University of Rochester

EVENT: African Video Series Develops Diaspora Theme in Three Showings

February 1, 2006

The Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester will offer three films this semester free of charge to both the University and the Greater Rochester communities in its Africa Video Series. The films, all highly regarded by the international film community but largely unknown to American audiences, will concentrate on the theme of "Coming of Age in Diaspora."

Each of the films examines what it means for children of the African Diaspora to come of age in the wake of French colonialism, and in societies that continue to be structured by racial, political, economic, and gender oppression. All films will be shown in their original language, with English subtitles. Each feature will be presented at 5 p.m. in room 314 of Morey Hall on the University's River Campus.

The series opens today at the start of Black History Month with Euzhan Palcy's celebrated 1983 film, Sugar Cane Alley (color, 103 minutes), which takes place in 1930s Martinique. It tells the story of Jose, an 11-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother, a determined woman who has spent a lifetime toiling in Martinique's sugar cane fields. Although slavery ended on the island in 1848, its legacies are powerfully evident almost 100 years later: the slum shacks, abusive overseers, and hours of work in the hot sun for meager wages.

On Wednesday, March 1, at 5 p.m., the series continues with Mathieu Kasiovitz's La Haine (The Hate) from 1995 (color, 96 minutes), which details a riot and tension-filled night in the lives of three French teenagers from the Parisian suburbs—one African, one Middle-Eastern, and one Jewish. Provocative when it was originally released, La Haine is even more poignant in the wake of the November uprisings across France that expressed the frustration, anger, and alienation of Diaspora youth.

And finally, on Wednesday, March 29, the series will conclude at 5 p.m. with two short films from Senegal, Picc Mi (director Mansour Sora Wade, color, 20 minutes) and The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (director Djibril Diop Mambety, black and white, 45 minutes), which use different cinematic techniques to express the struggles of children in postcolonial Africa. These shorts offer an important gender critique of the role of girls and women in an era of increased globalization.

The "coming-of-age film" has a special political resonance in postcolonial countries terminally burdened with the status of "developing nations" within the Western-driven global economy, says Jennifer Stoever, the curator of the series and a predoctoral fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute. "In light of these issues, the spring video series invites audiences to consider why this theme is so frequently found in African cinema. What symbolic and cultural themes do these filmmakers develop? What issues do they explore?"

Each screening will begin with a brief introduction by Stoever and will be followed by a discussion about issues raised in the film.

For more information, contact Stoever at (585) 273-3804 or