The tenth Annual Chicago African Diaspora International Film Festival runs Friday, June 15, through Thursday, June 21, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114. Tickets are $9 ($15 for the opening-night program). Following are selected programs; for a full schedule see facets.org.
Abdias do Nascimento The subject of this 2011 Brazilian documentary was an early demonstrator for Afro-Brazilian civil rights, the founder of the enormously influential Black Experimental Theater (in the 40s), a professor at many prominent American universities (including Wesleyan and Yale), a senator, and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Nascimento died in 2011, shortly after the completion of this documentary, and director Aída Marques has some terrific interviews with him, conducted just prior to his death. But an overreliance on recent footage (much of which consists of other Brazilians' obsequious flattery), uneven pacing, and an oddly somber repeating piano motif lessens the power of Nascimento's biography. —Tal Rosenberg 95 min. Mon 6/18, 8:30 PM
Come Back, Africa Shot clandestinely in Johannesburg with a nonprofessional cast, this 1959 feature by director Lionel Rogosin (On the Bowery) is an extraordinary document of black life under apartheid. Even the scripted dialogue scenes have the immediacy of a newsreel; it's the rare movie where the lapses in technical sophistication actually add to the feeling of authenticity. The main character is a poor miner who goes to Johannesburg in search of a better job, only to be tossed out by one callous employer after another. Rogosin notes the specifics of his daily struggle—such as the process of securing permits both to live and work in the city—and he's no less observant of the vibrant social life of the shantytown where he ends up living. The movie contains several joyous musical performances that are as revealing as the overtly political sequences. In English and subtitled Afrikaans. —Ben Sachs 95 min. New print. A discussion and reception follow the Saturday screening. Sat 6/16, 6 PM, and Thu 6/21, 8:30 PM
The First Rasta Reggae musician Bob Marley is probably most Americans' link to Rastafarianism; Leonard Percival Howell, founder of the Jamaican nationalist movement, remains largely unknown, yet this documentary by Hélène Lee, author of a French biography, and codirector Christophe Farnarier seems designed to enshroud Howell in myth. As a teen in the early 20th century, he went to sea, meeting other penniless adventurers and absorbing influences from Marxism to Harlem jazz; returning to Jamaica in the early 1930s, he spread an anticolonialist, messianic populism based on his veneration of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, while advocating ganja for spiritual elevation. Scarcity of archival records may be partly to blame for the sketchy portrait, which draws heavily on contemporary interviews with stoned elderly followers. —Andrea Gronvall 90 min. Tue 6/19, 6:30 PM
One People Director Pim de la Parra, who's spent most of his career working in the Netherlands, returned to his homeland of Suriname in the early days of its independence to make this little-known 1976 gem. Roy (Borger Breeveld), a Creole college student, is called back from the Netherlands to Suriname, where his mother is dying. Immediately after her funeral, he begins a passionate affair with a beautiful Hindu woman (Diana Gangaram Pandya), and the match inflames the prejudices of both their families. The loosely structured narrative poetically captures Roy's reconnection to his culture: in one tightly edited montage, he grazes his way through an open market, sampling one food after another in an epicurean rapture. In Dutch, Hindustani, and Sranan with subtitles. —Joshua Katzman 111 min. Sun 6/17, 1 PM, and Wed 6/20, 8:30 PM
Scheherazad, Tell Me a Story Yousry Nasrallah, a former screenwriter for Youssef Chahine and a successful director in his own right, achieves something rare with this Egyptian comedy-drama (2009): an urgent political statement that's also a funny, sexy entertainment. A rebellious TV host (Mona Zaki), threatened with cancellation for having aired too many exposés of government corruption, embarks on a series of human-interest stories about middle-class women who are mad as hell about the country's institutionalized sexism. The movie is refreshingly blunt in its feminist outrage, but Nasrallah never allows this to compromise character, humor, or artistry. Earthy and well-spoken, the women make a point of enjoying heated conversations and good sex, and the visual style is comparably sensual, with flamboyant tracking shots that evoke melodramas from Hollywood's golden age. In Arabic with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 135 min. Tue 6/19, 8:30 PM
Welcome to Pine Hill In writer-director-editor Keith Miller's relaxed debut feature, a quiet former drug dealer takes stock of his life when he's diagnosed with a rare terminal illness. Though the hero is black and comes from an impoverished background, this never feels like a movie about black poverty; Miller and his cast are so sensitive to the characters' quirks (and to the nature of neighborhood communities) that the movie ends up feeling more like a personal encounter. Despite the heavy subject matter, this can be surprisingly, even disarmingly optimistic. The characters regularly engage in confessional bull sessions with strangers they meet on the street, suggesting that all people are capable of treating others with respect. —Ben Sachs 80 min. Miller attends the screenings, each to be followed by a reception. Tickets are $15 on Friday and $9 on Sunday. Fri 6/15, 6:30 PM, and Sun 6/17, 5 PM