More than a dozen independent movies about people with African roots are scheduled to take center stage in Washington D.C. over the weekend at the African Diaspora International Film Festival.
The festival, scheduled from Aug. 18 through Aug. 20, commences at The George Washington University’s Marvin Center, 800 21st Street NW. Languages represented in the movies include Spanish, Portuguese, French and Arabic.
The traveling festival started in New York in 1993 and also makes stops in Chicago and Paris. It is celebrating its 11th anniversary in the District and offers a lineup of 14 movies — 11 that will premiere here for the first time.
One such film is “Gurumbe: Afro-Andalusian Memories,” which is a musical documentary that explores 16th century Africans in Spain and their little-known contributions to Flamenco dance.
“Africans in part have been around … for quite some time in what is known as Spain today — Black folks were there for eight centuries,” Reinaldo Spech, the fest’s cofounder, told the AFRO. “This is not new, but this has not been … central information when we talk about those cultures. We know why.” He was born in Cuba and created the festival with his French wife, Diarah N’Daw-Spech.
Two other films will center on Afro-Latino themes as well. One is “El Valle De Los Negros” (The Valley of Black Descendants), which focuses on the descendants of enslaved Africans organizing the first census in Chile that counts them.
The other is “Invisible Roots: Afro-Mexicans in Southern California,” which details the plight of Mexican-African descendants who emigrated to Southern California.
There are motherland figures prominently in the festival’s offerings, too.
The award-winning documentary “Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba” is scheduled to be screened at the film festival and start a theatrical run in Baltimore on Aug. 18.
Makeba was a famous South African singer and civil rights activist who used her music to battle apartheid. Not only did Makeba enjoy a successful career in the United States and record songs with Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie, but she also fought for Black civil rights and married Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Black Panther Party.
“Independência” (Independence) chronicles Angola’s attempts to wrest itself from Portuguese colonial rule in the 1960s and 1970s.
Pointing to popular demand, organizers have brought back “Toussaint L’Ouverture.” The flick chronicles how L’Ouverture deployed his military expertise to lead his fellow Haitians in overthrowing French colonial rule, thus ending slavery on the island.
And the festival’s themes are varied.
“The Naked Poet” by Jason Barrett tells the story of a Black man living in London who is torn with the possibility of loving two women.
Closer to home, the documentary “Not Black Enough” features Black Americans who are rejected from Black society for not fitting into a narrow definition of blackness. A Q & A session follows the movie.
The Spechs say the aim of the festival is showing films that educate, help destroy stereotypes and end attitudes that support injustice.
“We look for films in many directions and we try to create a program that is not only thought provoking, but also entertaining in a certain way,” Spech said. “At the end of the festival, I want people to come out thinking about the richness of the experience of people of color, and that the differences do not make us enemies.”