Africans tell their own stories at NY film festival

Sun May 17, 2009 9:30am EDT
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Emboldened with low-cost video equipment, young Africans are inspiring the continent's cinema with momentum not seen since the 1960s independence movements, says the director of the New York African Film Festival.

Mahen Bonetti said the growth of African movies, inspired by the success of Nigeria's booming film industry known as "Nollywood," has enabled countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda to jump-start their own movie industries.

Nigeria's $450 million movie industry is the third biggest in the world, after America's Hollywood and India's Bollywood.

The festival, which will be held May 22-25 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is a showcase for movies from across the continent.

This year's festival includes Kenyan filmmaker Lupita Nyong'o's "In My Genes," about the stigma surrounding albinism, and Cameroon director Josephine Ndagnou's "Paris or Nothing," about a young woman who moves to Paris.

Four short films, made by members of a collective called "Filmmakers Against Racism," explore the xenophobic violence that erupted in South Africa last summer.

"It's a rebirth," Bonetti, 52, told Reuters. "These young filmmakers can buy their own computer, their own camera. And can even edit at home, right there on the continent. It's giving them a lot of autonomy."

While several African directors -- notably the late Ousmane Sembene of Senegal, regarded as the father of the continent's cinema -- are well-known, Bonetti says most of the movies about the continent have relied on stereotypical portrayals.   Continued...