Silicon Valley African Film Festival is officially…

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under way and it opened with a film that is as relevant to America today as it was for Africa in 1957!

I wasn’t sure what I should expect when I got to the Community School of Music and Art (CSMA). , I could hear the percussionists well before I could see them. As I rounded the corner of the building, I saw three musicians set up and just rocking out.  It was kind of early so I spent the time outside just listening to them play.  My experience with African music, limited as it may be, I got used to it maintaining a constant rhythm with only minor variations throughout the song.  The musicians were playing but seemed to be infusing it with the unexpected count of jazz.  It was fantastic and made me want to dance.

I opened the door and found everyone inside the CSMA was in high spirits and laughing.  There were so many beautiful smiling people in wonderful vibrant clothes from traditional garments to flashy evening wear.

Before the festival’s first film, there was a flag procession for the 15 countries that are featured in the festival followed by speeches from Festival Director Chike C. Nwoffiah and Mountain View Mayor Michael Kasperzak. Once all the thank you’s and welcomes had been completed, there was a short musical break from the musicians.

Then the lights were turned down and we were treated to the 1957 film “Freedom.”

In his opening speech, Mr. Nwoffaih said this festival was created in part to get rid of the National Geographic-esque images that many people associate with Africa.  The theme is Africa through African Lens.  One of the first things that I noticed in this film was the beautiful lush landscapes that are presented as the camera pans across the lands.  The movie opens with a montage of images both rural and urban areas of the country mixing the traditional and “new” lifestyles.

The movie is about several men with different backgrounds and ideals “campaigning” to be the person that unifies  the country out from under the oppression of an occupying entity called “the Imperia.”  First, there is the King who is simply ruling in the ways of tradition.  Second, there is the National Loyalist who seeks to use nonviolent methods to bring about the change.  Next, there is the Rebel who will go to the lengths of violence if need be when the voice of the majority isn’t listened to.  Mixed up in all of this is one of the King’s advisors who played people against each other to ensure his own station in life was secure.

The King senses this and sends the advisor to the Geneva Convention.  While at the convention, the advisor sees first hand why the unification is so difficult.  He meets a few like minded people who agree that nothing can be changed if no one is willing to be the first ones to make changes.  Armed with this knowledge, the advisor goes back home and begins the discussion for the unification under a new premise while practicing what he is proposing.

The premise is so simple.  It is listening to that little voice inside you that tells you what is good. Not good for the self but for everyone.  It’s not about who is right but what is right.  The only way to do this is to be absolutely honest, absolutely pure, absolutely unselfish, and absolutely loving.  When you can find all these things, then you have the answers you need.

I love the message of this film.  With our own nation being so harshly divided thanks to the coming election, I think everyone should see this movie.  Both major parties are fighting so hard for power that they are losing sight that the people are suffering and how they can help right now.  Instead, they use that suffering as a weapon against one another.  If they really wanted to make this a better country, they would be able to see the answer if greed, power, and selfishness were honestly, that’s the key word HONESTLY, pushed aside to find truth and goodness.

The script was unexpectedly very funny.  During the Q & A at the end of the night, someone mentioned she loved that the writer showed both sides of how women can get information. The Queen was always coy and clever and sweetly innocent when she was spoke.  The National Loyalist’s wife was very straightforward and unafraid to demand the knowledge.  Both women had some great moments throughout  the film.

While I loved the charm and wit of the script, I did feel that there was a little repetitiveness with it. Each of the “party” members were told essentially the same things; then they apologized to each other for past wrong doings.  I understand the need to set the precedent but for all four men to go through it was a bit much.

The other thing that made me say “hmmm…” was that the men who wanted freedom from the Imperia invite that representative to be part of the discussion.  I would have liked to have seen how that would be resolved a little more specifically instead of the rep just tearing up the latest tax decree.

I think the most beautiful thing about this film aside from the charm, heart and ideas is that the entire cast and crew, which consisted of Africans from all over the country, took the message to heart and helped to create this classic without regard of payment.  A truly selfless act!

All in all, this film was a fantastic way to start the festival.  I already have the movies circled in my program that I can’t wait to see.  Just to name a few: (Saturday) Honayn’s Shoe, Girl Fight, June 16, Mwanasikana, Tiim and (Sunday) The Ugandan (the director is here at the festival), Toindepi aka Where Are We Heading? (Director also attending), Botswana: Diamonds/Democracy, Elegy for a Revolutionary.

There are still tickets left for the festival go the website for more info and the full movie schedule.

Thanks to LiveSV for the chance to see what I believe will be a wonderful event!  You don’t want to miss this!

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