July 16, 2016 was the US premiere of the highly acclaimed movie called "Woman", a film that underlines the strength of a woman as she deals with infidelity in a relationship. Film is exclusively shot on location in Cameroon. The Cameroonian film industry is on the rise with the advent of talented filmmakers that hail from the country. "Woman" has been well received by its London premiere, it will be making many more rounds in the USA as well as overseas.

The story of "Woman" continues poignant today and hits close to home for filmmaker Goretti, who plays lead in the film. It calls into question what it takes to be a woman in a slowly progressive society where she is still at the bottom of the food chain in terms of her rights. While cultural and sometimes religious norms protect  men who get a pass with infidelity and misogyny, it's not too kind to women.

This premiere doubles as a fundraising gala, benefiting The Dr. Fonya Foundation whose mission is to continue to aid widows and orphans in Cameroon.



Catch the trailer below

Check out photos of this premiere on www.facebook.com/msadaku.

This is for the  strong and independent woman

And for the man that got it all wrapped up in his little head

You would not exist without him, no one will know who you are

He's never there when it matters or counts, yet

If a drop of him ever crosses your way

He wants to turn it into a gigantic undertaking on your behalf

"You wouldn't have that if it wasn't for me"

This is for you

Hate to bust your bubble

I may not be known in your circles

But I am well known

This train is always moving without you

You may hop on and off

Whenever you like

Hope you enjoy the ride

But please

Make no mistake

You're not fooling anyone

You are a rider, not a conductor

The journey doesn't change because

You choose to grace us with your presence

I am and always will be

Whole and complete

I don't need you





Last July 4th weekend was the longest day that I have had in a long time as the days ran into each other. It was a whirlwind at The African Film Festival in Dallas, a three-day marathon of events that included screenings of African films that terminated at the closing night Awards Gala. It was a non-stop meet and greet of filmmakers, special guests, attendees and volunteers that had me feeling like Bobby Fischer. I could tell that the attendees really enjoyed themselves by the look of satisfaction and happiness on their faces.  One patron said to me, "Wow! I wasn't expecting this, I am very happy I came." "I definitely will be coming back... With my friends!" They all applauded the effort and vision it took to put this together.

The city of Dallas became the epitome of cultural diversity. To put it in perspective, TAFF received almost eighty films this festival year and selected forty-two. Twenty-five countries participated to include filmmakers from non-African countries that told African stories. Now that is outstanding for a platform starting out its inception year. 
Kelechi shows a 10 minute preview of festival screenings after receiving a proclamation by the mayor from the city of Dallas and addressing the crowd, Regina Onyeibe stands by (above top l)
I also heard from many Dallas residents and film enthusiasts who were merely curious, when they learned the platform's mission to bring the African continent to this city, they were excited. Many wanted to lend their support however they could, we are still getting volunteer requests! Many wanted to buy our t-shirts as a way to support. The love had become overwhelming. In a conversation with a friend, I eluded to the fact that one can be busy putting things into place as part of one's vision not realizing the many lives that are being affected.

Friday, July 1st started out like any other normal day. Then in the late afternoon, filmmakers and guests all gathered on the 6th floor, in the flag room at Dallas City Hall. They were greeted by tribal dancers (Djeli Kunda West African Dance Company of Moussa Diabate Dance Group) that really turned the ambience and gave the feeling that Africa has come to town. We were all fascinated by the dance group as they beat their drums, sang and danced to the rhythm of their song. We all made long videos and took pictures. There was media presence, I met Greg Flakus, correspondent for Voice of America, my good friend Tosan Aduayi of Trendy Africa was there, as well as Victory media. We were all excited for this event that has finally crept up into our time.  Then came the ushering in of the guests of honor. Ms. Patience Ozokwo, who came straight from Nigeria for the event, our host for the gala—filmmaker and actress Uche Jombo, led by our Executive Director, Kelechi Eke just in the knick of time as West Africa Liaison for Dallas, Ms. Regina Onyeibe, began her speech and properly ushered in TAFF 2016 along with some of her friends and colleagues, notable was a Liberian businessman from JP Morgan and Chase. The Mayor of Dallas delivered a proclamation to Kelechi, The African Film Festival had become a Dallas landmark. The audience got a taste of the genius of Ben Amushie reciting some of his poetry. Finally Kelechi addressed the crowd giving them a little glimpse of his journey getting to this particular day and a taste of what the audience were in for in a 10 minute preview of films to be showcased at the festival. Looking into the audience, I could tell they had become enthralled, no one moved until the end of the clip, I heard whispers of wonderment under their breath. I realized then and there that peoples' lives were going to be affected.  Friday, July 1st left a big indication of what the weekend was shaping up to be.

The celebration continued on to Texas theatre for the Short films showcase. Eight short films were juxtaposed into a feature length showcase approximately 3 hours long. Films were from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa and South Sudan.
Clockwise from top L: Ms. Patience Ozokwo addresses the crowd after receiving TAFF African Legend Award, screening at Pan African Connection, Filmmakers Arthur Iyok, Arthur Musah and friend, Mr. Eke and Best Actress winner and filmmaker Constance Ejuma, TAFF Leadership recipient Yeharerwerk Gashaw and TAFF Host and actor Benjamin A. Onyango, representing Cameroon on the red carpet.
Saturday, July 2nd began early as patrons lined up at our various screening locations—Aldeez, Cardillac Dream Studios, Pan African Connection and Texas Theatre. Some of our filmmakers brought along their audience, our special guests had arrived from various parts of the country as well  as abroad, locals were there to take part of the movement after they learned about it on Kera art + seek: the Big Screen days earlier. Saturday was the feature length screening of 22 films from countries of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania; a combination of Narrative and Documentaries. Each screening was followed by a Q&A session and the audience had the opportunity learn more about the filmmakers.

It looked like a scene from an invitation-only exclusive African conglomerate party that evening at Kelechi's home. There they were, filmmakers from across the African continent and beyond. The likes of Ike Nnaebue, Honeymoon Aljabri, Mike Wargo, Jacqueline Farris, Deyemi Okanlawon, Tola Olatunji, Kang Quintus, Arthur Iyok, Claudio Oben, Uche Jombo; each came with their entourage. Mama G was the special guest for the evening and no one could get enough of her, (dare I say, #SelfieOvereload??). Everyone was honored by her presence. Kelechi and family graciously hosted the evening with never ending food and drinks. Guests had a good time, "gisting." In his true form, Kelechi's filmmakers dinner would turn into screening time, everyone settled into Uche Jombo's latest film "Lost in Us."
Sunday, July 3rd our filmmakers were hosted on a boat ride along Lake Travis where they enjoyed the camaraderie of their colleagues, BBQ and fresh air from the lake. Locals enjoyed more screenings  of what was left of Saturday. Not long after, Dallas City Performance Hall would be transformed into sheer elegance with red carpet and backdrop that welcomed guests into the closing night gala. Guests honored us for the evening in colorful pageantry of African regalia. DCPH is a venue no one would forget in a hurry—a state-of-the-art architecture made for performances, galas such as ours, encourages interaction from the outside in, guests were enveloped in a 750-seat proscenium theatre with multi-level seating that accommodates viewers at every angle, and an impeccable sound system.

"Wow! I wasn't expecting this, I am very happy I came." "I definitely will be coming back... With my friends!"

I learned a few things on July 4th weekend as a first time event organizer. The beginning is always rough, no matter how well or well-in-advance that you plan. Many of us are familiar with instances when things just won't work right or "corporate," like when you've spent countless hours working on media that won't finalize and render up till the day of event, losing movie files slated for a scheduled time and you're faced with patrons expecting a scheduled film to begin in the auditorium, specialty envelopes ordered with One-day shipping didn't arrive until 7-days later, winner cards designed to specifications that could not be printed by an office supply store after 24 hours of trying and wasted materials. My biggest challenge I'd say would be not being familiar with the City of Dallas, it took some extra time locating the addresses. Timing is everything. You have to be on top of your timing or events can start to unravel. Once the gala started, events went by in quick succession, a lot of preparation ahead of time is vital. I have my presenters and volunteers to thank for their assistance in moving things along, they all did their part in anticipating when they'd go on stage and making note to be ready, many assisted in carrying the trophies to designated areas backstage. They were a good sport even though they didn't have a copy of the program, they all congregated back stage to copy and screen shot my master copy. At first having all of them at the same time seemed overwhelming as they all asked questions at the same time and wanted answers, but it all worked out as we all figured it out together.  They were all just happy to be there and help wherever they could. Communication is absolute. Members of your team must be on the same page to be able to coordinate events in a timely manner. That way one could avoid sending out a presenter that was both one of the nominees in a category being presented and the winner! When I realized this at first (one day later) I was flabbergasted, but then I laughed. Mr. Eke came back stage to ensure we still had the same version of the evening program and I didn't quite understand why. Roll with the punches. You've got to. You've got to resort to the last resort up to plan Z, so have them. For me, there were presenters I had to send to the stage more than once to replace those that couldn't make it. I ended up using unscheduled presenters and they all graciously accepted the task. Not having winner cards prepared ahead of time, I had to improvise and it worked just fine. Not having the finalized visual program meant hauling a heavy equipment to the venue and guess what? It was perfect to operate from the source and not risking having a corrupted file or potential hard drive problem. The work was never done for Mr. Eke up till the last minute that day.
Listening in the Flag room
Still reeling from the now concluded TAFF 2016, the past year now seem like a blur. To think of the start of this journey from the beginning, I'm very proud of the outcome. TAFF received mostly positive reviews. I listened to the audience speak about how pivotal this platform is for Africa, a platform that unites not just the continent but with the rest of the world. African film art have been in existence for decades, yet it had been only a small part of international mainstream. I can echo the sentiment of many when I say the TAFF has been a long time coming, the magnitude is felt far and wide. TAFF managed to introduce me to other African cultures that now I'm looking forward to learning more about. TAFF is part of Texas Film Commission, Dallas Film Commission and Dallas Arts District.  I can't thank the city of Dallas enough for taking us in, Kera art + seek for propelling it further, Voice of America for opening its platform to us, Victory media and Trendy Africa for its exceptional photos and video coverage, many others that lent their support, and of course our many volunteers.

Congratulations to the winners of 2016 TAFF awards:
  • Papa'z song by Ror Akot Ft. Michelle Norbido for Best Soundtrack in ROR from South Sudan
  • The Shadow Boxer from South Africa for Best Cinematography
  • Rejected from Cameroon for People's Choice - Best Poster
  • Nico Piro as Best Emerging Filmmaker for Documentary Killa Dizez from Sierra Leone
  • Constance Ejuma as Best Actress for Ben and Ara from Cameroon
  • Okey Uzoechi as Best Actor for Lost in Us from Nigeria
  • Rob Schermbruker for Best Director in Good Business from South Africa
  • Alma from Cameroon for People's Choice - Best Trailer 
  • Nowhere to run from Nigeria for Best Documentary Short
  • Fakeh from Cameroon for Best Narrative Short
  • The Vanished Dream from Guinea Bissau for Best Documentary Feature
  • Aisha from Tanzania for Best Narrative Feature

Congratulations Mrs. Patience Ozokwo for receiving the African Film Legend Award for her many years contributions to the Nollywood industry. You deserve it Mama G! Franco Bonghan is a true pioneer who has used his platform to groom many young artists and aid in the fight for Ebola. His music video, Africa for Ebola Orphans harnessed great music talents from four African countries - Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guniea and Cameroon for an awareness initiative through music. The two phase initiative included making a music video and holding a musical concert in each country. The result is a moving musical tribute that became a vehicle that would bring support to children orphaned by the ravaging disease. Congratulations on your Humanitarian award! Yeharerwerk Gashaw have long been an activist for Africans for many years, advocating for education, the fight against drugs and injustice. Over the years, she single handedly raised money for schools and awareness campaigns. Her campaign against drugs led her to work with several Heads-of-State, notable is her meeting with Nelson Mandela and President Mobutu of Zaire. She is the first Black Model to grace the runnways of Christian Dior and Guerlain Paris, the first Black actress featured in Soap Opera Dallas. Congratulations on your Leadership Award.
Filmmakers and patrons enjoyed a festival full of activities
Kenyan Hollywood actor and filmmaker extraordinaire Benjamin A. Onyango held down the floor for us with Nollywood actress Uche Jombo, keeping our guests entertained throughout the night, ushering in the presenters. Between the dynamic duo, they wear many hats as filmmaker, comedian, actor, actress, masters of ceremony, the list would go on (I covered them here and here). I have to recognize the visionary who had the guts to put this together, TAFF Founder and Executive Producer, Filmmaker, Director—Mr. Kelechi Eke, watching your vision unfold is inspiring and gives us hope! Judging by the reception of TAFF this year, there's already anticipation for what next year will bring.

Well, "that's all folks!" (The famous words of bugs bunny) Until next year.

Pssst: The African Film Festival 2017 dates have been released: June 30 - July 3!

Images courtesy of Victory Media Pro

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