“What audience members enjoy most is the community and dialogue that takes place both informally and formally at the festival,” said Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, coordinator of Washington University’s African Film Festival, which returns to the campus next weekend.
Its presentation over the years is far beyond a unique flavor of cinematic enjoyment.
“The films tease out diasporic conversations as well as the universality of the human spirit,” said Toliver-Diallo, who is also assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, senior lecturer in African and African American Studies and director of Senegal Summer Program for Washington University.
The films have also become a teaching tool and frame of reference for those interested in exploring the beauty and rich culture often omitted from the tragic narratives of the continent that are constantly portrayed.
“I deeply respect the African Film Festival's commitment to distributing African film and African stories from an African perspective across America,” said filmmaker Ekwa Msangi. “Africa as a continent is so misrepresented and misunderstood, and oftentimes by its own descendants. This selection of films allows audiences to see a full-rounded representation of the many faces of Africa: the diversity, the culture, the texture.”
As part of opening night festivities, Msangi will introduce and lead a post-show discussion about her film, “Sonko Soko.”
Msangi said, “In my film, I'm able to share a slice of what my East Africa looks like: a place where people get up each morning and try to do better than they did the day before, and their stories and decisions don't necessarily pivot around those of the foreigners who live there.”
Nearly a dozen award-winning films will be presented over the weekend, delivering a slice of African life from throughout the continent.
“Not only did we want multiple countries represented to showcase the diversity of the African continent, but it was equally important to showcase the variety of styles employed in contemporary storytelling,” Toliver-Diallo said. “You can see the variety in the films, from ‘Veve,’ a thriller from One Day Films, to intellectual travel cinema depicted in ‘Soleils,’ which reexamines the relationship between Europe and Africa.”
The festival has grown to three days – including a youth matinee Saturday afternoon. Faithful attendees will see growth in the quality of films that have been presented over the years, including the Academy Award-nominated film “Timbuktu,” directed by Abderrahmane Sissako of Mauritania, which serves as the anchor for this year’s festival.
“Timbuktu” explores the danger of suppressing diversity in society, and Toliver-Diallo believes it will resonate strongly with St. Louis audiences in the wake of the Ferguson unrest.
“The stories are sometimes tragic, but not always,” Msangi said. “Often times they carry great humor and a lot of love.”
Campus partners for the Washington University African Film Festival include the Program in African & African American Studies, Film & Media Studies, African Students Association and Brown School African Students Association.
“The film festival is such a unique and exciting experience,” said Nana Nimako, president of the African Students Association. “This is my third year involved and I cannot wait to see all of the community members and the amazing films that will be shown.”
The 10th Annual Washington University African Film Festival will take place 7 p.m. nightly from Fri., March 27 – Sunday, March 29 in Room 100 of Brown Hall. The youth matinee will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 28. All screenings are free and open to the public. For a full list of films at this year’s festival, visit wupa.wustl.edu/africanfilm or call (314) 935-7879.