TAFF has a host! Veteran Kenyan Hollywood actor, Benjamin A. Onyango

TAFF is proud to present its host for this year's festival, a seasoned actor with a laundry list of credits in Hollywood. Many of you may recognize him in Tears of the Sun with Bruce Willis, The X-Files or The Other Tribes by Kelechi Eke. He's played both major and minor roles in film and television, a big supporter of African independent films. Be prepared to see this funny man in action during the Awards Gala on July 3rd, 2016.

All About Benjamin

Benjamin Alfred Onyango left his native country, Kenya in 1987 to pursue further education in the United States of America. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock, California. He relocated to Los Angeles, California to pursue a career in Music and Acting. He currently performs with his band ‘In Lieu Of’ in Hollywood Clubs and is the bass player for his church choir.

His fluency in the Swahili language has landed him many voice acting and ADR roles in big budget Hollywood movies including the following: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM III, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, MACHINE GUN PREACHER, INCEPTION, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, PRIMEVAL, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM I, PATH TO 911, A LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, video games RESIDENT EVIL V, MASS EFFECT 3 and the TV series, E-RING.
He founded UPENDO LEARNING CENTER (ULC), a non-profit Organization that provides tutoring and mentoring services to students on the Autism spectrum. ULC also runs Summer and Winter Camps where the students on the Autism spectrum learn how to create and record music from scratch, write scripts, shoot and edit them. 

His writing credits include: a short thriller, MIND TRICKS, a dark comedy feature, HELL HATH NO FURY, a drama feature, CHEZA, TV Pilot projects TWO WORLDS (Drama) and DYSFUNCTIONALLY ORGANIZED (dramedy) and is currently working on two feature documentaries, ERIC’S RISE and JAJUOK. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA and BMI.
Mr. Onyango is one of the lead actors in the God's Not Dead film franchise. More on him can be found here. Check out God's Not Dead 2 the movie, now in theatres.

Introducing: TAFF 2016 Selected Films

Happy new month every body! I hope you enjoyed April fools? Many of you might have something to celebrate this month and so does my team at The African Film Festival.  Have you checked us out yet? You should, go on over right here.

It's been a grueling past few months and at long last, I am proud to present selected films for this year. It's overwhelming the amount of submissions received, I wondered how we can screen them all, but not to worry, our panel of judges have been hard at work through the selection process. I can confidently say from our selected films, you're in for a treat! Our filmmakers went deep with the topics explored, they addressed the many issues on our minds. I'm really proud of the quality of the films too, in my opinion, they would easily compete with films in other recognized film industries, in other words, industry standard. I wouldn't mind streaming them on Netflix. African filmmakers must be recognized for their hard work. TAFF is screening films from at least 15 African countries, many of these countries with multiple films. This indicates to me the abundance and availability of talented filmmakers all across Africa, many now see the value of this platform and appreciate its mission. In time, we hope to have the whole of Africa. So far, we're starting out strong. 

This platform can unite our brothers and sisters—we are one, we have similar issues and circumstances, there's something about our geography that unites us, from one place to another, you'd start to notice, from our films, that there's little that differentiates us. It is time to blur the dividing lines and recognize that, indeed we are one. Together, we can make for a better Africa.

That's all for now. You can preview some of the selected films trailers below. Check back next week for more.

Be sure to like my Facebook page and stay updated of the details while it unfolds. You can also head on over to TAFF Facebook page and YouTube to see the Trailer of the Day.

Title: A People at Sea
Country: Cameroon
Filmmaker: Samson Tarh
Synopsis: ANAN, a young fisherman dreams of owning an engine boat in the future. These dreams gradually become a fantasy when the government announces his plans to relocate the people of the sea to the city.Unlike ABIGAIL one of the rare privileged to go to school, All that matters to Anan and most people of the dogyard is the daily catch of fish that sustains them.Relocation to them may mean the end of living and the beginning of existing.

Title: Waiting for the (T)rain
Countries: Burkina Faso, France
Filmmaker: Simon Panay
Synopsis: Waiting for the (t)rain explores life in a rural village in Burkina Faso. The village survives by the generosity of passengers in transit on a commuter train that runs through it, throwing out food items and water bottles. Its inhabitants, young and old would reminisce and dream of their colonial masters - France. The older generation remember years of servitude to France, while the younger generation dream of escaping to France for greener pastures. 

Countries: Ethiopia, Spain
Filmmaker: Ines Poggio
Synopsis: Women in Ethiopia have to face unpleasant situations everyday in order to fulfill other peoples' expectations. But they keep fighting, trying to be the change they want to see. This film transmits their way of living from a positive perspective. It shows their energy, strength, courage, and their will to fight.

Title: My Gallery
Country: Cameroon
Filmmaker: Enah Johnscott
Synopsis: A devoted husband and artist struggles to provide for his family, amidst the poverty and death plaguing his community. After the sudden death of a well respected philanthropist, his life takes a different turn as a wicked mayor attempts to frame him for murder.

Title: Wings of my Dreams
Country: Nigeria
Filmmaker: Ike Nnaebue
Synopsis: A teenage girl growing up in the slums of Makoko believes there is a better life out there for her. She is determined to chase her dreams despite all odds.

Happy International Women's Day

Image courtesy of tribe
The purple ribbon
International Women’s Day is celebrated in many parts of the world today, focusing on women’s achievements in history, recognizing the social struggles women continue to face in our modern society with the hope to change the general perception of women.

It’s only in the last century that women attained equal rights lawfully in most civilized societies—the right to employment, the right to vote, to equal taxes, the right to their own property, their marital and reproductive rights. In many ways there are leaps and bounds made in the fight for gender equality, thanks to the feminist movement, while in some ways it seems stifled, much is yet to be done. A woman still earns 75 cents compared to a man’s dollar in wages for the same employment with the same job requirements, is subject to sexual discrimination in the workplace. Gender equality is still a distant dream in many societies where a woman is denied an education, the right to her own body, suffer genital mutilation, traded in marriage by the time she’s twelve; her voice is silenced and she’s expected to remain in subservience to a man, who believes her sole purpose of being is to reproduce. In such societies woman has two choices, obey tradition or be killed. Women continue subject to violence and discrimination. 35% of women all around the world have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime according to WHO (that's 1 in 3 women).

The prevalence today continues in the face of perceived inequality and lack of education. We all know too well, the atrocities committed by the militant group Boko Haram, kidnapping 276 young girls right out of school in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria, making them cooks, sex slaves, even killing them. Ever wonder why they kidnapped only girls? Boko Haram, meaning “western education is evil.” To groups like this one, girls are not to receive a formal education. Known atrocities like this have caused some brave young women to continue to fight against oppression at a risk to their lives. We salute the activists such as Nobel price winner Malala Yousafzai—a brave 15 year old Pakistani who survived 3 gun shots by militants for advocating her rights to an education; Miriam Makeba (Mama Africa), Funmilayo Ransome Kuti—the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car and the mother of the famous political activist and musician Fela Ransome Kuti and Winnie Mandela for her activism against apartheid. Despite the precedence set by these and many brave women in our history, much is yet to be achieved in the matter of gender equality.

Are you a feminist?
In a discussion once, a well distinguished man asked, "are you a feminist?" He must have overheard a debate I was involved in nearby with a handful of men and women of African decent discussing gender roles in a modern day African society. He must have noticed how passionate I felt about the topic, eyes wide open, overt gestures, voice echoing through the banquet hall as I insisted that boys and girls must learn how to cook and clean just the same and there's no such thing as only girls belonged to the kitchen, like we were taught growing up. I paused and pondered over that question, looked up at him, smiled. "Matter of fact I am, we all should be feminists."

I wear my purple ribbon today with a badge of honor—for being a woman.

Happy International Women’s Day!


Dream big...

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