The African Film Festival's Traveling Series offers eight films from seven nations and an all-too-rare glimpse into the life and art of African countries. This tenth iteration of the acclaimed festival offers St. Louisans a chance to see what often goes unseen, to hear what should be heard.
Be Kunko / Everybody's Problem Cheick Fantamady Camara. Governmental protection and a belief that the aid of an even higher power is on the way can only go so far in keeping spirits up in a Conakry refugee camp for Liberian and Sierra Leonean citizens. Soon a beleaguered grandmother watches as her extended family members spiral out of control and enter a world characterized by physical assault, prostitution, drug dealing, robbery and even murder. Around the time a younger cousin's innocence begins falling away, the message of this Guinea short becomes clear: God's not coming. Screens Friday, March 24.
Le Ballon D'or / The Golden Ball Cheick Doukoure. One overriding message of this classic sports tale and 1992 feature from Guinea: "Wednesday's no good for travel." A more important lesson, however, is to seize opportunities as they are presented, an ethos embraced by Bandian, a young soccer prodigy blessed by his village sorcerer, befriended by a doctor named Mme. Aspirin and intent on following in the (shoeless) footsteps of his hero Roger Milla. From kicking around a dusty bundle of rags to overcoming his jealous teammates' hazings and serving as an icon for the entire country of France, Bandian's story is family-friendly feel-goodness at its best. Screens Saturday, March 25.
Niiwam Clarence Thomas Delgado. Thierno must travel from his fishing village to the city of Dakar so his sick daughter, Aram, can receive medical attention. But this trek is merely the beginning of the journey for Thierno, who soon finds himself on a painstakingly slow and difficult path in which medical science, urban sprawl, blind religious devotion and the social benefits of mass transportation are called into question. All the while an interior monologue unspools, revealing that it's not only a sense of determination that drives us to achieve what we think we cannot, but also grief. Based on a novel by Ousmane Sembene. Screens Thursday, March 23.
Safi, la petite mere / Safi, the Little Mother Rasò Ganemtoré. A quick Internet search reveals that tortoises have long appeared throughout the lore of ancient civilizations, but whether the creatures symbolize patience, luck or other virtues remains up for debate. This zoological tidbit might be of special interest to Safi, an eight-year-old who repeatedly crosses paths with the animal after her mother dies in childbirth and her infant brother is accused of drawing the "Evil Eye" upon her superstitious village. The resourceful caretaker travels to the big city, sibling in tow, where the interplay of luck, spiritual influence and the kindness of strangers serve as surrogates for fate in this short feature from Burkina Faso. Screens Thursday, March 23.