For four nights starting today, Monday February 24th, BAMcinématek presents a series of John Akomfrah’s films from the Black Audio Film Collective – a pioneering group of seven British-based artists and thinkers who produced an extraordinary body of poetic, allusive, and intensely personal films, videos and “slide-tape texts” that chronicled England’s multicultural past while addressing issues of Black British identity.  They alternatively developed media forms appropriate to this subject matter that presented and pushed the definitions of what most thought documentary films to be.

Akomfrah, a co-founder of the BAFC, premiered his latest documentary The Stuart Hall Project at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off this series.  Making this even more poignant, Stuart Hall, one of the most influential and esteemed cultural theorists of a generation, recently passed away on February 10th. The Stuart Hall Project takes viewers on a winding ride through the struggles and key turning points of the global political and cultural changes of the 20th century as told through Hall’s thoughts and words using new interviews and materials, archival footage and television program excerpts, home movies, and family photographs – all accentuated through Miles Davis’ music.

The Black Audio Film Collective series also includes Akomfrah’s Seven Songs for Malcolm X documentary on the slain civil rights leader, the critically acclaimed experimental documentary Handsworth Songs, which explores race and social unrest in ’80s Britain highlighting how Blacks can be marginalized by the practices and ideology of mainstream media, and Who Needs A Heart, which explores the emergence of Black Power in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.

Also of note this week is the 3rd annual Cinema Tropical Festival.

Celebrating the best of Latin American film as selected through this year’s Cinema Tropical Awards, the winning films represent the vitality and the artistic excellence of contemporary Latin American cinema, and the festival offers a great platform for local audiences to discover the renewed and exciting world of the film production coming out from the region.

With many great films to chose from, of special note are:

Carlos Reygadas’ heralded autobiographical film is the story of an upscale urban family who move to the Mexican countryside where they enjoy and suffer a world apart from the life they knew, not knowing if these two worlds are complementary or if they strive to eliminate one another.  Reygadas (full disclosure:  he is one of my Top 5 filmmakers) won the Best Director prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for this film.


EL ALCADE (The Mayor)
Winner of the Best Documentary prize at the Cartagena and the Baja Film Festivals, El alcalde is an engrossing portrait of Mexican millionaire Mauricio Fernandez, a larger-than-life and frequently controversial politician who is the mayor of Latin America’s wealthiest municipality. He presents himself as an active ruler who is capable of cleaning his municipality of the drug cartels presence without questioning the methods he uses to achieve it. El alcalde describes the wild times of a country that is marked by violence and the complete discredit of the ruling class.


The 3rd annual Cinema Tropical Festival takes place at Village East Cinemas in New York City.  See the rest of the line up at Cinema Tropical’s website, where you can also learn more about this long-standing and influential film organization.


Related Notes:

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