Like my quest to read more books by non-western writers, I think it is important to watch more films by non-western filmmakers. It is helpful to all of us to have multiple perspectives and voices that we can use as tools to understand the world. That said, these films are surely different from western films not only in the types of stories that are told but also in presentation. Yet I feel it is important to not always expect the same formulaic entertainment that Hollywood often delivers, but instead to look at films as art, which has many forms and iterations.
Here are my picks from this year’s Cascade Festival of African Films in Portland. Oh, and did I mention that it is free?
1. State of Violence (South Africa) – A township boy turned business elite seeks his wife’s killer when the police investigation is moving too slowly for his liking. When he discovers the killer, he must face a secret from his past as an anti-apartheid revolutionary. Thursday, Feb. 23, at 12 p.m. and Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at Portland Community College Cascade Campus, 705 N Killingsworth St., Portland, in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104.
2. Restless City (Nigeria/USA) – Director Andrew Dosunmu, who was born and raised in Nigeria, sets out to tell the story of the West African immigrant community in New York City. This feature film follows a Senegalese who dreams of being a musician but instead sells CDs on the street. When he falls in love with a prostitute, things become complicated. (This one already screened, but I thought it was worth mentioning as one to look for).
3. Seasons of a Life (Malawi) – The plot of this film looks pretty moving. When a man impregnates his housekeeper, he agrees to give her financial support if she will keep it a secret that he is the father. She uses the money to gain an education and puts the child into an orphanage, where he is soon adopted back to her former employer and his wife. Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 at Portland Community College Cascade Campus, 705 N Killingsworth St., Portland, in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104.
4. Tinga Tinga Tales (Kenya/UK) – Since I have a little one, I couldn’t help but notice what is playing on Family Film Day. Tinga Tinga Tales, which air on both the BBC and the Disney Channel, are traditional African folklore that explain oddities about animals that every curious 5 year old wants to know. Why do frogs croak? Why crocodiles have bumps? The series is named for the late artist Tanzanian Edward Saidi Tingatinga’s work. Saturday, Feb. 25, at McMenamin’s Kennedy School Theatre, 5736 NE 33rd Ave., Portland.
5. Hopeville (South Africa) – A father, who has been estranged from his son, moves with him from the big city to a small town. Wanting to build their relationship, the father sets out on a mission to restore the public pool so his son can pursue a swimming career. He is met with resistance from the townspeople, who unlike their town’s name are not so hopeful. Thursday, Feb. 16, at 1:45 and Saturday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Portland Community College Cascade Campus, 705 N Killingsworth St., Portland, in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104.