The New York African Diaspora Film Festival is honouring the Egyptian/British director Khaled El Hagar with a retrospective of his major films.
Running November 27-December 15, 2009 in various venues around The Big Apple, the festival is set to show the following films of Khaled El Hagar: KOBOLAT MASROKA/Stolen Kisses, MAFEESH GHER KEDA!/None But That, HOB EL BANAT/Women’s Love, ROOM TO RENT, LITTLE DREAM, A GULF BETWEEN US, ELEMENTS OF MINE, and YOU ARE MY LIFE.
Khaled El Hagar is a prolific filmmaker whose artistic career is shared between his native Egypt and the UK. The depth and range of his work are remarkable as he moves between cultures and genres with incredible ease and dexterity, from comedies to modern drama dance films, from musicals to social dramas.
Winner of 23 national and international awards during his career, El Hagar is one of the most important Egyptian filmmakers of the past two decades. He is the Filmmaker in Residence of the 17th Annual African Diaspora Film Festival.
The 120-minute KOBOLAT MASROKA/Stolen Kisses drama in Arabic with English sub-tiles focuses on nine Egyptians in their 20s faced with common but taboo subjects in Egypt: family conflicts, unemployment, sexual frustration, prostitution and violence.
By keeping an Egyptian voice accessible to the larger audience, this 2009 production is said to have set off many heated debates in Egypt, including some death threats posted on some fanatics’ websites.
MAFEESH GHER KEDA!/None but That!, a 2006 musical, follows the life of a single mother of three struggling and dreaming of riches. The efforts of the mother, Nahed, bear fruit when her youngest daughter, Dina, succeeds in the glamorous world of show business. But this success breeds jealousy, in-fighting and tension among the family members.
Loosely based on the ballet, The Deadly Seven Sins, by the German writer Bertolt Brecht, MAFEESH GHER KEDA! exposes the current desire for instant fame and wealth in not just contemporary Egypt but Africa, whatever the cost. Made in Arabic with English sub-titles, MAFEESH GHER KEDA! is Winner of Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Songs awards.
HOB EL BANAT/Women’s Love is a 110-minute romantic comedy made in 2004 that both won seven major awards at the 2004 Egyptian National Film Festival and went on to become a major commercial success. It is the story of three half-sisters brought together by the death of their mutual father. While Cairo-raised Nada is a shy, deeply romantic soul longing for Mr. Right and Alexandria-raised Ghada doesn’t like men, London-raised and educated university professor Ro’aya is looking for love now that her professional life is well established.
The three(according to their father’s will)must live together for one year in Cairo before they can inherit his considerable estate. At first each claims her own space, but gradually as they get to know one another they discover how much they have in common. This film is Winner of Best Director and Best Actors awards in several film festivals.
A GULF BETWEEN US is a 1994 drama in English set in 1991 London during the Gulf War. When Hassan, an Arab student and part-time baker rents a room from Jewish Ruth in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood, he is not looking for love but fall in it he does. The outbreak of the Gulf War in which forces allied to the United States of America fight Iraqi president Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait, makes things difficult for them.
This 50-minute film is said to have caused an outrage and great anger in the Egyptian press when it was shown in Cairo in 1995 and Khaled El Hagar, who not only made but also played the main role, was accused of promoting normalisation with Israel and could not go back to Egypt until 2003.
A ROOM TO RENT revolves around the pursuit of a man’s pursuit of life, liberty, and a green card. Ali, a young Egyptian screenwriter, is determined to succeed in London where he has been a student. He loves the artistic and political freedom, the colours, the music, and the individualism. But he has little money, his student visa is about to expire and he has been thrown out of his lodgings.
And so Ali moves in with a succession of eccentric and colourful London flat-mates: Mark, a photographer with a very individual style; Linda, a young, blonde, very sexy model and Marilyn Monroe impersonator; and Miss Stevenson, who is convinced that Ali is the reincarnation of her long dead Egyptian lover. All the while Ali is in search of an elusive British visa which unrepentantly leads to finding the love of his life. ROOM TO RENT, a comedy drama in English made in 2001 and running 90 minutes, was the first feature by writer/director Khaled El Hagar, who is himself an Egyptian immigrant living and working in London. It has won several awards, four of them for Best Film.
Made in Germany in 2004 by Khaled El Hagar and Norbert Servos, ELEMENTS OF MINE(a 20-minute modern drama dance in English)examines passion and sensuality that is experienced anew at any age and in any sexual combination.
Also showing will be other films by leading contemporary African directors such as Nigerian Tunde Kelani whose films ARUGBA, and MAGUN/Thunderbolt, Kenyan Wanuri Kahiu’s WANGARI MAATHAI: FOR OUR LAND, South African Nigerian Akin Omotoso’s WOLE SOYINKA: CHILD OF THE FOREST, Ethiopian South African Nega Tariku’s ADERA, South African John Kani’s NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, and Moroccan Mohamed Ahed Bensouda’s MOUSSEM LAMCHAOUCHA/The Tale of a Mchaouchi Wrestler.
South African Nigerian Omotoso’s 52-minute WOLE SOYINKA: CHILD OF THE FOREST documentary on Nigerian writer, poet, playwright Nobel Prize for Literature winner in 1986 ‘Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka’ makes its North American premiere during the NYADFF.
The film, made in 2009, profiles this first African to ever win the Nobel Prize for Literature through interviews with Soyinka’s friends, writers influenced and inspired by his work and life, and interviews with the man himself. Striking stylized recreations describe major events in the artist’s life, such as his daring armed takeover of the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio in 1965 and his 22-month imprisonment in 1967.
Also of interest is THE SOUL OF ASHANTI, a 60-minute film tracing the history of the Ashanti Kingdom’s Golden Stool ‘one of the most important sacraments of the kingdom’ from the time it is believed to have arrived in 1695 to present-day Ghana.
Made by Kevin Merz in 2009, THE SOUL OF ASHANTI provides an in-depth and insightful look into the life and culture of the Ashanti and their view of the importance and relevance of the Golden Stool.
As if to complement each other, USA/Ghanaian THE SOUL OF ASHANTI shall be followed by Nigerian Kelani’s 97-minute ARUGBA that tells the story of the king of a small south-western town in Nigeria whose pronouncements against corruption is only equaled by his insatiable desire for women.
Set against the backdrop of a corrupt society seeking cleansing, rebirth and nationhood, with all its attendant intrigues, ARUGBA, made in Yoruba in 2008, intimately presents a world in which modernity and tradition exist alongside each other but seldom in equilibrium.
Kelani’s second film, MAGUN, is a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of story in which an Igbo woman and a Yoruba young fall in love. But whether their love can be strong enough to defy tradition and challenge conventional wisdom is what this 110-minute romantic drama in Yoruba made in 2000 is about.
Coming from Morocco is a 100-minute comedy-drama in Arabic titled MOUSSEM LAMCHAOUCHA and made by Mohamed Ahed Bensouda in 2009. In the film, a young carpenter of modest means, Slimane, is in love with the beautiful Saadia. But rich merchant Takokh also wants to marry her. With the backdrop of Moroccan wrestling and a fierce power struggle around a beautiful young woman, “The Tale of a Mchaouchi Wrestler” is an epic, very entertaining comedy-drama that won great success in its native Morocco.
WANGARI MAATHAI: FOR OUR LAND, that makes its US premiere, shall be presented under the African Women Stories programme. A 2009 M-Net production directed by Kenyan Kahiu, this documentary is on Kenyan environmental and social justice activist and 2004 Nobel Laureate, Prof Wangari Muta Maathai.
Ethiopian Nega Tariku’s heart-wrenching story of an Ethiopian refugee ‘ s struggle to survive in the City of Gold, the South African commercial capital of Johannesburg, is also making its US debut during this festival.
In this 107-minute drama in Amharic and English made in 2009 and titled ADERA, the refugee ‘Marlam’ struggles to provide for her two children back home but ends up as a surrogate mother for a wealthy Ethiopian couple.
The New York Africa Diaspora Film Festival presents a diverse and eclectic programme “A Night in Morocco, Women Indies Night, Afro-Colombian Women, African Men Shorts, African Leaders programme, African Women Stories, Identity Programme, Portrait of Haitian Women, African Syncretism in Tunisia and India, Girl Stories, Exile & Cinema in Sudan, Hip Hop Stories, Cultures of Resistance, South African Cinema, Black Europe, Latin America, North America” at the following venues:
- Anthology Film Archives – 32 Second Ave. @ 2nd St.
- The Riverside Theatre at the Riverside Church – 91 Claremont Ave. @ 120th St.
- Schomburg Center for Black Culture – 135th St. and Malcolm X Blvd.
- Teachers College, CU – 179 Grace Dodge – 525 West 120th St.
- Cowin Center – Teachers College, 525 West 120th St., 147 Horace Mann
- The Chapel – Teachers College, 525 West 120th St., 125 Zankel
- Thalia Theatre – 2537 Broadway @ 95th St.
- Bowery Bar – 358 Bowery St. @ 4th St.
- Bona Fides Restaurant – 60 2ND Avenue (btw E 3rd & 4th Sts)