Nigeria: Mahen Bonetti - Why I Started African Films Festival
Mahen Bonetti is the founder and Executive Director of African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF), a non-profit arts organization founded in 1990. The AFF showcases works of African filmmakers and develops ways to share the vision and culture of African films with American and international audiences. In her role as film liaison, she contributes to an interdisciplinary mix of panels and programmes, including those established by the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York State Council of the Arts, UNDP, Africa's US diplomatic offices and the Rolex Arts Initiative Awards. AFF collaborates each year with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and BAMcinématek to produce the annual New York African Film Festival. Additionally, the organization curates a series of other film programmes with a host of national and international partners. Ms. Bonetti lives in Manhattan with her husband and their daughter.

There used to be a time when the only images and news about Africa that make it to the United States of America and other parts of the world were those of starving children, despots, natural calamities. Africa to them was just one disaster zone. And Mahen Bonetti was not happy with the development and decided she must do something about it. "Those things might have existed," she agrees, "but there are so many positive things about Africa, particularly its rich culture, that must be celebrated."

"There were lots of images of Africa circulating in the media at that time, but they were mostly negative and decontextualized. So, I wanted to educate not only Americans, but Africans living here," said the Sierra Leonean who lives in New York in the United States with her husband and daughter. From there, one thing led to another and the New York African Festival (NYAFF) was born in 1990. Today, the NYAFF showcases works which paint the true picture of happenings in Africa and about Africans in the Diaspora. It shows the works of film producers, directors, actors and other visual and performing artists, which present Africa through the eyes of its people within and outside of the continent.

"I had to find a way to make a contribution, to correct some of these misconceptions, about Africa, her people," she said while speaking to Weekend Magazine in a phone interview from her base in the United States. Bonetti said the festival is out to "tell the African story from the African perspective," and is busy trying to put finishing touches to the 20th anniversary edition of the NYAFF.
Source: Daily Trust, Nasiru L. Abubakar, 30 March 2013.

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