Here’s my semi-regular round-up of trailers for new African or African-themed films which I wish to get my hands on. It’s a big continent, so I am not surprised at the output. Some of these are sure to make the rounds at film festivals or short runs in art cinemas or pop up on obscure cable channels. (I’m still waiting for that entrepreneur who’ll start an African film Netflix. I’ll be a customer.) So here they are:

Migration is a big topic in these films.

First up there’s Swiss director Fernand Melgar’s “Special Flight”

Film critic Leo Goldsmith writes  about “Special Flight” in Brooklyn Rail:

[Melgar] investigated a detention center for asylum-seekers in Switzerland; his new film concerns a group of foreign nationals at a rather darker place in the process. Many of the film’s subjects—a couple of dozen men, mainly originating from Africa and Kosovo—have lived in Switzerland for decades, working, paying taxes, and raising families. Now, at a detention center in Frambois, near Geneva, they sit in clean, gray institutional buildings, waiting to hear about the status of their appeals for citizenship, or else to be forcibly shipped out to their countries of origin, the “special flights” of the film’s title … [The] degree of access occasionally gives the film a professional polish that makes it seem almost staged. Stills from the film, which resemble a slightly sunnier Pedro Costa film, made more than one non-Swiss festivalgoer I spoke to think the film was a work of fiction.) Stranger still is the interaction between the detention center’s staff and the inmates (whom the former prefer to call “residents”), which is cordial, warm, and often even apologetic. Members of the staff welcome the detainees, express remorse for their situations, and hear out their grievances sympathetically, forming relationships that border on friendship. And when the orders come down for deportation, staff-members carry them out with an odd mix of duty, helplessness, and regret.

There’s also Belgian filmmaker Nicolas Provost‘s “The Invader” which focuses on the travails of an African migrant in Brussels. The film has a brilliant opening scene. See Tom’s post later today.

Another feature film with African migrants washing up on the shores of a European island at the heart of it; this time the Canary Islands:

The very talented Akin Omotoso (somebody give him buckets of money to keep making films) directed “Man on Ground,” a film about xenophobic violence against African migrants by black South Africans in Johannesburg. Here‘s an early review and here‘s an interview with Omotoso. Here’s the trailer:

The Cardboard Village” about an Italian priest and illegal immigrants who take shelter in his church.  Bonus: it stars “Blader Runner” star Rutger Hauer. (I don’t know what to expect from that casting choice.) The trailer doesn’t make much sense, but here it is anyway:

And here–in its entirety–is a new short, “Counterfeit,” about West African migrants selling counterfeit watches and fake handbags in Chinatown in New York City:

And also a 12 minute short about racism and the border between Dominican Republic and Haiti (no surprises from which side the racism emanates):

Always Brando” part fake documentary, part drama about a Tunisian filmmaker’s obsession with the famed American actor:

Another North African film. This time Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi’s “Death for Sale” about 3 young petty thieves:

Then there is, “Les Hommes libres,” a period piece about an Algerian black marketer in Nazi-occupied France (also by a Moroccan director). The lead is played by Tahar Rahim who played the lead in the prison film, “A Prophete.” (I’m assuming this is in the same vein as the excellent “Indigènes,” which aimed to set the record straight about the roles of blacks and Arabs’ in the liberation of France during World War II):

“The Rhythm of My Life,” a documentary film about the Miami rapper Ismael Sankara who travels to Gabon to visit family and sort of figures out his life and career:

A number of German films have recently explored their country’s relationship to the African continent. (Remember “Nowhere in Africa,” “Sleeping Sickness” and “At Ellen’s Age.”  Now there’s “The River Used To Be A Man” about a German actor finding himself in some open African space.  Here’s a clip (what’s with  trailers that don’t mean or say much?):

The trailer for director Aki Kaurismäki’s “Le Havre” (France) about the relationship of an elderly working-class couple in the French port city of the title with a a young, lovable African illegal immigrant they’re harboring and the police inspector searching for the stowaway. This film is loved by every mainstream critic who has reviewed it. The trailer suggests it has obvious tropes which appeals to American and European audiences:

Talk about films with cute children. “Lucky” is film about a young South African child and the AIDS epidemic there (remember “Life Above All” directed by Oliver Schmitz and which had a limited release here in New York City in the Spring).  The director of “Lucky” is Avie Luthra, an Indian national. In “Lucky” there is a nice twist though; unlike most AIDS films he is not saved by a saintly white person: the lead character ends up in Durban with unscrupulous relatives, but is helped by a South African woman of Indian origin. As far as I know, apart from Leon Schuster’s racist caricatures (Disney just gave him guarantees to make more of that nonsense), “Lucky” might be the first time you have an Indian South African in a major role in a film coming from that country.

Back to documentaries: “Last Call At The Oasis” about the global crisis about water which affects us all:

Films about the unfinished Egyptian Revolution our coming out fast. Take “Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad And The Politician.” The film is divided into three chapters; the first focuses on activists, the second on the police and the third the dictator Hosni Mubarak:

Then, Italian director Stefano Savona’s “Tahrir: Liberation Square”:

There’s also the music-focused “Microphone” by Egyptian director Ahmed Abdallah:

The trailer for Columbia University art historian Susan Vogel’s film, “Food, Crumple Crush,” about the famed Ghanaian artist El Anatsui who lives in Nigeria:

There’s a few others for which I can’t find trailers:

* The film version of Albert Camus’ final, unfinished novel based on his childhood in French-occupied Algeria, “The First Man.”

* “The Education of Auma Obama” about Barack Obama’s sister, Auma, which includes home video of the young Barack Obama on his first ever visit to Kenya in the late 1980s.  (Here‘s a link to a post-screening Q&A with director Branwen Okpako and Auma Obama at the 2011 Toronto Film Fetsival.)

Then a film, I have at the top of my wish list. “Indochina, tras la pista de una madre” (Indochina, Traces of a Mother) is the story of an Afro-Asian man (the son of a Vietnamese woman an and African soldier) who goes back to Vietnam. His parents met when his father, from Benin, was conscripted by France to go and resist Vietnamese independence:

* A new film about the struggle around AIDS in South Africa (by veteran director Jack Lewis):

This film will definitely not make a commercial cinema screen here. The Senegalese director Mamadou Sellou Diallo films the pregnancy of his wife and the birth of his daughter. It’s also a film about womanhood in Senegal:

*  There are also some films about the descendants of Africans in America:

Director Diana Paragas and writer Nelson George’s “Brooklyn Boheme,” about black life in late 1980s and 1990s Fort Greene, Brooklyn, is finally here. (That’s my neighborhood for the last 10 years). Here’s the first 5 minutes:

There’s a documentary about black punk rockers Fishbone:

A profile of foul-mouthed, ageing rapper Blowfly; in daily life the mainstream musician Clarence Reid:

“White Wash,” a documentary about black surfers (which reminds me of the film, “Taking Back the Waves,” about Apartheid racism and surfing in South Africa):

“Angel,” a documentary film directed by Sebastiano d’Ayala Valva, about a former Ecuadorian boxer, lately a transvestite prostitute in France, traveling back to his homeland:

Helene Lee, who wrote a book–“The First Rasta”– about Leonard Howell, who is considered the founder of Rastafari in Jamaica, has now made a documentary about him:

*  Finally, a couple of short films you can watch in full:

Johannesburg filmmaker Palesa Shongwe–whose work reminds me of fellow South African Steve Mokwena–has a short film (in full below) “Atrophy (and the fear of fading)” about nostalgia and youth:

And, American Allysa Eisenstein’s film on homophobia in Uganda based around interviews with gay rights activists and the bigotry and hate they encounter:

Further Reading

Where the social is political

On 9 May 2017, residents of six neighborhoods across South Africa’s richest province, Gauteng, protested about lack of basic services, housing and employment. A local TV news crew captured the frustrations of a resident from Ennerdale, one of the affected neighborhoods: “When …