Tomorrow evening Brooklyn’s own BAMcinemaFest begins its fifth year by bringing film festival favorites to Brooklyn courtesy of the
@BAMcinematek staff, a high number of which are making their New York premieres. Serving the interest of our readers are four noteworthy films with African/African-American talent both behind and in front of the lens:
Mother of George
directed Andrew Dosunmu
Saturday June 22 at 6:45pm – NY Premiere
Q&A with Andrew Dosunmu following the screening
Fresh off his 2011 hit debut film Restless City, former fashion photographer Andrew Dosunmu returns with a tale of new bride who when having trouble conceiving has to deal with her overbearing mother-in-law. Ultimately, she must take desperate measures to have a baby in her struggle between tradition and contemporary life. Once again Dosunmu focuses his artistic lens New York’s African community, this time taking the tale to Brooklyn’s own Crown Heights neighborhood and the seldom – and never in a feature film – focused upon Yoruba community. The film stars The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, sans her questionable dreadlock wig from her star-making role of Michonne on that zombie show, and showing her Nigerian roots in her second-take as an actor in a Donsunmu movie.
I recall hearing about early filming of the movie including very authentic Nigerian opening wedding scene starring a bevy of local African talent. Hopefully the finished product of Mother does have some authenticity, but more so we hope it contains an actual working narrative, something that the beautifully-filmed but awkwardly-plotted Restless City did not. Mother of George also stars Isaach De Bankolé (The Limits of Control, 2009) as the husband Ayodele.
directed by Shaka King
Friday June 28th at 9:30pm – NY Premiere
Q&A with Shaka King following the screening
This hotly-anticipated first feature film from Brooklyn writer/director Shaka King stars Amari Cheatom (Night Catches Us, 2010) and newcomer Trae Harris as Lyle and Nina, a young stoner couple seemingly made for each other in their love of weed. However, they become embroiled in a screwy love triangle when their best friend ‘Mary Jane’ that ultimately exposes all that is wrong in their relationship. Early reviews from this 2013 Sundance Film Festival favorite describe it as “bittersweet” with “off-the-wall humor,” and that while King’s direction thankfully doesn’t go for cheap laughs, the chemistry between Cheatom and Harris is truly what makes the film succeed. Newlyweeds also co-stars Isiah Whitlock Jr., Tonya Pinkins, Hassan Johnson and Colman Domingo.
God Loves Uganda
directed by Roger Ross Williams
Tuesday June 25th at 9:30pm – NY Premiere
Q&A with Roger Ross Williams following the screening
Remember the Academy Awards ceremony of 2010 when a red-headed white woman named Elinor Burkett ran up on stage to ‘bogart’ the Oscar win for Best Documentary Short Film Music by Prudence by Black director Roger Ross Williams (I only mention the races because it was very ‘contrasty’ and frankly, a lot was made of it)? Everyone does. But hopefully his newest documentary God Loves Uganda replaces that memorable image with a stronger one. Williams reveals the inner workings of a group of evangelical Christian missionaries from Kansas’ International House of Prayer who spread their conservative ideology of eradicating “sexual sin” in Uganda, helping influence public sensibilities and policy in the African country.
The abstinence-only sex education message they promote doubles as a brutal indictment on homosexuality in Uganda, which threatens the gay and lesbian population within. Nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film is said to a critical and sharply journalistic view of the too familiar struggles of Christianity used to control African sensibilities.
William and the Windmill
directed by Ben Nabors
Saturday June 22 at 1:30pm – NY Premiere
Q&A with Ben Nabors following the screening
In William and the Windmill, the titular character, teenage Malawian William Kamkwamba, while too poor to afford a traditional education creates out of bottle caps, bicycle parts and other junk material a fully working power-generating windmill with the hope of getting his family out of poverty. This feat gains him the attention of the world stage – you may have seen him yourself in his world-famous TED Talks video, his 2009 interview on The Daily Show, or read his book, ‘The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind’ While William’s story and journey is inspiring, what should be a totally positive and enriching experience also burdens William and distances him from his family and former life as he gets a Western college education with help from his mentor, creating a once-again familiar and complicated conflict of an African only being seen as gaining true achievement once he is validated by and dependent upon the outside White world.
BAMcinemaFest runs from June 19th to June 28th at BAM Rose Cinemas and the BAM Harvey Theater. For ticket info go to the BAMcinemaFest website.
Curtis Caesar John is the Film Editor for Bold As Love Magazine. He also covers film and culture for Limité Magazine as well as for Shadow And Act, for which he created the regular feature ‘This Week in Black Television.’ He is born, raised and resides in Brooklyn, NY, of course. Follow him on Twitter at @MediaManWatch