Tuscaloosa’s Festival has new name, broader mission
9 February 2018
For its sixth year, Saturday’s slate of movies has been re-named the Tuscaloosa Africana Film Festival — formerly African Film Festival — to reflect its inclusion of works from the African diaspora, in addition to those works created on the continent.
For 2018, it comes at the culmination of the Tuscaloosa Heritage Festival, a weekend of cultural activities hosted by the West Alabama Multicultural Alliance.
Here’s some of the weekend’s rundown:
- Thursday at 7 p.m., filmmaker Tyrik Washington will lead a workshop titled “Arts in Activism,” Room 159 in Russell Hall on the University of Alabama campus. The Emmy-award-winner will discuss film’s role in social change, and present the film “Under the Heavens,” which he wrote, directed, composed the score for, and co-starred in.
- At 7 p.m. Friday, “A Showcase of Film, Dance & Music” will be held at the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy, 2800 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There’ll be performances by Stillman College and University of Alabama choirs and dancers, Thomas Davis Jr., Blessed By Four, Dancers 4 Life and Dancing Stars Dance Studio, with a Step-Tease by local students. Admission is $5.
- For more on today’s and Friday’s events, see www.westalabamamulticult.com.
- Saturday’s Sixth Tuscaloosa Africana Film Festival will be held at the Bama Theatre, with children’s dance and movie activities beginning at 3 p.m. The film is “Liyana,” part documentary, part animated quest tale, from 2016, directed by Amanda and Aaron Kopp, with animation by Sofela Coker. It’s set in Swaziland, stemming from the imaginations of five orphaned children: A girl takes on the dangerous task of rescuing her younger twin brothers.
- Evening films include short films and one feature, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and running until 10:30.
- Among the shorts will be Tuscaloosan Santo Moss’s “Moving Forward,” and “90 Days,” billed as a story of “love, integrity and compassion,” as a couple examines a life-altering decision made after 90 days dating. It’s written by Nathan Hale Williams, and directed by Williams and Jennia Fredrique Aponte. Stars include Teyonah Parris and Nic Few. The opening short will be the winner of the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy’s film competition, to be announced.
- The evening’s feature film will be 2016’s “The African Who Wanted to Fly,” about Luc Bendza, who as a 9-year-old boy in Gabon, Central Africa, saw his first kung-fu movie, and came to believe Chinese people could fly. Bendz became obsessed with joining them, and learning their secrets. He became the first African to enter the Shaolin Monastery, at age 14, and has lived and studied there for more than 30 years, mastering wushu and acting in martial arts movies.
- The film, part documentary and part biography, was directed and written by Samantha Biffot, who though born in Paris, grew up in Asia and Africa, and after studying cinema in Paris, retured to Gabon in 2010 to develop TV series, documentaries and other movies.
- The Tuscaloosa Africana Film Festival is being presented by the Edward A. Ulzen Memorial Foundation and Afram South Inc., nonprofit organizations supporting education and public health initiatives in Ghana, West Africa and West Alabama respectively. Co-sponsors include the College of Community Health Sciences at UA and Tuscaloosa Sister Cities International. Tuscaloosa has a sister-cities relationship with the adjacent pairing of Sunyani and Techiman in Ghana.