Journal Archive > 2001 > September

Film festival showcases African diaspora

Eleven films that showcase various aspects of life in the African diaspora—from a slave rebellion in Brazil to the struggle for civil rights in the United States, to the vanishing Gullah culture of the Sea Islands—will be shown during this fall’s Africana Film Festival.

Bloco “Ile Aiye, 1981,” a photograph by Doran H. Ross from the cover of Daniel J. Crowley’s African Myth and Black Reality in Bahian Carnival. The Brazilian woman wears a Zimbabwean cloth and carries in her face and posture the energy and vitality of the diaspora.

The films will be screened Tuesdays, starting September 11, in Room 314 of the Tisch Media Center, beginning at 8:30 p.m.

The film festival is open to the entire Tufts community; it is also designed to run parallel to History 151, “Africa and the Diaspora to the Americas,” taught by Jeanne Marie Penvenne, associate professor of history. Penvenne will provide discussion memos to accompany each film.

“Ethnic Notions: Black People in White Minds,” a 1987 documentary by Marlon Riggs and narrated by Esther Rolle, will open the program. The film explores the history of stereotypes that have fueled anti-black prejudice in American culture. According to Penvenne, “it’s a disturbing film and should be shown with care and discussion…It is a necessary beginning to the much more content-oriented films that follow.”

The films include:
Sept. 11: “Ethnic Notions”

Sept. 18: “Sankofa.” The title comes from an Akan word meaning, “one must return to the past in order to move forward.” Written, directed and produced by Ethiopian-born filmmaker Haile Gerima, the film tells the story of a modern African American woman who discovers the pain of slavery and reconnects with her African heritage.

Sept. 25: “I Shall Moulder Before I Shall Be Taken.” A 1992 documentary by S. Allen Counter of Harvard, who studied the descendants of 17th- and 18th-century African slaves living in the rain forests of Surinam.

Oct. 16: “Quilombo.” The tale of Afro-Brazilian slaves who defy their Portuguese masters and start their own nation in the jungle is directed by Carlos Diegues, with a musical score by Gilberto Gil.

Oct. 23: “Family Across the Sea.” The film explores the connections between the Gullah people of South Carolina’s barrier islands and the people of Sierra Leone.

Oct. 30: “Bahia—Africa in the Americas.” A 1988 documentary by Geovanni and Michael Brewer looks at the Brazilian state of Bahia, “the capital of African culture in the Americas.” It is narrated by Brock Peters.

Nov. 6: “Daughters of the Dust.” This Julie Dash film won the 1991 Sundance Film Festival Award. It examines the effects of isolation and assimilation on a Gullah family.

Nov. 13: “I Is a Long Memoried Woman.” This video combines monologue, dance and song to tell the story of an African slave on a sugar plantation, based on the poems of Guyanese British writer Grace Nichols.

Nov. 20: “Fundi—The Ella Baker Story.” The biography of Ella J. Baker, the longtime civil rights activist and co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Nov. 27: “W.E.B. DuBois—A Biography in Four Voices.” Four African American writers, Wesley Brown, Thulani Davis, Toni Cade Bambara and Amiri Baraka, each narrate a period in the life of DuBois, civil rights pioneer and a founder of the NAACP, in a documentary by Louis Massiah.

Dec. 4: “James Baldwin: The Price of a Ticket.” Excerpts from Baldwin’s major works are paired with events during different stages in 20th-century black-white relations.