Tag Archives: documentary film

More Faith-based Initiatives – with friends!

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Wednesday March 18 – Reading/Interview

Along with longtime gal pal (and one of my first publishers!) Elaine Lee, author of Go Girl: The Black Women’s Book of Travel & Adventure, I’ll be reading for Our Voices, Our Stories: A Literary Reading Series Featuring Women of Color. I will then be interviewed on my e-book, The Nigerian Nordic Girl’s Guide to Lady Problems, by former student, gal pal and Our Voices founder Lisa Gray. 7:00-9:00PM, Mercury Café (behold its cuteness below), 201 Octavia St, San Francisco. Free and open to the public.

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Thursday March 19 – Film Screenings/Discussion

Seattle-based gal pal, activist and award-winning filmmaker Eliaichi Kimaro and I will be screening and discussing our documentary films in a special program called Documenting the Diaspora: A Tanzanian-Korean-American & An Afro-Viking Go Home. 6:30-9:00PM, Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), 685 Mission St., San Francisco. The event is part of Third Thursdays, which means that both the (fabulous, newly-renovated) museum and films are free!

Earlier in the day, we’ll be co-presenting Filming Your Story: A Tanzanian-Korean Activist & Afro-Viking Writer Go Home at my workplace (FilmingYourStory flyer), 12:00-3:00 PM, California College of the Arts, Building B3, 5212 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94618.

Friday March 20 – Film Screenings/Discussion

The next morning we’ll be screening the films for Mixed Roots: Mixed-Race Women Explore Their African Roots (Mixed Roots FLYER) in discussion with gal pal, writing partner and English Department Co-chair Jackie Graves. 10:00AM-12:00PM, Laney College, Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center, 900 Fallon Street, Oakland. The event, part of Women’s HERstory Month, is free and open to the public.

An afternoon event at Mills College TBA.

Whats your story

The Films

A LOT LIKE YOU (55 min and 82 min versions) During her first trip to Tanzania, Tanzanian-Korean-American Eliaichi Kimaro’s conversations with her aunts and uncles of the Chagga tribe address education, politics, social structure, tradition, history, marriage and rape. It is through the subject of sexual assault that Kimaro connects with her aunts and later with her parents, as together they unearth painful conversations to find some shared space to heal.

MY JOURNEY HOME (35 min) Born to and raised by a Nordic-American mother in the rural Pacific Northwest, Nigerian-Nordic-American Faith Adiele travels to Nigeria to meet her father and siblings for the first time. This film provides a layered, artful view of the intersections of multiracial identity formation, African decolonization, and Civil Right Era America.

Both films will be available for purchase at all events.

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2012 Mixed Roots Film & Literary Fest this weekend!

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This weekend I will be appearing with my people at the 2012 Mixed Roots Film & Literary Fest in L.A.! Look for me on Sunday 12:30 – 1:30 PM. The readings will be held in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), 369 East 1st Street, in downtown Los Angeles

Be there, or be mono-ethnic!

I Get Educated by The Education of Auma Obama

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Last Friday, before heading out for a Buddhists of Color retreat (more on that later!), I attended opening night of the 8th Annual San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival. The fest opened with “The Education of Auma Obama,” a documentary by mixed, Nigerian-born filmmaker Branwen Okpako about Auma Obama, an impressive scholar-activist who happens to be the Kenyan older sister of our mixed president.

Okay, am I the only mixed girl who didn’t realize that the entire Obama family is mixed? Obama Senior had 3 wives: a young Kenyan girl (Auma’s mother), our President’s mother, and another white American named Ruth who raised their mixed kids in Kenya. Auma herself has a daughter by a white European; one of the Obama brothers lives in China; and I have at least met Maya Soetoro-Ng, the President’s half-Indonesian sister. In comparison, I feel positively pedestrian!

The film incorporates Auma’s own films and home video, including footage of a young Barack and then-fiancee Michelle on their first trip to Kenya, and is structured around the final days leading up to the U.S. presidential election, managing to capture the giddy pride all Africa felt at the prospect of the first black African U.S. president. (A lovely moment is when the family is dancing with cardboard cut-outs of Obama around the grave of his father. Oh, spoiler alert: he wins the election.) Ah, remember how excited we all were, thinking that this was a strike for racial parity, rather than an invitation to public figures to spout their racism in the media with impunity?

Watch African Women in Cinema’s video interview with filmmaker Branwen Okpako.

April Film Countdown: Undercover Documentaries

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Today started off my April Film Countdown with 2 international documentaries, both shot secretly in countries with totalitarian regimes. Both in theaters–and in need of support–now.

Film #1: This is Not a Film 

Renowned Iranian director, Jafar Panahi, received a 6-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban from filmmaking and conducting interviews with foreign press due to his open support of the opposition party in Iran‘s 2009 election. In this documentary, which was secretly shot by Panahi’s close friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and smuggled into France in a cake for a last-minute submission to the Cannes Film Festival, Panahi shares his day-to-day life as he awaits for a decision on his appeal.

I saw this smart, thought-provoking film with the same friend who took me to see Academy Award winning The Separation, another brilliant offering from Iran. Granted, I’m primed to love anything smuggled in a cake, but this truly is worth the price of admission!

It’s a quiet study of the psychic costs of not being able to create, of the intricacies of coding and negotiating art under censorship, and of the creative process itself. Together the film Panahi wanted to make and this film he does make show how the study of an interior can be an indictment of an entire nation. Against the backdrop of Tehran’s volatile streets, symbolic situations fall into Panahi’s lap all day long, culminating in a breathtaking ending. A bit like My Dinner with Andre, except with much, much higher stakes (given that the director/subject is now serving 6 years in prison)!

Film #2: They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain

Shot clandestinely over a 2-year period by novelist and filmmaker (and Cornell physicist!), Robert H. Lieberman, this film provides a rare look at the second-most isolated country on the planet (North Korea gets top honors). It lifts the curtain to expose the everyday life in a country that has been held in the iron grip of a brutal military regime for 48 years. This feature length documentary, culled from over 120 hours of striking images, is an impressionistic journey. Interviews and interactions with more than 100 people throughout Burma, including an interview with the recently released Aung San Suu Kyi, are interwoven with spectacular footage.

Terrific Q&A afterwards with Director/Renaissance Man Lieberman. He explained how the narrative couldn’t follow a character/”hero” the way most documentaries do, as that would be unsafe for the subjects, so the film editor had to create a panorama of characters with a chorus of unidentified voice-overs. The result is a bit disconcerting (who are these voices and why do so many sound like British elite?), almost like those Come-to-the-Land-of-Smiles travel ads, but with a dark underbelly. (I got all nostalgic seeing the ruins of Pagan and other major Buddhist sites.)

Burma has vast natural resources, plus incredible geographic, linguistic and ethnic diversity (125 languages!). This, plus the huge mansions next to slums, the lack of electricity, and the cleptocracy of The Generals–primarily poor, uneducated folk–reminded me of Nigeria (though I didn’t feel that upon visiting all those years ago). A shocking 2 percent of the GDP is devoted to education, health, and social services combined!

Fascinating historic footage of the Japanese occupation and the Father of Burma (as well as of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi) Aung San working for independence. Surreal, scary Manchurian Candidate-like footage of the collective, nameless Generals who never attempt to connect with the populace. I recognized the heart-pounding footage of the Saffron Revolution taken by the gutsy underground video-journalists profiled in that other great documentary, Burma VJ. The film advances the interesting theory that every one of Burma’s governments, from the ancient monarchy to the invaders/Colonialists to The Generals, saw its role as keeping out other nations, never providing for the people.

A Lot Like You

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Talk about a coincidink! This documentary film by a Seattle-based woman with a Tanzanian father and Korean mother was playing at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival last week. So I loaded up about 10 Africans and their friends and checked it out. They kept leaning over and telling me, “This ‘A Lot Like You’ is a lot like you!” Indeed, with filmmaker Eliaichi Kimaro‘s situating of her parents within African independence movements, it felt like a longer a version of My Journey Home. Perhaps even some of the same B&W Civil Rights footage appears.

But hers has an added surprise twist of domestic abuse. I was gratified that the African men in our group thought the film was fantastic. And they also noted that her parents were together – still – and make a lovely presence on screen. I’ve never seen my parents together. My favorite artistic bit happens around 0:26-0:28, where the filmmaker’s further mixed daughter staggers out of the grandparents’ traditional thatched hut, into a sunlight doorway, and disappears.

Afterwards, I introduced myself to Kimaro and told her my hope – that we could be a double feature at the Mixed Roots Fest this summer in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t that be cool?!