The person who first came up with the idea of starting the African film festival was Linda Elegant, writing and literature instructor at PCC Cascade. In the spring of 1990, Linda approached her colleague, Mary Holmström, about starting an African film festival. Mary was a native of South Africa who had begun teaching African Literature at the Cascade Campus in 1989 and was in the process of procuring African films to complement the African novels and plays she was teaching, having realized her students had western images in their heads instead of realistic pictures of Africa. She responded to Linda’s proposal with an enthusiastic yes. Linda then set about recruiting Michael Dembrow, who taught a course in Film as Literature and had met and interviewed the great Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene during his graduate school days, and Joseph Smith-Buani, who was from Sierra Leone and was a math tutor in the Cascade Alternative Learning Center where Linda also worked. Belva Seaberry, director of the Alternative Learning Center, provided advice, support and encouragement, while “A/V Bill” Phillips provided audio/visual assistance.
In the early years of the festival, Linda was the festival coordinator, Mary was the film programmer, Michael wrote the film notes, and Joseph was the evening host. In 1998 Dr. Mildred Ollée, dean of the Cascade Campus, recruited Linda to work on the newly proposed Community History Center. Shortly after that, Mary took on the film festival coordinating work in addition to doing the film programming.
Ronna Neuenschwander was the festival’s first after-film speaker for the Malian film Yeelen, as her husband, Baba Wagué Diakité, was visiting his family in Mali at the time. Shortly thereafter, Ronna and Wagué became the first community members to join the CFAF Committee.
Since its inception in 1991, CFAF has been held in February in celebration of Black History Month at Portland Community College. When the Cascade Festival of African Films began in 1991, the Portland International Film Festival was held in March. In subsequent years, PIFF moved into February.
The festival is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Because seating is limited, come early to get a seat.
Most of the films we show at CFAF are not rated and are not suitable for children. However, we always hold an annual Family Film Day event with storytelling and films suitable for children 5 years of age and up. Our occasional StudentFest films are geared toward mature middle school, high school, and college-aged students.
Yes, there are more than 200 films in DVD and VHS format in the African Film Festival Collection at the PCC Library. To see what is available, click on the “Resources” button and then on “Filmography.” The films with asterisks* are available in the PCC Library.
You do not have to be a PCC student to check out these titles. The films can be borrowed for seven days and can be renewed once. You can borrow up to seven films at a time. The PCC Library issues guest cards to residents of Multnomah and Washington counties. To get a guest card, all you need is a state-issued ID with a current address. For more information, go to www.pcc.edu/library/catalog/guest_cards.html.
If you live outside these counties, you can either use your library’s Inter-Library Loan service or you can visit the Cascade campus and watch films in the library.
Please note that these films are for home-viewing only. Copyright restrictions prohibit public screenings of these films even if no admission is charged.