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Africa at the Movies

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Mahen Bonetti is the effervescent founder and executive director of the New York African Film Festival. Listen to her conversation with WNYC's Richard Hake.

After seventeen years of bringing African films and filmmakers to New York, Bonetti is still in love with the continent’s films. But Bonetti refuses to have favorites. Ask her to pick out a few and she reels off every single film in the festival. 

Organizing the event is no simple task. The festival features films from seventeen African nations, takes place at 5 venues around the city, including BAM and The Lounge on the Bowery, and runs for over two months, from April through May 31.

But after a little, gentle arm-twisting, Bonetti selected four not-to-miss films:

“Bon Voyage Sim”

The African animation short program features the classic work of Nigerian filmmaker Moustapha Alassane, who’s been dubbed "the sub-Saharan father of animation.” “Bon Voyage Sim” was made in 1966 and tells the story of a frog named Sim who’s the president of “toad republic." The quirky narrative is a critique of colonial government.



This South African sci-fi film was made on the set of “District 9” after it had wrapped. It is set in an Africa of the future, 35 years after World War Three. Director Wanuri Kahiu hopes the film gives viewers "a new way to look at Africa. Not the Africa that everybody knows and not the Africa that everybody perceives but a futuristic Africa.



“Freddy llanga: Che’s Swahili Translator”

Freddy Ilanga was a fifteen year old Congolese boy who became Che Guevara’s personal Swahili teacher and translator. The documentary tells the story of Llanga and Guevara’s relationship during the seven months of Che’s 1965 mission to train anti-Mobutu rebels in Congo.


“Saint Louis Blues”

Director Dyana Gaye said it was her love for musicals as a child that inspired her to bring the genre to African film. She shot the film -- which tells the stories of travellers between Dakar and St, Louis -- on location in Senegal.