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The NY African Film Festival

Given the situation in Nigeria at the moment, and the global outcry that’s been growing some two weeks after the abduction of over 200 girls by the extremist group Boko Haram (#bringbackourgirls), it’s a pity that the film Difret is not part of the line-up for this year’s NY African Film Festival. I saw it at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, a day after it had been announced that Angelina Jolie had signed on as executive producer.

The story, while not altogether the same circumstances as the abduction that’s taken place in Nigeria, shares a similar strain – kidnapping girls to further a set of men’s ill-founded beliefs.

Difret takes place in Ethiopia, and is based on the true-life dealings of the founder of a legal aid organization challenging the practice of selling girls into marriage. The film has its shortcomings but it humanizes a story that can feel so far away for so many, and plays a vital part in showing how film can create that empathy that should already exist, but doesn’t always. It’s a subject that we shouldn’t have to be dealing with when girls just want to go to school and be educated and the film is a tool to help rally global support for that.

But there are plenty of other films on the line-up for this year’s NY Film Festival though.

Taking place for the 21st edition, the fest is running with the theme ‘Revolution and Liberation in the Digital Age’ this year. It kicks off on Tuesday night with the premiere of the Nigerian film Confusion Na Wa, which has been selected, according to the organizers, “in celebration of the centenary of Nigeria’s unification.” Again, the timing with current affairs, makes this less of a celebration, but I’ll be interested to see if anything comes out of the events around the fest. The subject matter may not have anything to do with what’s happening right now, but celebrations seem ill-placed.

The documentary, Mugabe: Villain or Hero? is intriguing – given that director Roy Agyemang had unprecedented access to the Zimbabwean leader, while the narrative feature Winter of Discontent goes inside the Tahrir Square protests that were so central to the Arab Spring. South Africa’s initially-banned Of Good Report, which has picked up awards in the wake of its non-screening at the Durban Film Festival last year, will also be shown.

Other highlights from the festival include Biyi Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun, starring Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anika Noni Rose, and the epic Sarraounia, based on historical accounts of Niger’s Queen Sarraounia, will close the festival – a movie that took first prize at FESPACO (Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou) in 1987.

For more info on the NY African Film Festival, which runs until the end of May, visit their site.

If you want to find out more about Difret, go here

[Pic: Half of a Yellow Sun]

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