African Diaspora Film Festival comes to area


It’s the longest running film festival of its kind. For 20 years, the African Diaspora International Film Festival has taken New York by storm. Over the past six years, Washington, D.C., has also played host to the three-day event, which highlights urban, classic, independent and foreign films from filmmakers of color.

The festival, the 7th annual for Washington, begins Friday, August 16, 2013 at the Goethe Institute on Seventh Street in the nation’s capital.

Festival goers can explore the diverse experiences of people of African descent all over the world and the seven films presented at the event promise to provide audiences with an in depth view not only of cities like Atlanta and New Orleans, but eight different countries, including Senegal, Ethiopia, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Tanzania, South Africa and Kenya.


Courtesy photo

“The Pirogue” is a drama about a group of people who set sail to Europe facing the sea and the risk of death for the possibility of a better life.

“The festival has been a labor of love for us,” said co-founder, Diarah N’Daw-Spech. For me, personally, it has also been an education. Being exposed to all these films and stories from all these countries for over 20 years has really expanded my world view and given me a chance to better appreciate how much we all really face similar challenges and strive for the same things: stability, love, security.”

Founded in 1992 by N’Daw-Spech and her husband, Reinaldo Barroso-Spech, the African Diaspora Film Festival highlights themes related to history, politics, social problems and culture. The subplots of those themes include current affairs, migration, refugees, war, po verty, discrimination, music, dance and food.

“We wish to expose the audience to the diversity of people of color,” said Reinaldo Barroso-Spech, a former public school teacher in New York who now instructs at Columbia University. The festival is based on the writings of Barroso-Spech.

“The revealing nature of art is very important to us,” he said. “So, although we are not very well funded, we are tenacious because we want to get our message across.”

The opening night film, “African Independence,” counts as a riveting, award-winning, feature-length documentary written, directed and produced by scholar, filmmaker and PBS “History Detectives” host, Professor Tukufu Zuberi. The film retraces the history of the independence movement throughout Africa using archival footage as well as interviews with such personalities as President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia; the Honorable Samia Yaaba Nkrumah, daughter of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president; President F.W. de Klerk of South Africa and many others.

The screening is preceded by an opening night reception at 6 p.m. on Friday, August 16 and will be followed by a question and answer session with

Zuberi. The opening festivities will be followed by the Washington, D.C., premiere of the award winning film from Senegal, “The Pirogue,” by Moussa Toure.

“The Pirogue,” is a drama that sees a group of 30 men and a woman sail to Europe in a pirogue, facing the sea and the possibility of never reaching their destination in exchange for the myth of a better life in Europe.

“A lot of these films completely challenge one’s false perception and ideas about other cultures and peoples,” N’Daw-Spech said. “For example, the film, ‘Nishan,’ offers a very modern perspective of Ethiopia. It takes place in a middle class environment, and will

enable the audience to better understand the realities of the large Ethiopian population living in D.C.”

The film, “African Independence,” is a fascinating history lesson and offers a deep analysis of the African continent today, N’Daw-Spech said. “These and the other films in the festival all bring about better understanding about who we are as a group of people in Africa and its Diaspora.”

Tickets for the film festival range from $12 per screening to $60 for an all-access pass. For a complete list and schedule of all the films or to purchase tickets in advance, visit: or call: 212-864-1760.