Pan African Film Festival #5

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

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.