Brooklyn's BAM to showcase 'New Voices in Black Cinema'


Brooklyn, New York’s BAMcinématek will present “New Voices in Black Cinema,” the third annual festival presented by the Fort Greene-based ActNow Foundation, Feb. 15-18.

Reflecting the wide spectrum of views and themes within the African diasporan communities in Brooklyn and beyond, the series features 10 New York premieres and special guests at nearly every screening. Home to ActNow programs since 2009, BAMcinématek continues this partnership by providing a showcase for new and established voices in black independent cinema.

Curtis Caesar John, festival director and head of film programming for ActNow Foundation, says of the partnership with BAMcinématek, “This is an exciting third year for us: We have more New York premieres than ever before, a fantastic mix of standout local talent as well as directors from Senegal, Italy and Canada, and filmmakers who have been burning up the festival circuit.”

Making its New York premiere is Alain Gomis’ Aujourd’hui, starring writer, musician, and spoken-word poet Saul Williams as a man with just 24 hours to live, roaming the streets of Senegal in an existential daydream. Williams will appear in person for a Q&A after the screening, followed by a spoken-word performance in BAMcafé.

Also making their New York premieres are Russ Parr’s The Undershepherd, a portrait of a minister (“Grey’s Anatomy”’s Isaiah Washington) transformed into a ruthless businessman; Alfons Adetuyi’s High Chicago, about a man who starts gambling to bankroll his dream of opening a drive-in in Africa; Neil Drumming’s Big Words, which follows the reunion of a once-promising hip-hop trio on the eve of Obama’s history-making election; and Chinonye Chukwu’s family drama alaskaLand.

“New Voices in Black Cinema” also boasts a number of award-winning films and festival selections, including Adam Leon’s debut feature Gimme the Loot, winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize, nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, and an official selection at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard. The comedy follows a pair of teenage graffiti artists who hatch a plan to get revenge on a rival gang by tagging a New York landmark. Also screening is Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon’s acclaimed documentary The Central Park Five, which chronicles the persecution of five young black and Latino men wrongly accused of the 1989 rape and assault of the Central Park Jogger—a crime which galvanized the city. Several of the five will appear in person for a Q&A following the screening.

This year’s documentary selections include Andy Mundy-Castle’s The Fade, which connects the stories of four barbers in Ghana, Jamaica, the U.S. and the UK; Oliver Hardt’s The United States of Hoodoo, which explores the influence of African religion on American artists such as Nick Cave, Darius James, and Ishmael Reed; and Jason Orr’s FunkJazz Kafé: Diary of a Decade, an examination of the fabric of soul music and the challenges it faces in the mainstream music industry, featuring interviews with Erykah Badu, Cee Lo Green and Cornel West. All three are having their New York premieres.