The 30th annual New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) returns to Lincoln Center on May 10 with a lineup of more than 50 screenings and artist talks. This year’s films range from dramas to animated shorts to personalized documentaries, and many of the works will be making their United States debuts at NYAFF.

The festival will open with Moussa Sène Absa’s Xalé (2022), which was Senegal’s selection for the Oscars’ International Feature category this year. The film concludes a three-part trilogy that Absa created to center the experiences of women. In this final work, a 15-year-old girl seeks liberation from her violent uncle.

The cast and crew are from Senegal, and the movie is shot on a Dakar beach that Absa frequented as a child. (Absa, age 65, previously used French and Canadian production crews for his movies.) The director will hold a question-and-answer session after the screening and a talk about migration on May 13.

Sène Absa’s Xalé (2022) will make its US debut on May 10. (©SetBetSet-Les Films du Continent)

The festival’s centerpiece film is Hyperlink (2022), a multi-part project created by Mzonke Maloney, Nolitha Mkulisi, Julie Nxadi, and Evan Wigdorowitz. The work is broken into four short films, each of which tells a different story that highlights the power of social media over human relationships.

Other highlights at this year’s NYAFF include Ota Benga (2022), a six-minute animated short from Chadrack Banikina and Cecilia Zoppelletto that delves into the life of the film’s namesake. In 1904, 21-year-old Benga was kidnapped from the Congo, trafficked, and forced to participate in an exhibit at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. NYAFF marks the film’s world premiere.

In lighter subject matter, Fatou Cissé explores the life of her famous filmmaker father in A Daughter’s Tribute to Her Father: Souleymane Cissé (2022), and Ottis Ba Mamadou tells the story of an unemployed husband financially dependent on his wife in the comedy-drama Dent Pour Dent (2022).

“The New York African Film Festival was founded to counteract the voice-over where Africans were being spoken for over grim images,” Mahen Bonetti, who founded the New York African Film Festival in 1993, told Hyperallergic. “And to provide a place where the seventh art could become a weapon for us to reclaim our voices, to reappropriate our images and to add layers to the narrative.”

Bonetti now serves as the executive director of the larger African Film Festival, which runs programming year-round across the country. The New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center will run through May 16.

A still from Chadrack Banikina and Cecilia Zoppelletto’s “Ota Benga” (2022)
A still from the centerpiece film Hyperlink (2022), created by Mzonke Maloney, Nolitha Mkulisi, Julie Nxadi, and Evan Wigdorowitz
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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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