Category Archives: movies

Pan African Film Festival #4

(Entry 4 from Jeff H, BWMTSC Cochair)

On Saturday Feb 13 I saw two very different but fascinating movies. First I met up with Johnny to see “KPIANS The Feast of Souls,” a Nigerian horror film about an ancient curse and efforts to return a lost sister to life. This is a well done scary movie set in an abandoned house in the jungle. The threats are mysterious and enhanced by a style of close ups and focus on the interpersonal connections of the young Nigerian professionals summoned to the house. The message seems to be that the old ways and powers can still threaten even very modern denizens of urban society. The takeaway lesson on Africa is that they make all kinds of movies including this genre film with a unique Nigerian touch.

Then I rushed over to see the South African documentary “Nelson Mandela:The Myth and Me.” This is a fascinating exploration of the decision by Mandela to turn from vengeance to forgiveness towards the whites of South Africa who had inflicted such unspeakable misery and hardship on the Black African population. The movie is in the form of a dialogue between a young South African man and Mandela, and it ranges broadly from South Africa to other locations of mass murder and oppression such as Nazi Germany, Chile under Pinochet, etc. Many interesting thinkers and activists discuss the merits of forgiveness (“moving on”) vs a more hard core vengeance or retribution. One question asked is whether it’s easier for Mandela to forgive since he’s president compared to the poor widow whose children and husband were killed by the apartheid government but who isn’t president. (NB: a brief clip of Kissinger coming out in favor of forgiveness…I wonder why?)

The movie is a thoughtful exploration of this issue, and it was especially relevant in light of our own country’s efforts to deal with the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow racial oppression and especially with the issue of reparations raised recently and persuasively by Ta Na’hisi Coates. Should we just move on and try to help everyone succeed, or should we try to compensate those individuals and communities that suffered so grievously for centuries? The discussion conducted in this movie is one we should be having in this country, but of course GOP heads would explode if we did. Anyway it was a fascinating documentary that I highly recommend to everyone.

Next: “Out of Darkness,” “The Boda Boda Thieves,” “LUV Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” from Sunday.

And today (Monday, last day of festival) I’m about to head out to see “America’s Blues” (documentary about blues music), “America is Still the Place” (drama about a Black man’s struggle in SF in the 70’s starring the charismatic Michael Colter of Jessica Jones), “Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill” (the great Audra McDonald portraying Billie Holiday), and (final movie of PAFF 2016 for me) “While You Weren’t Looking” (South African lesbian drama). Anyone want to join me?

Jeff H.

Pan African Film Festival #5

Sunday Feb 14
(from Jeff H. Cochair, BWMTSC)
Out of Darkness
The Boda Boda Thieves
LUV

I planned to bring both of my sons, Dante and Lorenzo, to see “Out of Darkness”, eat dinner, and then see “The Boda Boda Thieves.” Our friend Vicky was going to join us. Dante got sick and couldn’t come, but Lorenzo and Vicky and I saw the American documentary “Out of Darkness.” This is a powerful account of the central role of Africa in the development of human civilization (which I basically agree with although I’d give more credit to the Mesopotamia/Egypt interaction).
Through extensive interviews with thinkers and professors, the film then links the invention of the concept of race to the need for Europeans to justify their enslavement and massacre of the rest of the world. Taking a more psychological turn it suggests that Black people are to blame for not embracing their identity and accepting the oppression of white racism and privilege. The film urges Black people to support themselves commercially and otherwise. This reminded me of the Black power movement in the 70s. The film has a lot of passion and information, but for me it ends by downplaying political action and the alliances needed for successful political change. Anyway there is a lot to learn from this film, and Lorenzo really liked it.

Lorenzo wasn’t up for another movie and took the bus home, so Vicky and I saw the Ugandan coming of age film “The Boda Boda Thieves.” We both loved it! It is set in Kampala, a teeming metropolis of endless activity, and tells the story of a 15 yr old young man Abel from a poor family. His father drives a “boda boda” or motorcycle taxi, his mother breaks up rocks at a quarry, and he himself just wants to hang out with his buddies, smoke, and flirt with girls.

When his father is injured in an accident, and then imprisoned for failing to pay back his wealthy creditor, Abel must take up the taxi business. He opts for some unsavory characters and activities until the bike is stolen. This throws the family into even deeper crisis since that is their primary livelihood. Abel searches for the bike and eventually takes a big step towards maturity.

Boda Boda was so well made, so touching, and so vivid in depicting the hectic life of Kampala and the difficult lives of poverty. It reminded me in retrospect of post war Italian neorealistic movies by Rossellini, De Sica, and others. It pulsed with energy and then zoomed in on the lives and words of this family and those around them. The boy did a great job, as did all of the actors.

Once again a movie gives a real, flesh and blood picture of an African country and thus inevitably contradicts the cartoonish depiction of the American corporate media, limited to Ebola, Boko Haram, Somali pirates, and child soldiers. I’m sorry you couldn’t all see it.

Vicky went home to Sunland and I went to see “LUV don’t live here anymore”, an American movie about a very flamboyant Black gay man and his circle of friends, all Black. I ran into Deej and Gary in line for this movie, and we chatted about other movies we had seen. In this movie Reggie goes from “Reggie LUV with power from above” to being an invalid from HIV and meningitis. His friends and niece make valiant efforts to care for him, but each hits a wall at some point. Reggie himself struggles with his new situation veering between anger and lethargy. Everyone hangs on just long enough, however, and the ending is poignant and inspirational.

This is a movie about mortality and love of many kinds. The main characters are vividly drawn and allowed to grow and change naturally. The writer/director Mikal Odom was there and answered questions. He was very impressive and should have a great future. Deej and Gary liked the movie too, and since Deej is in the business he was especially interested in how the movie got made and other projects of Odom. We agreed we’d love to show this at a gabfest or movie night for BWMTSC.

So that was Sunday. One more day! Coming up: “America’s Blues” (a documentary about blues music), “America is Still the Place” (Michael Colter of Jessica Jones plays a cunning Black truck driver in SF in 1970 who takes on some big corporate honchos and weaves in and out of the stunning level of racism of that time), “Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill” (HBO’s film of the Broadway play that Audra McDonald won an unprecedented sixth Tony for), and then “While You Weren’t Looking” (a drama about young professional lesbians in South Africa). Stay tuned!
Jeff H.

PAFF 2016 journal #3

So I met up with Ken and Mack at the movies and we saw “Stories of our Lives” with an unfortunately small audience. This is a lovely black and white omnibus feature which told 5 stories of everyday life in rural Kenya and its challenges for GLBT people. These challenges all stem of course from a hostile political and social reality. These 5 vignettes (2 about women, 3 about men) tell of the struggle of gay and lesbian people to live their lives and love whom they want. There are no big tragedies or deaths, only the steady resistance of the society to letting them be.  
Most of what we hear about GLBT life in Africa is defined by the horrific laws and persecutions in some countries (Uganda, Nigeria). “Stories of our Lives” offers a more hopeful view absent the violence of other accounts but still realistic. Again with the dispelling of misperceptions of Africa! To wit: Africa is NOT a seething maelstrom of human slaughter and misery but is instead a collection of struggling communities and nations containing strong traditional elements as well as global trends and standards.  

I won’t be going to the festival until next Saturday when I’m planning to see “KPIANS” (Nigerian horror movie), “Nelson Mandela Myth and Me,” “Second Coming” (Idris Elba), and “Eye of the Cyclone” (Burkina Faso during their civil war). Then Sunday the boys and I are going to meet our friends Vicky and her daughters to see “Out of Darkness,” a well regarded US doc about African contributions to history, and maybe another one. Lots more info at paff.org of course.
Thanks for reading.

Jeff H
Anybody interested in joining me?

Jeff Horton

PAFF journal #2 

From Jeff H BWMTSC COCHAIR

Sunday, Feb 7

My planned viewing last night (Saturday) was altered by my underestimation of the popularity of the festival this year. (ALERT: Buy your tickets as early as possible!) I barely got into “Half of a Yellow Sun” and I had to substitute the American drama “Chapter and Verse: A Harlem Story” for “Lambadina” because it was sold out.

“Half of a Yellow Sun” is a big budget Nigerian historical epic set in the bloody civil war of the 1960s when Eastern Nigeria tried to secede as the country of Biafra. The film tells the story of a middle class, educated couple (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton) whose romantic relationship and its missteps are inexorably and then suddenly overwhelmed by the violence of the civil war and anti Ibo persecution (they’re Ibo). Their lives, and the lives of their friends and her sister, devolve abruptly from a comfortable middle class existence to a frantic rush to find shelter from the war in a refugee camp. John Boyega is their loyal house servant. The transition from romantic melodrama to brutal and violent historical tragedy is jarring, and even though the main characters survive the violence, many of their friends and parents do not.

This movie is a perfect example of why we should see the African narrative features. Our view of Africa is so distorted and twisted by centuries of anti African propaganda in Euro American culture that it really takes African stories (and movies) to tell the truth. This film not only presents a crucial historical event occurring shortly after independence from the colonial masters of England, it also paints a portrait of a fully rounded society with modern and traditional lifestyles. The actors do a superb job and the production is excellent. It’s showing again next Sunday Feb 14 at 215 pm. See it if you can, if you want to expand your understanding of African history and culture.

“Chapter and Verse: A Harlem Story” directed by Jamal Joseph is also a gripping and revealing drama. Daniel Beatty, in a tour de force performance, is a recently released convict and former gang member who struggles to survive on probation in Harlem by delivering meals to the needy. He befriends an elderly woman (Loretta Devine) and her grandson, reconnects with an old friend who has also left the gang life behind for a barbershop, and in every case enhances the lives of those he encounters. The depiction of the tightrope that formerly imprisoned Black men walk in trying to survive gives the film a constant feeling of menace and uncertainty. All of the performances are genuine and human in the gritty, threatening, but vibrant world of Harlem depicted so vividly in the movie.  

I give this one a high recommendation also. It is a Black perspective on Black life in the age of mass incarceration, neither sentimentally optimistic nor brutally negative. See it if you can. It’s showing Fri Feb 12 at 845 pm and Mon Feb 15 at 520.

I’m about to leave to see “Stories of Our LIves,” a Kenyan feature with several vignettes about GLBT life in that country. I can’t wait go get a more balanced view of our brothers and sisters in Africa. I’ll report!

Friday, Feb 5

My first viewing at this year’s festival: the LGBTQ shorts program. This was a wonderful experience. There were 5 short films, 2 from Africa and 3 from the US. Afterwards there was Q & A with directors from the 3 American movies, all of them Black women. In fact all of the films are about women. They were all very well made and provocative. One of the African films “Oya” is an extensive exploration of the role of gender ambiguity in Yoruba culture contrasted with the vicious antigay laws being passed in Nigeria. “Transcend” is about a Black transgender man trying to reestablish a relationship with his parents. The others all deal with coming out and its consequences in one form or another. All in all I recommend this series highly. They are shown again on Thur Feb 11 at 345 and on Mon Feb 15 at 805.

Tonight, Saturday, at 7 pm I’m going to see the exciting sounding Nigerian dramatic film “Half of a Yellow Sun” set during the civil war in the 1960s and starring John Bodega (Star Wars!) and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Then I’ll see the Ethiopian drama “Lambadina” at 930. Tomorrow, Sunday at 1255, I’m planning on seeing the Kenyan film “Stories of our Lives” which is a series of vignettes about LGBT life in that country.  

Anybody interested in joining me?

Jeff H

Pan African Film Festival-LGBT shorts

Today, my Husband and I went to the Pan African Film Festival to look at 5 LGBT short stories entitled “Stories of Our Lives”.stories

The was presented by the Nest Collective after they published a book (http://www.thisisthenest.com/sool-book)

This book evolved in June 2013, when this Kenyan multidisciplinary group travelled across Kenya, recording over 250 personal accounts of persons identifying as GLBT and intersex in Kenya.

“The book presents a selection from the resulting archive – in an attempt to explore the consciousness, ambition and expression of many queer Kenyans in their daily interactions with family, friends, schools, workplace, religion and ideas of the future, and in diverse social contexts in Kenya. Through these stories, the self-representing queer Kenyan grants the reader permission to explore private and intimate worlds–where the vagaries of queer publicness, silence, intimacy, militancy and love happen.”

The makers of this film (banned in Kenya) faced criminal charges in that country.

The first story (Ask Me Nicely) tells of two lesbians of high school age who meet each other in school. One of them loves to wear trousers and her mother banned her from doing so, the other likes to wear conventional clothes. Their principal called them in the office to warn them that their displays of affection was abhorrent behavior. While away from the school, Kate impulsively has a sexual encounter with a boy in her neighborhood. Upon her return, Kate tells Faith about the encounter with the boy. This annoys Faith, leading to an end of their relationship. This is a moving and beautifully film in black and white (as they all are) and through the dingy scenery a bright light is shone in emerging lesbian lives.

The second story (Run) tells of Patrick stumbles upon a local gay bar while walking with his best friend, Kama. There are longing moments and bold curiosity by Patrick on this scene and a brusque and venomous anti gay spewing from Kama.  Patrick later returns to the club for a night out, hoping no one will find out. (Remember, if you can. the excitement and apprehension when you went to your first LGBT bar?)

Kama spots Patrick leaving the bar, and they have a violent confrontation about it. Patrick has to run away to escape the fight.

The third story (Athman) shows that excruciating time in gay life where one develops a crush on a straight guy who finds out. You both work it to (or not).

Farm workers Ray and Athman have been close friends for years. Hurt by Athman’s flirtatious relationship with newcomer Fiona, Ray has an awkward conversation with Athman about their relationship. Athman reiterates that he isn’t interested in a sexual relationship with Ray. They reconcile, then Ray asks Athman whether he can kiss him. Athman is taken aback by the question and leaves, uncomfortable. The two reconcile again the next day, but Ray decides to leave the farm.

The fourth story (Duet) was my favorite partly since it stars a white and black couple who are attracted to each other.

Jeff – a researcher visiting the UK for a conference – hires escort Roman for an hour-long session in his hotel room. Roman arrives, and – sensing Jeff’s anxiety – attempts to calm him down. Jeff asks if they can talk a little before engaging in any physical activity. The two sit and have a conversation about inter-race relations. A cute scene shows them smelling act other’ “Black or white” fragrance.

Roman then offers to give Jeff a massage, which then leads to Jeff being less anxious. The two proceed to make out.

The last story (Each Night I Dream) is about Liz who visualizes dramatic escape plans for herself and partner Achi when local legislators threaten to enforce anti-gay laws. The crowd appears at their door, but they get the last showing them their bodies leaving us to wonder what their revaluation was?

All the production time, actors and actress are from Kenya and these shorts are a tremendous contribution.

Sources: PAFF, thisisnest.com, wikipedia

Pan African Film Festival 

From BWMTSC Cochair Jeff

Friday, Feb 5
My first viewing at this year’s festival: the LGBTQ shorts program. This was a wonderful experience. There were 5 short films, 2 from Africa and 3 from the US. Afterwards there was Q & A with directors from the 3 American movies, all of them Black women. In fact all of the films are about women. They were all very well made and provocative. One of the African films “Oya” is an extensive exploration of the role of gender ambiguity in Yoruba culture contrasted with the vicious antigay laws being passed in Nigeria. “Transcend” is about a Black transgender man trying to reestablish a relationship with his parents. The others all deal with coming out and its consequences in one form or another. All in all I recommend this series highly. They are shown again on Thur Feb 11 at 345 and on Mon Feb 15 at 805.

Tonight, Saturday, at 7 pm I’m going to see the exciting sounding Nigerian dramatic film “Half of a Yellow Sun” set during the civil war in the 1960s and starring John Bodega (Star Wars!) and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Then I’ll see the Ethiopian drama “Lambadina” at 930. Tomorrow, Sunday at 1255, I’m planning on seeing the Kenyan film “Stories of our Lives” which is a series of vignettes about LGBT life in that country.  

Anybody interested in joining me?

Jeff H

Pan African Film Festival Day Two

africaContributed by Jeff Horton BWMTSC Co Chair

I just got home from seeing “October 1,” a Nigerian crime thriller that takes place on the days leading up to independence in 1960. It was a wonderful film: very exciting with a clear political background. The film is about a serial killer in a small town and it presents a vivid portrait of the country, including the mixture of ethnic groups, religions, and social classes as the colonial masters prepare to depart. I really enjoyed it, and the director was there afterwards to answer questions which was also interesting.

He announced that Netflix would begin offering the film on March 1. There was quite a big crowd for this movie, and the crowd in the hall seemed to be staying for the next batch of films also. I’m sure next weekend will build to quite a crowd as the festival ends.

I don’t have anything scheduled until next Sunday (since we have the potluck on Saturday) when I’m really looking forward to “Nzinga Queen of Angola,” (9:35pm) a historical epic about the struggle against Portuguese colonialism, and “Invasion 1897″ (1:45pm) about the British invasion of Benin in which they stole all of the art collection of the King of Benin.

I hope some of you can join me for one of these

Oscar Contenders: Gay Hero and Civil Rights Hero

This is the season for Oscar Contenders and I am thrilled to see that “The Imitation Game” and “Selma” are in there.

So, go and see the former movie telling the tale of Alan Turing and his team who broke the German Enigma code and saved millions of lives during World War II. Rather than be recognized as a hero he was persecuted for being gay and chemically castracted, then committed suicide, He was a pioneer in every way and his work led the way to phones and computers. Our LGBT history has been suppressed but we must revive and celebrate it.

And the much acclaimed movie of the civil rights era “Selma” is now in wide release. Criticism of this movie for it’s portrayal of President Johnson as a laggard on civil rights has surfaced. History has to be carefully examined as it is shown in movies. For example, the film “Lincoln” was critizised by historians for ignoring the role African Americans had in their emancipation. However, historians claim that Johnson worked in the background to acheive the Civil Rights and Voting Rights.

Our organization prides itself in telling the whole story behind Black and White, Gay and Straight issues, so these movies help remind that these heroic strugles need everyone to tell theses tales from history.

Source: NY TImes, http://theimitationgamemovie.com