The 8th Annual Tuscaloosa Africana Film Festival will take place Saturday, February 29 from 6-10 p.m. at Central High School.
Eight years ago, Thad Ulzen and Bill Foster decided to bring the best African films to the Tuscaloosa community. Over the years, students, families and organizations have come together at the Tuscaloosa Africana Film Festival, which showcases a selection of acclaimed films from the African continent and the African Diaspora.
The aim of the festival is to enable African filmmakers to present their stories through films to people who are not African, said Ulzen, associate dean for academic affairs at the College of Community Health Sciences and director of the department of psychiatry.
“It’s a part of the movie world that we don’t have a lot of exposure to in the United States, but it’s a very dynamic movie world,” Ulzen said.
The two non-profit organizations presenting the event, the Edward A. Ulzen Memorial Foundation (EAUMF) and Afram South Inc., support education and public health initiatives in Ghana, West Africa and Alabama from West. Ulzen and Foster are passionate about bringing African cultures to the Tuscaloosa community through film.
When selecting films to feature, Foster, the executive director of Afram South Inc., said they strive to lift films that are not normally seen in mass media offerings in America.
“We wanted our audience to experience the rich milieu that African cinema and African filmmakers offer the world,” Foster said. “At the moment, African films are mostly seen in Europe and Africa. They are really [not] seen in America unless you see it at a festival or have movies that appear on Netflix that Netflix picks up.
Four films will be presented: two feature films and two short films. The variety of films includes the aftermath of war, the struggles of modern slavery, urban life in Lagos and more.
“It’s important for people to see and experience other cultural values and other cultural experiences, be exposed to different cultures and different issues that people face around the world, and through this experience we find that we have a lot in common,” says Foster.
The festival is to honor both Black History Month and Women’s History Month. Organizers have decided to expand this year, honoring Women’s History Month with a festival to be held on March 28.
“We had so many films that we wanted to share with the community that we decided to also focus on Women’s History Month to expand our cinematic offering, to feature films dealing with the important role that African women played over the years,” Foster said.
Lisa Keyes, executive director of Tuscaloosa Sister Cities International, said the organization’s agenda is to foster international friendship and understanding. She said the organization has been active with the festival from the start.
Festival night is a delightful evening filled with moving and inspiring films, Keyes said.
“Our history is so rich and deep, and our culture is so rich and deep,” Keyes said. “So when you have an event like this that celebrates not only Black History Month, but also women in the history, and the culture of Alabama and this area of western Alabama, it’s really good to celebrate the cultural ties that we have. [to] hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Every story is important to tell, and every story is important to celebrate.
Emily Shea, a junior student majoring in creative media, knows what it takes to run a film festival thanks to her experience as director of programming for the Black Warrior Film Festival.
She said she is passionate about the representation of minorities in the media. It’s heartbreaking to think that people don’t get opportunities because of how they look, she said.
“I think everyone should attend these festivals just to see how many amazing ideas there can be by different bodies and different personalities and different cultural perspectives, because if it’s all being told by a straight white man, then we don’t ‘really won’t get anywhere,” Shea said. “I think it’s really interesting how the same story can be told with so many different perspectives and different cultural backgrounds.”
The festival’s goal is to add to the growing cosmopolitan nature of life in Tuscaloosa and enrich Tuscaloosa’s cultural life to make it a more interesting place to live, Ulzen said.
“It’s also helpful, even for African Americans…to see the kinds of issues African Americans face that they pick up on in their films – some of which may be similar to the issues we face here in America. , and some of them being quite different,” Ulzen said. “But I think it’s just an opportunity to broaden his understanding of the complexity of the African continent and what it brings to our modern reality by America.”
Tickets for the Saturday, February 29 event are $5 for students with ID and $10 for general admission. The minimum age required is 14 years old. Food will be available for purchase, as well as African arts and crafts.
To purchase tickets, go to m.bpt.me/event/4513132
Watch a movie :
“Razana” from Madagascar (2018, dir. Haminiaina Ratovoarivony)
“The Mercy of the Jungle” from the Democratic Republic of Congo (2018, dir. Jöel Karekezi)
“enGULFed” from Ghana (2018, dir. Kojo Owiredu Kissi)
“Two Weeks in Lagos” from Nigeria (2018, dir. Kathryn Fasegha)