By Roger Costa
THORNS OF SAHEL
Burkinabe director Boubakar Diallo’s immersive and compelling drama follows a nurse as she’s sent to aid for displaced people in a camp surronded by the horrors of jihadists. There she longs to be reunited with her estranged brother, whose separation was caused by terrorism. But as she learns that he has gone to the other side of the political battle, she has to navigate a moral challenge as difficult as it is to survive amidst such circumstances. Director Diallo conducts the material with urgency and empathy, crafting an accurate account of the turbulence of warzone, as well as an inspiring portrait of compassion.
Anchored by a strong, hypnotic performance by its leading female actress, Gina Castel, this disturbingly dark and remarkable drama is an efficient account on the prejudice and obstacles faced by contemporary Nigerian women. Director Ema Edosio Deelen’s masterly crafted feminist saga introduces us to one of the most courageous female characters in recent African cinema, Otiti as she leaves her abusive partner in order to locate her estranged father, who has abandoned her while a child. Despite this sort of familiar tragedy, she is able to console herself and forgives him seeking to care for him as he lies sick in bed. It turns out the father hasn’t been a good figure for his other children either. His sons attempt to get rid of him as soon as possible, debating details on the inheritance. She is a witness to the disturbing process and tries to make ammends with the past and whatever the future holds. A poignant, suspenseful and unpredictable character study that reveals the stylish talent of its director, and the impressive dramatic skills of its leading lady. Bravo!
Taking place during the war of independence between Portuguese colonial army and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea, this crowd-pleasing historical drama directed by Sana Na N’Hada and written by Virgílio Almeida and Olivier Marboeuf is a wonderful example of the vibrant cinema emerging from Guinea-Bissau. There’s an incredible sense of need for expression, representation and recognition that echoes universally. It follows the attempts of Nome, a young man, in proving he can do better at life, pursuing a love interest and joining the fight. That only shapes him into a different man, carried by fear, ambition and cynicism. Beautifully reconstructed, convincingly performed and adventurous, the result is a vigorous, magical and fresh take on the revolutionary power of storytelling.
(The New York African Diaspora International Film Festival runs November 24-December 10 at Cinema Village, Columbia University, AMC Harlem, and others, as well as available virtually. Go to https://adiddnyc.eventive.org/films for details.)