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Festival of African Films to start Saturday

Portland Community College
Cascade campus
705 N. Killingsworth
Terrell Hall, Room 122

McMenamin’s Kennedy School
5736 N.E.33rd Ave.
Saturday Feb. 1
7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m.

Portland Community College will host the popular and diverse 13th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films in honor of Black History Month throughout February at its Cascade campus. All screenings will be in Terrell Hall, Room 122, unless otherwise noted.

All of the festival films are free and open to the public. The festival, which features 19 films this year, has grown into a big favorite among film buffs. Last year, the festival featured an appearance by actor Danny Glover and attracted a record 4,000 people.

“This year’s films are all outstanding,” said Mary Holmstrom, an organizer of the festival. “They all have extraordinary stories to tell and images to reveal. They have very important things to tell us about African history, the urban African woman, religion and spirituality, civil war and HIV/AIDS. They also celebrate music and dance, love and freedom, and the indomitable human spirit.”

The majority of films were made by African directors, showing pictures of Africa through the eyes of Africans, rather than a vision of Africa that is packaged primarily for Western viewers.

Most of the films use the languages of the people represented; those films have subtitles. The films represent African concerns that are political, historical and social. This year’s films cover a wide range of themes and topics, including the bitter history and legacy of the European slave trade and colonial era; the struggle for justice, freedom and independence; war and peace; HIV/AIDS; religious fundamentalism; the history of the Black Muslim Movement; the urban African woman at the onset of the 21st Century; and the documentary portraits of the singer Umm Kulthum and the writer Naguib Mahfouz.

These films were chosen on the basis of their quality as film and their ability to captivate and move audiences, as well as their representation of different countries and cultures and a range of lifestyles from pre-colonial to modern times, including both rural and urban settings.

The festival will open with the Senegalese film “Karmen Ge퀌�,” directed by Joseph Ga퀌� Ramaka, on Saturday, Feb. 1, at McMenamin’s Kennedy School. There will be screenings of the film at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The film is loosely based on Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen” and is believed to be the first African-produced movie musical ever made. The opening night gala will also include a silent auction with live music in the Kennedy School gymnasium as a benefit for the Cascade Festival of African Films.

Ethiopian film director Haile Gerima will present his documentary film “Adwa: An African Victory” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd. The film chronicles the epic Battle of Adwa of 1896, in which an army of Ethiopian men and women defeated an invading Italian army against impossible odds.

In addition to “Adwa” and “Bilalian,” the Thursday Evening Documentary Series will include “Scenarios from the Sahel” and “It’s My Life,” on the subject of AIDS in West and South Africa on Feb. 13. Films about the lives of two of Egypt’s great artistic and literary giants, Umm Kulthum and Naguib Mahfouz, will be presented on Feb. 20: “Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt” and “Naguib Mahfouz: The Passage of the Century.”

“Kirikou and the Sorceress,” the popular animated children’s film based on a Congolese folk tale, is the featured film for Family Film Day at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at McMenamin’s Kennedy School. Two of Cilia Sawadogo’s short animated movies will also be shown: “The Cora Player” and “Christopher Changes His Name.”

The festival concludes with Women Filmmakers Week. “Mama Africa: Growing Up Urban,” three short films by women directors from Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa, will be shown on Feb. 27 and 28, and “Satin Rouge,” the new Tunisian film by Raja Amari about female sensuality, will show on Feb. 27 and March 1. The festival will also bring young African American filmmaker Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar to Portland. She will present her film, “Bilalian,” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at PCC Cascade’s Terrell Hall, Room 122. “Bilalian” traces the history of the transformation of the Black Muslim movement from the Nation of Islam of Elijah Muhammed into the orthodox Islam of the Muslim Society of America.

The Cascade Festival of African Films is made possible by generous grants from the Oregon Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and from the Oregon Arts Commission.