Atlanta Film Festival Showcases Films of the African Diaspora

ATLFF 2015 featured diverse films including Madina's Dream (top left), Somewhere in Between (top right) and Chicago Love. (Photos: ATLFF 2015)

ATLFF 2015 featured diverse films including Madina’s Dream (top left), Somewhere in Between (top right) and Chicago Love.
(Photos: ATLFF 2015)

The 39th annual Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF) was a celebration of films from all walks of life. The film festival, which is one of the region’s largest and longest-running celebrations of cinema in the Southeast, has over 20,000 attendees come out to see the independent, animated, documentary and short films each year. The Academy Award qualifying festival receives over 3500 submissions from over 100 countries each year and includes screenings, discussions, workshops and panels throughout the year. The 2015 festival took place March 20-29th at the Plaza Theatre and seven stages served as principle venues throughout the city including the Fox and Rialto Theaters. Justin Kelly’s film I Am Michael, starring James Franco as Michael Glatze, an openly gay magazine editor who after a health scare, renounces homosexuality and becomes a Christian, opened the festival, setting the stage for a festival reflective of the diversity of movie going audiences.

ATLFF also screened the stories of filmmakers from many parts of the African Diaspora.

Revolt screened the documentary Chicago Love (2015) at the festival. Chicago Love is a 90-minute documentary that explores the causes of the unprecedented violence happening in the windy city. Created by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, the film takes an unapologetic look at the role education, politics, economics, art, music and dance play in the current state of affairs in Chicago in an attempt to answer the question of why is this happening?

Divided Time (2014) takes an unflinching look at nine artists at various stages of their Hip-Hop careers and the choices they make as it relates to their families. The documentary challenges the prevailing stereotype of men in Hip-Hop as violent, narcissistic, misogynistic players, highlighting the reality of the complex choices that affect families when pursuing a dream, particularly a career in the music industry.

Imba Means Sing (2014) follows Moses and Angel, members of the Grammy-nominated African Children’s Choir from Uganda, on their journey to obtaining an education despite living in extreme poverty. Director Danielle Bernstein offers a poignant story about two kids, like any other, who just want the opportunity to pursue their dream of becoming a pilot and the first female president of Uganda, which should not be determined by access to resources or capital. They travel the world spreading their message of hope and equality through song and action.

In Our Son’s Name (2015) tells the story of Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, who lost their son Greg in the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center terrorist attack. Directed by Gayla Jamison, the film shows how this family chose the path of great resistance — nonviolence — to deal with the grief over losing their son, unlike many who called for revenge in the wake of the devastating losses.

Lanre Olabisi’s film Somewhere in the Middle (2015) explores the romantic complications that arise when the lives of several couples intersect. Olabisi, who takes a “Mike Nichols-esque” approach to filmmaking raised funds for the film through a Kickstarter campaign, which was discovered by award-winning producer Peter Gilbert and former NBA star and producer Chris Webber, financed the rest of the film.

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE Trailer from NY Independent Film Collective on Vimeo.

Madina’s Dream directed by Andre Berens is a documentary film tells the story of Madina, an 11-year-old Nuba girl who dreams of a peaceful existence amid the civil unrest in Sudan. Madina’s story is told against the backdrop of the Sudanese government’s plan to attack the inhabitants of the Nuba mountains. Many families flee to South Sudan for safety. The film explores the conflict between the government and indigenous populations over land and identity in a fractured country through the eyes of a girl who just wants to safety and peace.

 

Old South (2015), directed by Danielle Beverly, explores the complexities of living in a college town in the American south. The documentary takes place in Athens, GA and follows the conflict between a white fraternity that flies the confederate flag and reenacts an antebellum parade which passes through a historically black neighborhood. Both stakeholders believe in the preservation of history, but whose version of history will prevail?

ATLiens no longer have to wait for film festivals like the Bronze Lens Film Festival, Out on Film or Pan African Film Festival (Atlanta) to see stories about themselves. The Atlanta Film Festival has programming that reflects the breadth and depth of the city’s diverse population.

This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.

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