely never change. Shot over a period of three years - the time it took to build her dream house – the film chronicles her life in the wake of Raul Castro's liberal reforms and reconciliation with the United States of America. A new Cuban reality reveals itself with energy, philosophy and humor.

Roaring Abyss

Quino Piñero (Ethiopia) - 87min

If you go out around music bars and venues in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia you will enjoy a very characteristic scene, but if you want to get an idea of the different sounds from the country, you will get a very narrow view of it. There are more than eighty different nationalities and cultures spread all along the mountains, deserts and forests of Ethiopia. Nowadays many of the traditional instruments in Ethiopia have been replaced for electronic keyboards, and many local traditional bands have been reduced to a front(wo)man singing along to a keyboard which plays beats and melodies all in one. But there are still some musicians spread along the country playing the music they learned from their fathers and mothers; intruments like the Krar, Washent, Masinko or Kabero, are nowadays roaring and bouncing against the hills of this land of contrasts and diversity. In order to unveil the music universe and keep a record of this endangered music tradition, SolySombra Recordings, together with Sheba Sound teams, spent two years performing field recordings around every corner of Ethiopia, documented in this audiovisual poem. This film is an immersion into the deepest sounds of contemporary Ethiopia.

Ror

Natalie Cunningham (South Sudan, Australia) - 14min

A short documentary about the story of a young poet following his hip-hop dream. Ror Akot, a sixteen year old former South Sudanese refugee is a making his mark on the Australian hip-hop scene. In this short documentary, Ror discusses his love of music and his determination to succeed. An inspiring portrait of a young rapper trying to find his way.

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo

Yaba Badoe (Ghana, UK, USA) - 78min

The film explores the artistic contribution of one of Africa’s foremost woman writers, a trailblazer for an entire generation of exciting new talent. The film charts Ama Ata Aidoo’s creative journey in a life that spans 7 decades from colonial Ghana through the tumultuous era of independence to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women’s creative talent remains as hard as ever.

The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price

James Greeson (USA) - 57min

A documentary film about the life and music of Florence B. Price. Price (1887-1953) was the first African-American woman whose music was performed by major symphonic orchestras back in 1933 when one of her compositions was performed by the Chicago Symphony. She also collaborated with poet Langston Hughes and wrote over 50 songs that were sung by the great Marian Anderson. The documentary tells her life story with many recently discovered photos and also presents many fine performances of her music to underscore her accomplishments. The poet Paul Laurence Dunbar used the metaphor of a “caged bird” for the oppression of black Americans. This is the story of a woman who refused to accept the limited aspirations that were expected of her race and gender, who would not be a “caged bird.”

The Conversation Doc Series

Blair Foster, Michele Stephenson, Geeta Gandbhir, Perri Peltz, Joe Brewster (USA) - 15min

“The Conversation Doc Series” are short Op-Doc video series on race in America. Broadly speaking, each video feature frank and open revelations on the incendiary topic. These short Op-Docs are the New York Times editorial department’s award-winning section for short, opinionated documentaries (op-docs), covering current affairs, contemporary life and historical subjects produced by both renowned and emerging filmmakers.

The Fire Festival of Cuba

Susanne Moss (Cuba, USA) - 49min

The fiesta celebrates Caribbean (imported and indigenous) culture, history and religious traditions. Visually stunning footage combined with animated and informative interviews guide you on a discovery of Cuba’s many cultures.

The Fire Festival of Cuba (La Fiesta del Fuego)

Susanne Moss (Cuba, USA) - 49min

The festival celebrates Caribbean culture, history and religious traditions including Santeria, Rastafari and Indigenous Indians. Visually stunning footage combined with animated and informative interviews guide you on an adventure discovering Cuba’s many cultures. The Fiesta concludes with a spectacular burning of an effigy of the devil. The “fire” symbolizes ridding the world of all its bad influences and evils.

The March and Freedom 1963

Davon Johnson (USA) - 10min

Nonviolent civil disobedience based on Christian beliefs started long before the peaceful protest, March for Freedom on Washington, D.C. A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and A.J. Muste formed the idea of a peaceful movement including a march on Washington in the early 1940’s.They successfully pressured sequential Presidents to issue executive orders that advanced the civil right cause greatly and forestalled the March. Their call to action passed to a next generation. In the 60’s,ordinary brave Americans followed the very strong leadership of MLK Jr. and others to make the March for Freedom a reality. This movement changed the nation forever; yet work remains as the torch of freedom and equality passes to our newest generation–our children.

The March and Freedom 1963

Davon Johnson (USA) - 10min

Nonviolent civil disobedience based on Christian beliefs started long before the peaceful protest, March for Freedom on Washington, D.C. A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and A.J. Muste formed the idea of a peaceful movement including a march on Washington in the early 1940’s.They successfully pressured sequential Presidents to issue executive orders that advanced the civil right cause greatly and forestalled the March. Their call to action passed to a next generation. In the 60’s,ordinary brave Americans followed the very strong leadership of MLK Jr. and others to make the March for Freedom a reality. This movement changed the nation forever; yet work remains as the torch of freedom and equality passes to our newest generation–our children.

The Province 101

Doaa Al Ashqar (Comoros, Jordan) - 56min

An island that is located in the Archipelago of Comoros in the Indian Ocean, whose population rejected independence from France, and so remained a French colony until today. Two years ago, this island became officially one of the overseas provinces of France, making it the destination of the Comorian and African illegal immigrants. Ancient Arab sailors called it the island of death where many of their ships and sailors were constantly devoured. And today it again eats up thousands of the secret illegal immigrants every year.

The Rock that Sambas (Pedra Que Samba)

Camila Agustini (Brazil) - 11min

A trip around the African Heritage Circuit in the old port of Rio de Janeiro reveals a samba circle called Pedra do Sal. The voice of a slave evokes the past. Constructions turn to dust. People remain. So does samba.

The Trials of Constance Baker Motley

Rick Rodgers, Joel Motley (USA) - 27min

At the height of the civil rights movement, Constance Baker Motley joined the NAACP's legal team. The only woman in the group, she left her husband and infant son in New York for weeks at a time to represent the NAACP in Southern courts. The first female Black lawyer Southern judges and juries had seen, she stunned them by winning case after case - gaining the right for Black students to enter Ole Miss, The University of Georgia, and Clemson College. After the assassination of one of her closest friends, she returned to New York and went on to become the first Black woman New York State Senator, the first Black woman Manhattan Borough President, and with the backing of Lyndon Johnson, the first Black woman named to a federal judgeship. With archival footage and narration in Motley's own voice, The Trials of Constance Baker Motley tells the story of a civil rights leader who met prejudice and danger with elegance and humor.

Township Lessons from the Cape of Good Hope

Michael Fischer (South Africa, Switzerland) - 46min

This documentary tells the story of people living in the Cape Flats area outside of Cape Town, South Africa (what it is to be called informal settlements) 20 years after the end of Apartheid. How do township residents in slums cope with gangs related crime, unemployment and poverty in a country still very much struggling with racism, underdevelopment and inequality?

Trafficker

Anja Dalhoff (Nigeria, Spain, Denmark) - 58min

In this film, showing how trafficking of women from Africa countries is actually practised, victims speak openly about their experiences as sex slaves in Europe, their sufferings, their lives and their traffickers, as well as what drove them into the sex trade.

Tress: Artists and Angels, Masters of Natural Hair

Michele Ervin (USA) - 66min

A journey of discovering uniqueness. The film makers follow men and women in the hair care industry that blend modern and ancient techniques of hair styling, which restores and empowers to reclaim one’s own self-esteem. Walk away encouraged by the stories from people whose lives have been changed through their hair. Tress affirms our walk with natural beauty with pageantry and music inspiring a new dialog about cultural influences and embracing one's own inner and outer beauty.

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