First up, the not so good news. Shadow and Act, the film website that has a crucial online space for news and critique on films and filmmakers of the African diaspora for the last seven years, may close down.
In a recent, very personal blog post on the site, founder Tambay A. Obenson revealed that the recent sale of Indiewire didn’t include any of its individual blogs as part of the package; meaning the future for Shadow and Act is uncertain. We’ll be holding thumbs and sending out positive thoughts. Here’s an excerpt:
I really believe that there’s a need and public want for a web presence the likes of which I summarized above, and that it could be very successful if properly run; especially in a time when issues like “diversity” are cause célèbre here in the USA specifically; although, as we’ve covered on this blog, you’ll find very similar conversations being had across countries in Europe, countries in South America and continental Africa, as well as our neighbors up north, Canada – regions all over the world where people of color are still unfortunately woefully underrepresented in cinema (in front of and behind the camera), and effectively marginalized. If relaunched, it could be a well-run global brand accessible to anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world, that we can all be proud of, and will be extremely pleased to know exists. And if I’m going to do this, I want to do it right and go all the way with it, or not do it at all, which, again, takes hard work, people and of course money to build something of real value.
(2) “MTV is telling stories that mainstream established media refuses to tell you,” quipped a South African colleague about the channel’s South African iteration MTV Base’s new documentary on South Africa’s #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall student movements. Since 2015 these movements have brought the academy to its knees and the nation to a standstill. (To refresh, rewatch our video or visit our archive) Left in the capable hands of director Lebogang Rasethaba (Future Sound of Mzansi) and producer Allison Swank (she used to write for us), this is a very promising project. The documentary premiered on MTV South Africa this week. For those of you who didn’t catch it, here is the trailer:
(3) Still on trailers: The trailer for The Birth of a Nation, from American director Nate Turner, finally dropped and it’s looking great. The opening shot of an American cotton plantation, underscored by Nina Simone’s rendition of Strange Fruit is breathtaking. The film deliberately uses the title of D.W. Griffith’s film (1915), which was lauded for its groundbreaking cinematic techniques and shunned for its racist portrayal of black people (it was used as a recruitment tool for the Ku Klux Klan.) Watch the trailer:
(4) Bi Kidude was Zanzibar’s own “Iron Lady” – not of politics, but of music. She performed classic taarab around the world, combining her formidable talent with an arresting stage presence and huge personality. To mark the death of “probably the world’s oldest singer” (she was thought to be over 100 years old when she passed away in 2013), Andy Jones’ I Shot Bi Kidude was launched recently in Zanzibar. The film focuses on the mysterious and complicated kidnapping of the musical legend by a family member, and is asequel to Jones’ first film about the star, As Old As My Tongue, which celebrated her music, and her unconvential behavior and free self-expression, which challenged the traditional role of women in an Islamic society. You can stream As Old As My Tongue on Vimeo on Demand here.
(UPDATE: Africa is a Country readers gets a discount if you rent the film on Vimeo: The code AiaC gets the first 10 people a free rental and the next fifty get 50% off with this code: AiaC50.)
(5) The director Gavin Hood (remember Tsotsi, the first South African film to win a Best Foreign Film Oscar) has a new movie out called Eye in the Sky, which deals with the disengaged nature and moral dilemmas of modern warfare. Shot in Cape Town (as a stand in for the heavily Somali neighborhood of Eastleigh in Nairobi) the film is receiving mostly positive reviews from other than Kenyan Somalis. It features an impressive lineup of actors, including Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Somali-American Barkhad Abdi. Which leads us to the question: Is Abdi being typecasted? He went from a breakthrough role playing a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips, to a Kenyan Somali intelligence operate in Eye in the Sky, to a drug dealer in Sacha Baron Cohen’s awful (some say offensive) The Brothers Grimsby. His next role will be in Where the White Man Runs Away, about a white journalist who embeds himself among Somali pirates. Here’s the trailer for Eye in the Sky.
(6) The Ghanaian-American co-production Nakom is now available to stream in some regions on Festival Scope. The film follows a Ghanaian medical student drawn back into his farming community after the sudden death of his father, and all the obligations that come with such circumstances. He is forced to make a difficult choice between following tradition and the narrative arc that he has projected for his own life. Co-directed by Kelly Daniela Norris and TW Pitman, and produced by Isaac Adakudugu (who actually comes from Nakom), the film looks to be both contemplative and charming.
(7) The new short film Reluctantly Queer, explores same sex desire in Ghana. Shot on 8mm by the Ghanaian-American director Akosua Adoma Owusu (she also did Kwaku Ananse revolves with a young Ghanaian man “struggling to reconcile his love for his mother with his same-sex desire, amid the increased tensions arising from same-sex politics in Ghana.” Reluctantly Queer premiered at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.
(8) Keina Espiñeira, a PhD in Political Science and Visual Studies, who also holds an MA in documentary, has made a migration film called We All Love the Seashore. The film seeks to blend documentary and fiction and collide “myths from the colonial past” with “dreams of a better future.”
(9) Finally, a Nigerian director has ripped off the plot of Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, about a group of women who withhold sex until their men stop fighting. Lee’s film was ideologically a mess, so no surprises when some people on Twitter judged the Nigerian film to be better. Here’s the trailer for the Nigerian film: