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African Diaspora Film Festival

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The second annual African Diaspora Film Festival, which debuted in Chicago last year after more than a decade in New York City, runs Friday through Thursday, June 11 through 17, at Facets Cinematheque. Tickets are $9, $5 for Facets members; for more information call 773-281-4114 or consult www.facets.org. Films marked with an asterisk (*) are highly recommended.

HIGHLIGHTS

Ava and Gabriel

A black painter trained in Holland arrives on the Dutch island of Curacao in the 1940s to execute a church mural, but his proposal to model his Virgin on a local mixed-race woman provokes crude theological debate as to whether Mary must be shown as white. Felix de Rooy's 1990 film is less a drama than a rambling and often nostalgic portrait of life on the island built of varied details, including the seduction of the painter by the governor's wife, episodes of gay sex, and a mother who beats her adult daughter. In Dutch and Papiamento with subtitles. 93 min. (FC) (Friday, June 11, 7:00; Monday, June 14, 9:00)

* The Journey of the Lion

At the top of this 1992 travelogue, Jamaican sculptor Howard Anthony Trott ruminates on the meaning of his English "slave name," phonetically translating it into "How hard and stony I trod"; it's an appropriate beginning for the story of a man searching for himself through language. From a hardscrabble life raising two teenagers, Trott travels to wintry London to visit a half-sister who emigrated there decades earlier, and he sees how his life might have turned out had he been willing to assimilate into the white world. But he's always dreamed of Africa, and a sudden opportunity brings him to Ghana, his ancestral "land of the lions." Fritz Baumann directed this German video about an indomitable man whose openness and intuition are greatly attractive. In English patois with subtitles. 90 min. (AG) (Monday, June 14, 7:00)

* The Other World

Algerian filmmaker Merzak Allouache, whose 1993 feature Bab El-Oued City forced him into exile in France, returned to his native land for this superior 2001 thriller about a freethinking Algerian woman in Paris (Marie Brahimi) who journeys to war-torn Algiers in search of her missing lover. Cloaking her motives as well as her head, she crosses into dangerous territory and is kidnapped by an Islamic terror cell, one member of which (Karim Bouaiche) frees her and then becomes a shadowy presence in her life. Allouache's script is so packed with incident that the characters have little time for debate, but the tension between fundamentalist and modern morality is woven into the action. In French and Arabic with subtitles. 95 min. (JJ) (Saturday, June 12, 7:00; Tuesday, June 15, 9:00)

Remember Marvin Gaye

Richard Olivier met Marvin Gaye in 1981 when the singer moved to Ostend, Belgium, to escape the IRS, and a few years later Olivier assembled his footage of Gaye performing and wandering around the city in Marvin Gaye: Transit Ostend. This second portrait (2002) uses much of the same material, tied together by Gaye's ruminations on life and love, read by an actor in stilted voice-over, and by clips of Ostend in the 30s and 40s from the documentaries of Henri Storck. But Olivier has captured at least ten minutes of magic: Gaye loses himself in an a cappella version of "The Lord's Prayer" and jams on a Steinway in an empty theater, swinging hard on "Come Get to This" and ascending heavenward on "Distant Lover." 56 min. (JJ) Also on the program: Elizabeth She, Mal Sharpe, and Sandra Sharpe's 27-minute Alma's Jazzy Marriage. (Tuesday, June 15, 7:00)

* Susana Baca: Memoria Viva

"To have no memories is to have a naked soul," declares Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca. "I want to clothe my soul, to be a black woman adorned with life." Marc Dixon's video on Baca is that rare thing, a music documentary that significantly deepens one's appreciation for the subject's art. At a place where black slaves once pressed grapes, Baca explains that one root of her music is the drumming that accompanied such work, then sings a lilting melody as a drummer beats out a simple rhythm. When Baca explains that she cannot sing without simultaneously using her body to express herself, Dixon's camera deftly captures the connection between her expressive voice and the subtle changes in her posture. In Spanish with subtitles. 57 min. (FC) Also on the program: Rafael Deugenio's Candombe (1993, 16 min.). (Sunday, June 13, 1:00)

* Tasuma, the Fighter

The protagonist of Daniel Kollo Sanou's charming and gentle 2003 comedy is an old soldier in Burkina Faso (Mamadou Zerbo) whose pension for services rendered to France in its colonial wars has been held up by red tape. A figure of dogged dignity, Tasuma at first shows little rancor, singing old army songs and bragging about past battles. Believing that the funds are finally about to arrive, he buys a mill on credit for his village; when the windfall is again withheld, he threatens violence, but the story ends gently in a manner that upholds communal over private interests. In French and More with subtitles. 88 min. (FC) (Saturday, June 12, 9:00; Wednesday, June 16, 9:00)

ALSO SCREENING

African Shorts Program

(Saturday, June 12, 5:00)

Borders

(Sunday, June 13, 4:30; Wednesday, June 16, 7:00)

The Forgotten Roots

(Sunday, June 13, 2:30)

Looking for Life

(Sunday, June 13, 7:00; Thursday, June 17, 9:00)

Women's Love

(Friday, June 11, 9:00; Thursday, June 17, 6:30)

Zulaika

(Saturday, June 12, 3:00)

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