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16th Cascade Festival of African Films explores Afro-Mexican history

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PORTLAND, Ore. – One of the largest African film festivals on the West Coast is exploring uncharted territory.

This year, the 16th Annual Portland Community College Cascade Festival of African Films, featuring 28 films from the African continent and attracting more than 4,200 film-goers, will spotlight films exploring the untapped subject of the African legacy in Mexico. The film festival, held in honor of Black History Month and Women’s History Month on the Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St) and sites around north Portland, runs from Feb. 3 through March 4. It is organized entirely by volunteers and is free and open to the public. 2006 poster.

The festival will offer five weeks of films from the African continent and the Diaspora. Most of the films will be followed with discussions led by visiting film directors and local individuals from the film’s featured country. For complete listings of the films and events of this year’s festival, visit the The Official Web Site

Director Discussion

At 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, Mexican film director Rafael Rebollar Corona will present and discuss his film, "The Forgotten Root," which focuses on the rarely noted history of the African presence in Mexico. Corona’s Afro-Mexican trilogy, "The Forgotten Root," "From Florida to Coahuila," and his work-in-progress "Incursions into the Hills," will be shown at the symposium on the African legacy in Mexico and community conversation from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11.

In the afternoon the director and other experts in the field will speak on the Afro-Mexican identity, followed by a community conversation with local activists and audience members. Both events will be held in the new Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building auditorium (Room 104) at the Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth St.

"In fact, each of these communities is itself a complex mix, and, as these films reveal, there is a great deal of unacknowledged overlap between them," said Michael Dembrow, film festival committee co-chair. "With the help of director Rafael Rebollar Corona and other experts, the symposium will explore the history of this overlap and then the community conversation will allow us to bring the subject home to Portland."

Sundance Winner to Debut

The festival will open with the acclaimed Angolan film, "The Hero/O Heroi" directed by Zeze Gamboa on Friday, Feb. 3 at McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. There will be screenings at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. "The Hero" won the Grand Prize in World Dramatic Competition at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Family Film Day

Family Film Day will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, at McMenamins Kennedy School Theatre with two films by local directors set in Mali, "Welcome to Mali" and "Kofalen/The Gift Exchange," and a third film, "Coming to England," a BBC adaptation of Floella Benjamin’s popular children’s book about her journey as a young girl from Trinidad to Britain in the 1960s.

Another focus of the Festival will be "Remembering Rwanda." On February 16 Director Eric Kabera will introduce and discuss his film "Keepers of Memory," which focuses on the lives of survivors of the massacres of 1994.

Women Filmmakers Week

Women Filmmakers Week is March 2-4. Film director Sara Rachad will introduce and discuss her film "Tahara" at 7:30 pm. on Friday, March 3 in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building auditorium. The festival will close at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 4 with a second remarkable new film from Angola, "Hollow City," (7:30 p.m. in the Arts and Humanities Building) directed by Maria João Ganga.

"The Festival will again be a mix of hard-hitting documentary and powerful, deeply-moving human stories from all over the African continent," said Dembrow. "We’re especially pleased to be able to open the Festival and close the Festival with films from Angolaone by a man and the second by a woman. For a country struggling to recover from the after-effects of a long civil war, it’s remarkable that Angola should be able to produce films of this caliber. We are proud to share them with the public."

A Rare Gem

The African film festival has featured more than 160 films and hosted 11 filmmakers since its inception. Starting in 1991, the Cascade Festival of African Films has been organized and run by volunteers, bringing African films and culture to Portland for 16 years. Sponsors include Portland Community College, Portland State University Black Studies, Washington State University in Vancouver, Willamette University, Oregon Cultural Trust, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, HBO Films, Albina Community Bank, Providence Health System, Tektronix, Inc., Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, Swahili Imports, McMenamins Kennedy School, Hollywood Theatre, KBOO Community Radio, and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

For complete information about the festival, please call 503-244-6111, extension 3630.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »