AFF’s flagship program, the annual New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) is curated around a timely theme and presented in collaboration with Film at Lincoln Center, Maysles Cinema in Harlem, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During the festival, which runs for three weeks in the spring, approximately forty to fifty classic and contemporary films are screened, including rarely seen archival films. Films are followed by discussions with filmmakers and/or other film experts, as well as workshops and public talks.
During the inaugural festival, in 1993, the NYAFF presented the first major retrospective of Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène, known as the “father of African cinema.” The festival has since held retrospectives of renowned filmmakers including Djibril Diop Mambéty, Abderrahmane Sissako, Fanta Régina Nacro, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Tunde Kelani, Jean-Marie Téno, and Pierre Yameogo, among others.
NYAFF Exhibitions and Special Projects
To further contextualize the selected theme, exhibitions and/or commissioned projects take place in conjunction with the festival. Examples include Dogon Ladder with Film Reels, an installation by David Hammons (1998), and Digital Africa, a group exhibition co-presented with Electronic Arts Intermix (2003), featuring a group of contemporary African artists working with video and digital technologies. The late Okwui Enwezor, a frequent collaborator and internationally renowned curator, organized the artist talks and related public programs. Many of the artists featured in the show have since established international reputations. The festival has included solo exhibitions of silkscreen posters by multimedia artist J. Michelle Hill, collaborative photography and sculpture work by South African artist, Samson Mnisi, and American artist, Cannon Hersey and has incorporated digital photography as well as virtual reality exhibitions.
We have partnered with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New Museum, Columbia University’s Institute for African Studies, French Institute Alliance Française, International Center of Photography, Apollo Theater, the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC, and Eyebeam Art and Technology Center.
Every year, the festival Youth Matinee Program invites students from NYC middle and high schools to partake in a matinee film screening and discussion with filmmakers.
The NYAFF also presents the annual Art & Activism panel which features some of the most dynamic artists of various disciplines from the international African diaspora, as they discuss the visual and social themes underscoring the festival in relation to their own work.