The fifth annual Chicago African Diaspora Film Festival runs Friday through Thursday, June 22 through 28, at Facets Cinematheque. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $9, $7 for students and seniors; for more information call 773-281-9075 or visit www.facets.org.
Aleijahindo: Passion, Glory, and Torment Loosely based on the life of Brazilian sculptor Antonio Francisco Lisboa (1738-1814), this by-the-numbers biopic follows the artist from his birth to an African mother and a Portuguese father through his illustrious career and the mysterious illness (probably syphilis) that crippled him. The most interesting element of his story--his mixed ancestry, which put him in a position to exploit his fellow Africans in the gold mines of Villa Rica--is dropped after a while, the better to focus on his physical agony, and he exists in such a rarefied world that the struggle for Brazilian independence barely grazes him. Geraldo Santos Pereira directed. In Portuguese with subtitles. 100 min. (JJ) a Tue 6/26, 9 PM.
The Cathedral Set in the island nation of Mauritius, this 2006 feature is narrated by the spirit of a massive cathedral that watches over the capital city of Port Louis, in particular a virginal lass (Ingrid Blackburn) whose hypochondriac mother resents her. We have to settle for the narrator's omniscience, rather than any visible character development, to learn why this blank, petulant girl is the movie's heroine. Pursued by a student of Indian descent and an older European photographer, she wanders aimlessly through the town, leading us from one postcard-perfect view to another. Harikrishna Anendan directed. In English and subtitled French and Morisyen. 78 min. (AG) a Sun 6/24, 7:30 PM.
RDry Season In this spare but powerful 2006 drama, the wounds of civil war continue to fester long after the guns fall silent. Following a 40-year conflict in Chad, the national government proposes a wide-ranging amnesty, but a blind elder in a remote Saharan village, still seething at the loss of his son, urges his orphaned grandson (Ali Bacha Barkai) to avenge his father. The young man tracks the man who killed him (Youssouf Djaoro) to a city where he's built a new life as a baker, husband, and repentant Muslim; recognizing the youth's anger but not knowing the cause, the baker takes him on as an apprentice. Writer-director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Abouna) masterfully
escalates tension through his characters' intractable silences. In French and Arabic with subtitles. 95 min. (AG) a Sun 6/24, 5:30 PM, and Wed 6/27, 7 PM.
Faraw! Mother of the Dunes Abdoulaye Ascofare wrote and directed this 1997 Malian film, dedicated to his mother, about Zamiatou (Aminata Ousmane), mother of three and wife of a completely disabled husband in a poor desert settlement. Her daughter wants to work for the Europeans who live nearby; Zamiatou realizes that such jobs are often a front for prostitution and withholds her permission even when the family's food runs out. Instead the mother becomes a water seller, riding a donkey long distances to provide for her family. Cinematographer Yorgos Arvanitis, who works with Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, captures the desert's stupefying vastness, which makes Zamiatou's survival seem all the more heroic--as do the acidic portrayals of the cynical Europeans who employ native girls for sex. In Songhay with subtitles. 90 min. (FC) a Wed 6/27, 9 PM.
The Paradise of the Fallen Angels An aging pimp expires one night with a bottle of booze in his lap, and his low-life friends are stunned to learn that he's left behind an upper-class wife and a grown daughter. This black comedy (1999) by Egyptian director Oussama Fawzi cuts back and forth between the two groups of mourners as each conspires to erase the other's memory of the deceased, a struggle that escalates to body snatching when the pimp's friends crash the wake and abscond with the guest of honor. Of course, the only character who can reconcile the contradictory memories isn't talking, and, as Fawzi makes clear with his closing shot of rapidly approaching darkness at the end of a lit highway tunnel, an even greater mystery awaits his survivors. In Arabic with subtitles. 90 min. (JJ) a Mon 6/25, 9 PM.
Return to Goree Senegalese singer and percussionist Youssou N'Dour travels through Atlanta, New Orleans, and New York, collecting African-American musicians to accompany him to the Senegalese island that was a center of the Atlantic slave trade for three centuries. This rambling video documentary highlights his mission to blend contemporary African music with American gospel, blues, and jazz, and though New York jazz vocalist Pyeng Threadgill shares her travel diary, most of the other, older performers are more guarded. Director Pierre-Yves Borgeaud chooses to end the video with only one song from the climactic concert, which is disappointing after such a long journey. In English and subtitled French, Arabic, and Wolof. 108 min. (AG) Tickets for the Friday, June 22, screening are $15 and include a 6 PM catered reception.
a Fri 6/22 and Thu 6/28, 7 PM.
Sia, the Python's Dream Born in Burkina Faso but now living in Paris, director Dani Kouyate is the son of a griot, a traditional African musician and storyteller, and his 2001 feature uses a seventh-century myth to comment on the power struggles, bogus moral authority, and perpetuation of lies that still plague many African nations. An emperor, hoping to reaffirm his mandate from the people, decides to sacrifice a virgin to the python god, but the unlucky virgin goes into hiding while her soldier sweetheart rushes back from the fort to rescue her. Kouyate is rather lackadaisical in laying out his subplots (a general puts the affairs of the state above his family, court counselors conspire to suppress a madman who speaks the truth); however, in the final third the elemental power of his storytelling takes over, pulling together a spellbinding tapestry of motives and dilemmas. In Bambara with subtitles. 96 min. (TS) a Mon 6/25, 7 PM.
RTasuma, 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 civilly in a manner that upholds communal over private interests. In French and More with subtitles. 88 min. (FC) a Sat 6/23, 3 PM.
Afro-Latino Music Program a Sat 6/23, 9:30 PM, and Tue 6/26, 6:30 PM.
Just the Two of Us a Sat 6/23, 7 PM, and Sun 6/24, 3 PM.
Maluala a Sun 6/24, 9:15 PM, and Thu 6/28, 9 PM.
Suffering and Smiling a Fri 6/22, 9 PM, and Sat 6/23, 5 PM.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Dry Season.