Sunday, November 18, 2007

2 films on contemporary Islamic life in the U.S.A.,December 13

The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival Underground Railroad Film Series presents two films about aspects of contemporary Muslim-American life: COVERED GIRLS and ISLAM BEHIND BARS

7:00 P.M. Thursday, December 13 at Central Cinema - $5.00

1411 21st Avenue, Seattle 98122 / (206) 328-3230 / For show information & updates, call the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival phone info line: (206)326-1088

Covered Girls

A film by Janet McIntyre and Amy Wendel. 22 min.

Muslim-American girls are lively and full of fun -- despite wearing the traditional 'hijab'. How do they fare after 9/11?

Have you ever seen Muslim-American high school girls in full-length dresses and traditional hijabs (head scarves) playing full-court basketball? Prior to 9/11, the average Westerner had little more than one-dimensional views of Islam and Muslim women. Covered Girls opens a window into the lives of a colorful and startling group of Muslim-American teenage girls in New York and challenges the stereotypes many Americans may have about this culture.

The film documents the daily experience of Kiren who coaches her high school basketball team, Amnah who has a black belt in Karate, and Tavasha who is cutting a CD of original rap songs. Their traditional clothing allows them to understand prejudices and to speak out about their faith, especially after 9/11, when people spat upon, pushed and threatened them. They are quite happy that their dress allows men to look at them as people instead of as sex objects. The film follows the girls from a Harlem recording studio to a Brooklyn mosque, revealing typical teenagers suddenly caught in a tug-of-war between religious extremism and the American dream.

"Excellent Outreach tool" - Middle East Studies Association

"By depicting the girls in their full-length dresses and hijabs behaving just like teens in western clothing, the film gently reminds us to observe the adage about not judging a book by its cover. The voices we hear are casual, straightforward and heartfelt The background rap music fits well into the black and white urban scene. This short film is an excellent choice for a discussion about bigotry amongst teenagers. Recommended'

Homa Naficy, Hartford Public Library, Hartford, CT for EMRO

National Women's Studies Association, 2004
Best Short Documentary, Nashville Independent Film Festival, 2003
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, 2003
Official Selection, Walker Art Center's Women with Vision Film Festival, 2003
Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, 2003

Islam Behind Bars

Written and Directed by John Curtin & Paul Carvalho
Produced by Kaos Productions Inc. 58 min.

No religion is growing faster in Western prisons than Islam. In the United States alone, there are more than 200,000 Muslim inmates. They are mainly Black converts searching for an alternative to Christianity, which many reject as the slave-master's faith. Islam Behind Bars takes an unflinching look at the disruptive power of poisonous religious demagoguery, but also leaves the viewer with a better understanding of an intriguing new fact of the Black experience in the West.

The prisoners follow a path first made famous by Malcolm X, who went to jail for pimping and petty theft and came out a fiery Muslim preacher. He had discovered a strict religion which could bring discipline and dignity to men whose lives had been devastated by violence and drugs.

In the aftermath of September 11th, authorities fear that terrorist organizations may recruit Muslim prison converts to attack the West. Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” was probably recruited while in a British prison. The film shows that there are some imprisoned Muslims who find peace and a respect for all of God’s creations in their new faith, and others who direct their anger at the West.

For show information & updates, call the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival phone info line: (206)326-1088

Thursday, November 8, 2007


The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival Underground Railroad Film Series presents
56 minutes, 2007, Nigeria. Producer: Franco Sacchi and Robert Caputo
Friday, November 16, 2007 at the Harry Thomas Community Center at Lee House in the New Holly neighborhood, South Seattle, 7315 – 39th Avenue South . $5.00 suggested donation . Street parking is available. There may also be free after-hours parking in the health center parking lot.

First came Hollywood, then Bollywood and now Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming film industry, which released 2000 feature features in 2006 alone. Where else can you shoot a full-length dramatic film for $10,000 in 7 days? Until recently little known outside its own country, THIS IS NOLLYWOOD explains why Nigerian video production is becoming recognized as a phenomenon with broad implications for the cultural and economic development of Africa.

The industry is wholly self-sustaining, receiving no foreign or government assistance. Directors of these films are proud to admit that their intended audience is the average Nigerian not international film festivals. There are an amazing 55,000,000 video players in Nigeria reaching 90% of the population.

Before the rise of Nollywood, Nigerians saw mostly American Westerns, Hong Kong Kung Fu movies and Bollywood musicals. In contrast, Nollywood appeals to a hunger for indigenous stories with characters and situations audiences can easily relate to. The popularity of these films has spread across English-speaking Africa and their stars have become celebrities from Zambia to Ghana. Nollywood also provides a vital, constantly up-dated link between the vast Nigerian diaspora and their home culture. Thousands of Nigerian films are already available to immigrants to the United States both on DVD and over the internet.

The Nollywood phenomenon is doubtless an expression of the resourcefulness and vigor of Nigerian society. But it also raises questions about the potential social impact of commercial cinema, especially in the developing world. Does Nollywood in fact depict daily Nigerian life any more accurately or incisively than Hollywood portrays American society? Does it dare expose the kleptocracy which for forty years has kept its citizens impoverished by pocketing the nation’s immense oil wealth? As for cultural preservation, Nollywood narratives seem more influenced by international genres like the action thriller and the soap opera than Yoruba drama or Ibo folk tales. Can we reasonably hope that a cinematic Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka will emerge out of the frenetic deal-making of Lagos? Superstar Saint Obi optimistically predicts that “I believe very soon we are not only going to have better movies, we’ll have that original Nigerian movie.” For the time being, hard-pressed Nigerians are at least getting their own version of the vicarious excitement and undemanding escapism, which have become the prime commodities of the Information Age. For us, these films may give clearer insights into the apprehensions and aspirations of the average Nigerian than any documentary or political drama.

This documentary film is a partial but intensely focused image from a dense picture—the current cinematic phenomenon in Nigeria which its title proclaims. With an admirable sense of humor, it captures the gritty and confounding optimism that keeps Nigeria going, against all rational expectations. In its innovative approach to narrative and the contingencies of production characteristic of the industry, This is Nollywood becomes the drama it seeks to document, without losing direction.

Akin Adesokan, Indiana University

This is Nollywood captures the problems and dynamism of making movies in Nigeria while giving a vibrant introduction to this fast growing movie industry. Dealing with rainstorms, missing stars, and power cuts, we see the pressure on Nigerian moviemakers and the guerilla filmmaking they have invented to cope. As the director Bond Emeruwa says, “In Nollywood we don’t count the walls, we have learned ways to climb them”.

Brian Larkin, Barnard College; Columbia University