St Louis African Film Festival 2019 – Diane Carson reports

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Friday, March 29 through Sunday, March 31, the 2019 African Film Festival celebrates its fourteenth year with four remarkable feature film programs, each with an introductory short. Festival founder Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo endeavors to “increase dynamic conversations about the African continent” by highlighting contemporary artistic African productions while also “combating stereotypes.”

These films certainly succeed in that goal, reminding us that we share many similar problems just as we also confront unique ones. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all these films, offering glimpses into their originating countries: Morocco, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. First on Friday, the short Tikitat-a-Soulinma presents a common problem. Eleven-year-old Hassan is desperate to see “Spiderman 3.” His mother gives him grocery money, but Hassan will become involved in a boxing match, hoping to win a cinema ticket. After that short, the feature Rafiki (Friend) finds Kena surrendering to her love of Kiki complicating her father’s political aspirations and challenging the religious environment.

Saturday in the “Eye on Youth” program, animation in A Kalabanda Ate My Homework gives an amusing take on the “lost homework” predicament with a mythical creature invoked. Then in Supa Moda the local citizens give the terminally-ill Jo life as a super-heroine, a decision that rejuvenates them all.

Saturday evening, Il Pleut sur Ouaga (It Rains on Ouaga) watches as the political backdrop of a revolution gives Cerise time to reconsider her unconventional aspirations. Frontieres/Borders, my favorite, finds four fascinating women traveling from Senegal through Mali and Burkina Faso immigration and customs stops to Lagos, Nigeria. Thrown together on a bus, they support each other facing corruption, theft, accidents, and intimidation in a film that becomes explicitly, insightfully philosophical. Poignant interaction, gorgeous clothes, and distinctive personalities shine.

Sunday night Bariga Sugar traces the prejudice against Ese, eight-year-old daughter of her prostitute mother, and also the friendship that flourishes. Finally Wallay gives self-indulgent, thirteen-year-old Ady an education when he’s sent from his comfortable French home to his Uncle Amadou in Burkina Faso to learn real values and some civility. In all these selections, excellent production values and evocative music contribute to memorable stories. Evening screenings begin at 7:00 p.m., Saturday afternoon’s Eye on Youth program at 3:00 p.m., all in Washington University’s Brown Hall Room 100. For more information you may call 314-935-7879 or go to on the web.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.