Department of Cinematic Arts attends the annual Yale Africa Film Festival (YAFF)

By Triza Kabue

The Department of Cinematic Arts was invited to be part of the third annual Yale African Film Festival (YAFF), which showcased films highlighting a wide range of voices from the African continent and its diaspora.

The festival was divided into three sessions, centered on different themes: “Fashioning the Self and Community,” “Community and Care” and “Black Creativity and Community Organizing”. During the first session, attendees watched films by Angolan filmmaker, Angie Epifano who screened her movie called Air Conditioners, as well as Dafe Oboro’s A Beautiful Story, which follows a young man who moves from the rural parts of Nigeria to Lagos city in pursuit of his dream to become a musician.

In the panel discussion, Dafe shared that growing up in Lagos was the inspiration behind most of his movies.

“The diversity of the people and the hardship of the city have helped my creative journey. Lagos is a noisy city and I had to find a creative way to use that positively to tell a story,” he noted.

During the second session, attendees watched films by Palesa Shongwe from South Africa and Kenya’s Njeri Karago, which showcased the issues that African women go through in different communities. In Shongwe’s Unomalanga and the witch, we see the story of a friendship between a Christian woman and an outcast who is accused by the community of having murdered her husband. Njeri’s Kiu explores the wrath one woman faces from her community when she tries to help a child she finds abandoned in a car.

The third session, titled “Lights, Camera, Activism: Black Creativity & Community Organizing,” featured a screening of Street 66, a 13-minute documentary by one of the session panelists, Ayo Akingbade. The documentary follows the story and life of Ghanaian British activist Dora Boatemah, who fought for better living conditions for people of Angel Town Estate in Brixton South London.

The panel, which also consisted of Alexandra Thomas, Thomas Allen Harris and Akingbade, noted that Street 66 was an archival documentary, meaning that most of its content was pieced together from archives of real-life events.

“One cannot afford to be lazy in their research, especially when making a documentary that is based on real-life events. You must always ensure that your documentary has depth and breadth. When making Street 66, I had to gather testimonials from residents of Angel Town Estate, in addition to getting archival footage and photos from the BBC and other sources,” said Ayo.

Thomas Allen Harris, a filmmaker and senior lecturer in African American Studies and Film and Media Studies, said that an essential part of filmmaking is giving a voice to the voiceless.

“Film, both in the production and distribution, is essential in terms of building community around a narrative, theme or group of people. For people who are a part of a diaspora, there is a real desire to see representations of themselves, the complexity of their identities and different dimensionalities of their identities,” he said.

Speaking after the festival, Ian Ndirangu, a Film Production and Directing student noted that the festival was educational and very informative, praising the inclusion of an array of international filmmakers.

“Listening to various ideas of film making and seeing the application of the skills was fulfilling as a student, as it shone a light on the path that I am about to take as a full-time film maker. I am grateful to the Department for giving us opportunities take part in such forums,” he said.

Additional reporting by Yale News.

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