The George Washington University Marvin Center will host the 11th annual African Diaspora International Film Festival, which begins Friday, Aug. 18.
The three-day festival, which presents films to diverse audiences and redesigns the black cinema experience by strengthening the role of African and African descent directors in contemporary world cinema, will feature 14 films, including 11 District premieres showcasing areas in and outside of the United States.
“There’s a lot new this year,” said Reinaldo Barroso-Spech, an educator in foreign languages and black literature who created the festival with his wife, Diarah N’Daw-Spech, a financial consultant and university budget manager.
“From its inception, the festival has always showcased great films that explore the black British experience,” Barroso-Spech said. “Films like ‘Pressure’ by Horace Ove, ‘Burning an Illusion’ by Menelik Shabaz, and ‘The Stuart Hall Project’ by John Akomfrah are some of the most representative works by black British filmmakers.”
The festival features the work of emerging and established filmmakers of color and distinguishes itself through its presentation of outstanding works that shine a different or comprehensive light on African diaspora life and culture — regardless of the filmmaker’s race or nationality, Barroso-Spech said.
New this year are Miriam Makeba’s “Mama Africa,” a film that had been lost for more than a decade but has now returned in circulation courtesy of ArtMattan Films.
Makeba is among the first African musicians to win international stardom and whose music had always been anchored in her traditional South African roots. Forced into exile in 1959, Makeba performed for President John F. Kennedy and sang with Harry Belafonte and Nina Simone.
During her tumultuous life in which she was married to Hugh Masekela and later Stokely Carmichael, Makeba fought for the oppressed, particularly for black Africans as a campaigner against apartheid. She died after a concert in Italy in 2008.
Other highlights this year include the premiere of “Gurumbe: Afro-Andalusian Memories” by M. Angel Rosales, as a revealing documentary that presents the hidden history of Africans in the 16th century and their contribution to Flamenco.
The film delves into areas of Spanish culture that producers said are seldom covered in Spanish films.
The festival will also feature themed programs like “Egypt Past and Present,” which includes two films about the African nation. The life of Gamal Abdel Nasser — one of the African leaders who fought against colonialism and built a modern nation — plays out in the documentary “Nasser’s Republic, The Making of Modern Egypt.”
An Afro-Latino program will include “The Valley of Black Descendants,” by Richard Salgado which tells the story about a group of descendants of enslaved men and women brought from Africa that’s organizing the first African descendant census in the history of Chile.
Other films include “Sweet Bottom,” “Cell 512,” “Seasons of a Life” and “Toussaint Louverture.”
The opening night film, “Not Black Enough” by Tracey Anarella, should also be a hit with audiences, Barroso-Spec said, calling it a sharp documentary about class warfare and the cross-tides that African-Americans deal with within the black community.
The opening night event will start with a VIP catered reception at 7 p.m. followed by an 8 p.m. screening of Anarella’s documentary.
“We anticipate a bigger turn out this year as the selection of films is very rich in countries, topics and genres,” Barroso-Spec said.
For more information, visit www.nyadiff.org.