Bama Theatre's 'Evening of African Film' showcases the continent’s cultureBy Serena Bailey | 02/01/2017 11:55pm
Photo courtesy of William Foster
The fifth annual Tuscaloosa Evening of African Film, co-sponsored by the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, will be held this Saturday. This year’s marquee film is a 2014 Nigerian production called “Dazzling Mirage,” which tells the story of a young woman with sickle-cell disease.
“Many times we are not exposed to how rich the African film industry is so we wanted to expose people to the culture and the fine films that are available in Africa,” said Bill Foster, the executive director of AframSouth, an organization which seeks to help African American communities through health and education resources.
AfarmSouth is also sponsoring the event. Another organization involved is the Edward A. Ulzen Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit focused on global health.
“There’s a very large African film industry that people are not entirely aware of unless you go to international film festivals, so those movies don’t come in on the general mainstream movie track, so we thought this would be a way of adding to the cultural landscape of Tuscaloosa,” said Dr. Thaddeus Ulzen, the program director for the Edward A. Ulzen Memorial Foundation.
Ulzen, a native of Ghana, is also the chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at The University of Alabama. Five years ago he partnered with Bill and Pam Foster, the executive director and president, respectively, of AframSouth to start the festival.
From the beginning, Ulzen has contacted people he knew who have worked with the New York African Film Festival and continues to work with them to select the films each year from the festival’s traveling series.
“In any diverse community, art is the best way that people learn about each other,” he said. “Through music, through dance, through film – art gives you a window into different cultures. It presents maybe a different understanding of Africa than maybe people get from mainstream media by watching films that are produced by Africans within the African context. Essentially, the culture just speaks for itself instead of you trying to figure it out.”
Dr. Pam Foster is also an associate professor with the College of Community Health Sciences. She said she hopes the festival can expand on people’s perceptions of Africa, particularly if they’ve never traveled there before.
“We started five years ago really to increase awareness about African culture,” she said. “Some of it is because we think there are a lot of people that stereotype about Africans and often it’s because they’ve never visited or have very little experiences with people from African countries... This kind of gives people an opportunity to see not all of it is underdeveloped. It also gives people a chance to see that a lot of the stories that are told in the films are human stories.”
The festival will begin at 2 p.m. with a screening of the children’s film “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” as well as performances of African dance, music and storytelling. At 6 p.m. “The Return and Destino” will be screened followed by “Dazzling Mirage,” both short films.