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Film Festival in New York Shines Spotlight on African Directors

  • Ricci Shryock

The theme of a film festival in New York this week is “Homecoming,” but many of the featured African auteurs are far from their homes.

Moroccan filmmaker Laima Alami said the trip is worth it for African filmmakers, to show the world what they can do.

“You never get distribution of African films. It’s really rare to see,” she said. “In Morocco, there is a very low distribution of African films because you only see French or American films.”

She said she believes, “there is a lack of respect of African filmmakers. There’s just plain ignorance about African directors.”

Alami is screening her first feature film, “Farewell Exile,” at the festival. The film tells the story of a Moroccan woman awaiting a letter from her husband who illegally left their poor neighborhood to try his luck in France.

“The most important issue to me is to give a face to the people who cross the border,” said Alami. “Even in Morocco they are seen as shadows.”

She said the festival gives African filmmakers a voice in the global discussion about their home countries.

“You get a perspective of the continent from Africans for the most part, which I think is very important, because a lot of films that are done about the continent or any country on the continent are very stereotypical so you don’t get an inside view of the life, the people, the culture.”

The 19th Annual New York African Film Festival is running until April 17 at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center. It features more than a dozen films centered on a wide range of African topics and countries.