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New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival


Introducing the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival

March 02, 2009

Launched in summer 2008 by Senegalese filmmaker Joseph Gaï Ramaka, now residing in New Orleans, and Eileen Julien, a native New Orleanian and professor of French, comparative literature, and African diaspora studies at Indiana University, the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival (NOAFEST) exposes the New Orleans public to new ideas and other worlds through multi-media events involving film and music, dance, literary and visual arts. Africa and its diasporas are points of departure though which we open ourselves to the world.

We care about social justice and just as deeply about the beauty and power of art forms which have the capacity to explore and crystallize the range of human experiences. NOAFEST strives to cultivate the excitement and energy produced by encounter and exchange between artists, whom we bring to our screenings, and spectators.

NOAFEST currently has two components:

The Audi-Visual Workshop, We’re Back! sustains historical and contemporary memory in New Orleans by providing an opportunity for young filmmakers especially to work on documentary and fiction filmmaking under the tutelage of Joseph Gaï Ramaka. We have begun work on a documentary film directed by two local students that tells the story of the collaborative performance of The New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) and The Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra (GNOYO) which took place on May 30-31, 2008 at Tulane University. The film, tentatively entitled Coming Up Taller!, will help GNOYO and NOBA recruit and engage new participants and obtain future arts funding to better serve the New Orleans community. It will also demonstrate the power of music and dance to help young people make connections beyond their differing social, economic and racial backgrounds;

Cinéma Première is a monthly celebration of new international and American films, preceded by short live performances of new music or other arts, followed by discussion with the filmmakers, and premiering in diverse New Orleans neighborhoods.

Cinéma Première offers the New Orleans community a rare opportunity to see 35 mm prints at The Prytania Theatre, the last single-screen theatre in southern Louisiana. On subsequent evenings we may hold screenings at Ashé Cultural Arts Center, a vibrant cultural center in Central City that links culture to outreach and community development, or at The Porch/7thWard Neighborhood Center, or other such venues. We have now begun a partnership with Tekrema Center for Art and Culture and All Souls Episcopal Church in the 9th Ward and will routinely hold screenings there. We take filmmakers and their films to a range of neighborhoods with the goal of creating distinctive experiences tied to the city’s varied localities and demography.

Encounter and Exchange. Each month, we host free screenings and performances in a festive, interactive space of dialogue, bringing together a public that is multi-racial, multi-generational, of differing educational and socio-economic backgrounds, encompassing the diversity of New Orleans, yet united by the desire to enjoy powerful artistic experiences. Our events allow audiences to engage in meaningful exchange with filmmakers and other spectators and to share and connect through their differences.

Our History. Our inaugural season began in July 2008 with an emphasis on the similarities and connections between South Africa and New Orleans. We hosted South African filmmaker Zola Maseko and his internationally acclaimed feature film, Drum, and in August, American filmmaker Charles Burnett and his latest film, Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation. September screenings were postponed because of Hurricane Gustav. In October, Cinéma Première hosted Ugandan-born director Lovinsa Kavuma (Rape for Who I Am) and American director Louise Hogarth (Angels in the Dust). On November 7, in partnership with the City of New Orleans, we screened Spike Lee’s new film, Miracle at St Anna, as a tribute to veterans, firefighters, first responders and other workers who insure the wellbeing of the City.

In December, as a holiday offering to the City’s children, we screened Kirikou, an animated film inspired by traditional African tales, in an English language version for children across the city and, in a French language version for students in bilingual schools who partnered with us. We just opened our 2009 season with Joan Frosch’s two films on contemporary African dance, Movement (R)evolution Africa (2007) and Nora (2008) and will screen those films at the end of February at All Souls Church in the 9th Ward.

Community Response. We consistently have strong turnouts for Cinéma Première events (280-300 at The Prytania, 60-90 at Ashé, and 30 at The Porch/7thWard Neighborhood Center) as well as very positive responses from individual attendees and the community as a whole. Our self-subscribed mailing list, now at 400, continues to grow. We regularly receive calls and notes of appreciation from supporters. One attendee has written, « I want to express the importance I feel your events have for those of us of European descent struggling with our community’s difficult history. Moving us from exploitation, hatred, fear and distrust to understanding and tolerance, and on to respect and love is but one effect NOAFEST has. »

NOAFEST has also garnered significant support from diverse sectors of the New Orleans community and beyond. We have the endorsement of the Mayor’s Office of the City of New Orleans, and our honorary committee includes prominent artists, educators and professionals: such as Ms. Leah Chase, owner and chef, Dooky Chase Restaurant, New Orleans; Mr. Ellis Marsalis, musician and educator; Mr. Danny Glover, actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. We have also received small grants from the Mayor’s Office and the New Orleans Arts Council and have developed relationships with businesses and institutions near and far, including Whole Foods, FedEx Kinko’s, Loyola University of New Orleans, and Indiana University Bloomington. NOAFEST is a public charity exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Cinéma Première, Cinéma Créole, Spring & Summer 2009
Building upon the success of our inaugural year, we will move into a new cycle of films, Cinéma Première, Cinéma Créole, in order to explore and build upon New Orleans’ complex set of historical and contemporary ties to Haiti and the Caribbean, from shared cultural traditions of Catholicism and vodoun, to Afro-creole languages, to jazz and Mardi Gras. We also want to reach out to the many Haitian and Caribbean nationals, new and old, of New Orleans. This cycle of films will open with Amy Serrano’s Sugar Babies and Claudio del Punta’s award-winning feature Haïti Chérie (Haiti/Italy, 2007), both set in contemporary sugarcane fields.

Molto, a new chamber ensemble led by Jean Montès, musician and director of Orchestral Studies at Loyola and originally from Haiti, is a longstanding partner. Molto performs an eclectic fusion of classical, jazz and world music; its performance of new music inspired by traditional Haitian folk music will particularly complement the Cinéma Créole cycle.

Cinéma Première, Latinoamérica, Fall & Winter 2009-10
Following its season on Haiti and the Caribbean, Cinéma Première will begin a six-month cycle of films from or about Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil, countries with important cinematic traditions that are little known in New Orleans and the U.S. The demographic and cultural impact of these countries on life in the U.S. today makes it still more critical to discover the world seen from their perspectives. We shall screen films that resonate with urban and cultural life in New Orleans, including Marcel Camus’ classic Orfeu negro, Walter Salles’ Central do Brasil, Fernando Meirelles’ Cidade de Deus. As is our tradition, each film will be preceded by a performance; we especially look forward to pairing traditional New Orleans musicians with Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club.

Cinéma Première, Ciné Kids: Lebon, Lepon!
Over the course of the year, Cinéma Première will offer screenings for children. Building on our partnership with bilingual schools for the screening of Kirikou, we will organize three such events in May, September, and December.

The multiple programs of the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival enrich and strengthen our community through exposure to artistic experiences, diverse cultures, ideas and people.

In putting these cultural and educational initiatives in place, we would be grateful to have your support.

We are able to provide additional information or to meet with you

Thank you for your consideration.

Eileen Julien
Professor & Chair, Comparative Literature
Professor, French & Italian, African American & African Diaspora Studies
Indiana University, Bloomington

Joseph Gaï Ramaka
Festival Director
Independent Screenwriter & Filmmaker


New Orleans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival

June 2008

It is with great pleasure that we announce the creation of the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival, its Cinema Club, Black Roots, and Audio-Visual Workshop We’re Back!

Given the renown of the City of New Orleans as a site of artistic creativity and its historic ties to Africa and communities of African descent worldwide, the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Art Festival seeks to enhance these bonds by showcasing and exploring the productions of black artists throughout the world in film, music, visual arts and literature.

Black Roots Cinema Club

The first season of Black Roots Cinema Club will focus on South Africa and be dedicated to Nelson Mandela who turns 90 years old in 2008. The inaugural screening will take place on Wednesday July 16, with additional screenings through July 19. Subsequently, Black Roots will organize monthly screenings in different New Orleans neighborhoods of South African and American films and discussion with their directors.

We have chosen to focus the first season on South Africa for several reasons: the symbolic importance of the South African nation and of President Mandela for people worldwide, the similar experiences and traditions of New Orleans and South Africa: their mixed populations, their history of determined rebellion against slavery and racism, their hybrid foods, performances and arts.

South Africa’s successful resistance to one of the world’s most violent regimes serves as a beacon of hope and freedom. And despite its many triumphs, South Africa continues to suffer ongoing legacies of violence, educational and economic inequity, as does New Orleans. We believe that South Africa’s triumphs and ongoing struggles are particularly relevant to New Orleanians who are living in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Finally, the Cinema Club’s South Africa focus in 2008 will build on New Orleans’ Sister City relationship with Durban and enable our citizens, artists and scholars to dialogue and collaborate.

In counterpoint to featured South African films, we will also screen contemporary or historical documentaries, shorts, or feature films, focusing on life, culture, and struggles for civil and human rights in the U.S. with an emphasis, whenever possible, on films by and about New Orleanians.

The Audio-Visual Workshop We’re back!

To play a further role in the rebirth of New Orleans, we are creating, with the help of local partners and institutions, the Audio-Visual Workshop We’re back! Through documentary and fiction filmmaking, we will contribute to the task of sustaining historical and contemporary memory. By working with a team of local directors, actors, musicians, and technical staff, we will draw on and draw attention to the expertise of professionals in New Orleans and Louisiana.

The Workshop’s first project is a documentary film recording a collaborative project of the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) – in partnership with the New Orleans Recreation Department – and the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra (GNOYO). The film will portray the performances on May 30-31, 2008, the rehearsals leading up to them, and explore the motivations and reflections of the students, teachers, families, and organizations involved in this joint project. The film will celebrate the lasting effects that NOBA and GNOYO have on their students and the community of New Orleans as a whole. Two college students from New Orleans with interest and training in music and film directed the documentary under the supervision and guidance of the Workshop Director Joseph Gaï Ramaka.

The Annual New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival

With the support of partners, institutions, and a range of citizens and students across several New Orleans schools and university campuses, the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival will also organize an annual week-long festival of motion pictures from Africa, Latin-America, the West Indies, the USA and beyond.

The inaugural Festival is being planned for spring 2009 and will screen films produced in and focusing on Latin America, particularly Brazil and Venezuela, and Cuba.

Each year the Festival will serve as a gathering point for people of good will to celebrate and examine together the historical and spiritual bonds between Africa and Louisiana, through works of film, music, literature and visual arts by artists from the entire diaspora.

We hope that the multiple programs of the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival will lead to new creative projects-some of them collaborative, in filmmaking, screenwriting and other forms of expression-and to social projects to strengthen communities. Ultimately, they will create awareness of the power of media and other expressive forms to explore and crystallize the range of human experiences.

We welcome your support and participation.

Eileen Julien
President, New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival
Professor & Chair, Department of Comparative Literature Indiana University

Joseph Gaï Ramaka
Vice-President & Festival Director New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival
Independent Screenwriter & Filmmaker
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