August 7, 2017

Event recap: The African Film Festival

TAFF Awards ceremony
The second installment of The African Film Festival concluded with a keen sense of optimism that's made for a hopeful future. Filmmakers gathered once again in Dallas, Texas on 4th of July weekend in 2017 to watch a marathon of independent films about Africa by independent filmmakers that are not necessarily all African. A total of 43 independent films in all, served up by filmmakers from 25 different countries to include The USA. Films addressed a range of issues; from Uganda came pertinent topics addressed by American filmmakers. One was about the Northern Ugandan genocide—the restructuring and rebuilding of lives after much have been lost, another addressed the journey to rebuilding a broken Ugandan justice system, while another highlighted a man's journey leaving his American dream to fulfill that of many orphans to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by building schools and homes restoring hope to the children that are otherwise victims.

From Ghana came a dance movie that's probably the first in the African Independent filmmaking history, a refreshing change from the usual plot lines centered on infidelity and spiritism. From Ethiopia came an adaptation of one man's true life story as a refugee, he stars in the heart wrenching film where he escapes his homeland as an orphan in the midst of turmoil to make a better life for himself in the Western world. The journey to a better life is not without peril, which he must get through to see the light at the end of the tunnel. From Nigeria came the story that touches on a piece of its history, a critically acclaimed film that sheds light on the detrimental effects of corruption. All of the above were just highlights of the many meaningful films screened, proving that these filmmakers have only scratched the surface when it comes to the dynamics in the fiber the shapes the African continent.
Film screenings took place at the Texas Theatre, African American Museum and Dallas City Performance Hall, each screening ending in a Q&A session with filmmakers.
Film screenings where just a part of the full weekend, The festival began effectively with an Acting Masterclass taught by TAFF Film Legend Award winner and gala host Richard Mofe Damijo. The class was made up of filmmakers and enthusiasts who came to learn from the screen veteran with at least twenty years under his belt. He didn't disappoint as he delved effectively into his role as teacher and sometimes sinking into a character or two. The audience were more than delighted to have him in their midst as he reflected on his experiences, even indulging them in some scene practice sessions.

The Symposium on African Cinema was also one of the festival's highlights. Held at the Dallas Public Library, filmmakers headed the panel to discuss the evolution of African cinema over the years, the challenges and the breakthroughs. African cinema continues to face challenges of adequate funding and the commercialism of the industry where filmmakers feel the need to make a marketable film over a meaningful film. As aforementioned, Africa is a continent full of untold stories and rich in history and just a handful of filmmakers are delving deep into them. Concerns raised by the non-African filmmakers on the panel were the lack of filmmakers willing to put their resources together to continue to raise the awareness of issues that stare them in the face everyday, pointed out by Debi Lang. She gathered film students, most without any experience and traveled to Uganda to help make her documentary film. Just like her, other non-African filmmakers made their films, partly because no one else was making them. There are still limited screening outlets in Africa, with the exception of Nigeria and South Africa, most cinemas in most African countries can be summed up in one hand. This is a far cry from the rest of the developed world and due to this challenge, most filmmakers are limited by way of distribution. Most countries do not have regulatory agencies that protect filmmakers' intellectual properties, as a result piracy is rampant. A lot of filmmakers are hard-pressed to recoup their production costs considering the above factors. It truly becomes the survival of the fittest. There are many factors that can discourage even the most courageous.
The festival brought many filmmakers together in one place to celebrate African independent films.
The festival season would eventually come to an end, but not without the much anticipated gala. Thirty-four filmmakers were nominated in sixteen award categories. The trophy this year had been dubbed the "world cup" of African films by the festival organizers as it was inspired by the biggest sports trophies—the World Cup and the Super Bowl. The idea was to recognize some of the finest filmmakers and encourage them to continue to set the example. In all, sixteen film awards and one honorary award were given, see the chart below:

 TAFF Nominees and Winners

Notable winners were the makers of Remand, its stars Tumusiime Henry and Jim Gash as well as producer Randy Brewer accepted the award for Best Documentary Feature. To them the award represented a triumph in more ways than one. Henry is a young man whose life was hanging on a balance of justice in Uganda, convicted of two murders, he was looking at a possible life sentence on remand in a juvenile home were he would spend years with others, many of them without any substantial criminal convictions. Jim Gash is a Lawyer from Pepperdine University from Los Angeles California who came for a different project in the country when they crossed paths and the rest of the story would lead them to Dallas City Performance Hall on July 3rd 2017.  Read more about their heart wrenching story here. Another touching narrative centers around another young man named Zekarias Tibebu Mesfin, a young Ethiopian refugee that adapts his life story for the big screen. He produces and stars in Ewir Amora Kelabi, another story about the realities of many refugees in Africa that meet various hardships while fleeing war zones and civil unrests only to end up in other predicaments to include death. The film accurately portrays a young man's struggle for survival against the odds. Mr. Mesfin won the Best Emerging Filmmaker Award of TAFF 2017. More on his film can be found here.

 Mr. Damijo was honored during the finale for his outstanding achievements and contributions to the African cinema. He became the second TAFF African Film Legend award recipient, after Ms. Patience "Mama G" Ozokwor who received the award in 2016.

More on The African Film Festival can be found here.

April 27, 2017

RMD is hosting TAFF 2017!

Legendary actor Richard Mofe Damijo will host The African Film Festival in its second year.

The legendary actor is slated to grace the stage on the closing night on July 3, 2017 at the Dallas City Performance Hall (DCPH) in a black-tie/traditional event that will be marked by glitz and glamor and guaranteed to bring out the best in the film industry. The best in the African independent film industry will be awarded with a golden trophy reminiscent of a great Egyptian fortress. "The inspiration for this year's trophy is my love for soccer." TAFF Executive Director gushes excitedly, "I can't believe how wonderful it turned out." We share your love too Mr. E.D and we can't wait to see who takes home this golden trophy this year. For this year's selected films, click here

About Richard Mofe Damijo

Richard Mofe Damijo is from Warri, Delta State. He always had a penchant for acting right from childhood belonging to his school's drama club and majoring in Theatre Arts in the University of Benin. He would star in many popular films, theatre and TV shows. He gained major popularity in the highly acclaimed soap opera RipplesOut of BoundsScores to Settle, Private Sin, are just a few notable films under a long resume that spans over twenty years. Some of his latest work are The Wedding Party and 30 Days in Atlanta.

He dabbled into politics becoming the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State, Nigeria.

Get your tickets now. Go here.

June 15, 2016

Uche Jombo to host The African Film Festival

Credit: Uche Jombo
Uche Jombo is easily the most recognizable face in Nollywood with a long acting resume—60 films to her credit to include many under her production company Uche Jombo Studios. She has endeared our hearts on screen with notable films like Games Men Play, Damage, Oge's sister. Her strong work ethic has propelled her to the top of her game with millions of fans worldwide.

Uche embodies the epitome of TAFF's mission as an avid African independent film trailblazing Director, Writer and Producer believing in the talent and ingenuity that can only be from the motherland. Under her production company, she has produced many quality films and procured distribution rights to international markets and online streaming houses such as Netflix, an online streaming platform.

The African Film Festival is honored to have Nollywood's darling Uche Jombo as host for its 2016 festival year. The sentiment is mutual as she eluded to her excitement, believing this platform is what the African independent film industry needs. She has been a supporter of this platform from its inception, graciously accepting the invitation despite her busy schedule. 

As an actor and a filmmaker, it's imperative to go to film festivals. I have always done that over the years, it's always a pleasure to be a part of anything that shines light on the continent. You have no idea how many Americans that still think Africa is a country, its an opportunity to see other filmmakers from other African countries...  I am looking forward to seeing the different films from African filmmakers, plus Dallas is my 3rd town after Aba and Lagos, yes in that order.
Uche will join Kenyan Hollywood actor, Benjamin A. Onyango in the inaugural presentation of The African Film Festival, 2016. We can only expect a lightening powerhouse from the duo.


African Film Festival is now 18 days away! Can you believe it? Get your tickets now.

July 1-3, 2016
Dallas, Texas
25 countries | 42 Films
Parade of Flags | Red Carpet | TAFFest Boatride | Shorts Screening 
 Feature Screening | Networking seminar | Dallas City Tour 
Awards Gala | Afterparty

May 3, 2016

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 TV credits include TWO WORLDS, DYSFUNCTIONALLY ORGANIZED, GENERAL HOSPITAL, THE SHIELD and the X-FILES. 

His Film credits include: FATHER AFRICA, GOD’S NOT DEAD, ROAD TO REDEMPTION, DEFAULT, KWAME, in which he won the 2009 Best Actor Award, CHAINS, THUNDER CHANCE, THE DISCIPLE, AMERICAN CRUDE, THE TERMINAL and TEARS of THE SUN. 
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.

April 13, 2016

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. 




Title: GENDER & NUMBER
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.



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