Rewind: Highlights from the 21st Annual Cascade Festival of African Films

Opening Night : Djimet Dogo
(photo: Bob Holmstrom)

A Screaming Man opened the 21stAnnual Cascade Festival of African Films (CFAF) at the Hollywood Theatre, filling the theater to capacity. The evening started with an invigorating and rhythmic performance by Mounafanyi, a percussion and dance ensemble led by master drummer Kerfala Bangoura of Guinea. CFAF had hoped to have Chadian director Mahamet-Saleh Haroun on hand to introduce his film and launch the festival, but Mr. Haroun was unfortunately unable to secure a visa for travel to the U.S. In his place, local Chadian Djimet Dogo, Africa House program coordinator, served as the after-film speaker, helping expand festival goers’ knowledge of Chad and the political and cultural context of the film.

Cambria Matlow
(photo: Bob Holmstrom)

Director Cambria Matlow’s visit was a smash hit. Her award-winning documentary, Burning in the Sun, focused on a young man who starts a solar energy business in Mali, West Africa. Made after Ms. Matlow’s first year in film school, Burning in the Sunwas well received, prompting an enthusiastic  after-film discussion with audience members, including several sustainable energy advocates.

Demetrius Wren
(photo: Bob Holmstrom)

On February 24, weather forecasts predicted snow and ice, causing Portland Community College (PCC) to close the campus in the early afternoon. Demetrius Wren, director of that evening’s film, Streetball, had already arrived in Portland, escaping the snowstorm in New York City.  To ensure that the screening took place as scheduled, interim CFAF Coordinator Allison Mobley worked closely with the President’s Office at PCC and PCC Public Safety officers in an unprecedented move to keep Moriarty Auditorium open. Thankfully, the snow did not materialize and the audience braved the cold in record numbers to enjoy the movie, a documentary following homeless street soccer players from Capetown, South Africa, who played in the 2004 Homeless World Cup. Many also stuck around for the after-film discussion with Mr. Wren.  CFAF was especially delighted that members of the University of Portland women’s soccer team and the OutsideIn homeless soccer team could attend, providing a welcome local connection.

Our centerpiece film, The Athlete, earned another capacity crowd thanks to its truly inspiring story. From Ethiopia, the film profiled the great Ethiopian marathon runner, Abebe Bikila, the first black African Olympic gold medalist, who, despite becoming a quadriplegic, went on to enjoy considerable success in other sports.

Baba Wagué Diakité awards a prize book to a lucky raffle winner
(photo: Bob Holmstrom)

Family Film Day marked the festival’s day of entertainment for kids of all ages. Prior to the film screening, artist/storyteller Baba Wagué Diakité of Mali continued his tradition of introducing the film with an engaging tale from West Africa. The theater was packed with excited families and neither Baba Wagué nor the film, White Lion, disappointed. The film, the first production entirely about lions, starred real lions from South Africa.

The festival ended as it does each year with Women Filmmakers Week. The 21st annual festival highlighted documentaries and feature films made by women from Ghana, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, and Uganda.

Closing night found Moriarty Auditorium at capacity once again, with additional crowds nearly filling the overflow theater in Terrell Hall 104 as well. After raffle tickets were drawn and winners announced, audiences enjoyed the final film of the festival, White Wedding. The popular South African road film explores more than just wedding planning, also having much to say about friendships, traditions, honesty, and love.