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Spotlight Africa Program to Offer a Spectacular Showcase of New Voices

CHICAGO, IL (September 17, 2013) - As part of a three-year grant from the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the 49th Chicago International Film Festival presents its Spotlight Africa Program, the third year of the World Cinema Spotlight Program. The Program highlights the exciting and diverse range of contemporary filmmaking from across the African continent and features innovative works and exciting new voices from Algeria, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

“The Spotlight Africa program provides an amazing opportunity to explore contemporary filmmaking across Africa. The cinematic cultures represented are as varied and impressive as the continent is grand. While the films in the program are diverse in terms of theme and style, they are fully engaged with social, political, and moral questions and all share a strong sense of story matched by a singularly unique visual style,” said Programming Director of the 49th Chicago International Film Festival Mimi Plauché. “We are thrilled to be presenting our Spotlight Africa Program and to be a part of the Academy’s commitment to providing expanded access to outstanding international cinema.”

“The International Spotlight program has done a tremendous job in exposing audiences to films from all over the world, and this year’s focus on African cinema should be spectacular,” said Shawn Guthrie, Grants Coordinator at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “The Academy is both excited and gratified to partner with the Chicago International Film Festival for the third consecutive year on this important international work.”  

Films will be shown at the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St) to Chicago Public High School students through the Festival’s Education Outreach program, and at two “community outreach screenings at the Harper Theater (5238 S. Harper) on Sunday, October 13, and The Logan Theater (2646 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on Sunday, October 20. Parallel programs, including a series of discussions, panels and a music video event, will complement the films by illuminating the cultural contexts, filmmaking cultures and artistic visions and experiences of the individual filmmakers. The full program can be found at the end of this release.

Spotlight Africa is part of the Chicago International Film Festival’s World Cinema Spotlight program, which furthers the Chicago International Film Festival’s mission of exhibiting world-class international and independent film to Festival audiences by presenting films in contexts that foster discussion and understanding. Each region showcased by the program (South Asia, 2011; the Middle East, 2012; and Africa, 2013) is producing films marked by artistic excellence and a diversity of perspectives. The Chicago International Film Festival was one of the first non-profit cultural and educational film institutions to receive a major grant from the Academy Foundation in 1999, along with The New York and Telluride Film Festivals.

The 49th Chicago International Film Festival runs October 10- 24.

Spotlight Africa Screenings

The Battle of Tabatô Guinea-Bissau/Portugal (Director: João Viana) - After years of European exile, Imatur returns to his native village of Tabatô to attend his daughter’s wedding, his head still saturated with horrific visions of a war he fought long ago. When tragedy strikes on the road to Tabatô, the entire village must come together in this entrancing, surreal film that blends music and magic with the lingering effects of Guinea-Bisseau’s history. US Premiere.

Black South-Easter South Africa (Director: Carey McKenzie) - When a body washes up on a Cape Town beach, ambitious township cop Sizwe seizes the opportunity to prove himself and earn the promotion he desperately needs. But when the investigation leads him to a black market smuggling ring, Sizwe is caught in the middle of a deadly power play orchestrated by an old friend. With no one left to trust, Sizwe must take the law into his own hands in this gritty crime drama. World Premiere.

Burn It Up Djassa Ivory Coast/France (Director: Lonesome Solo) - Shot on a miniscule budget but positively bursting with style and energy, this hugely inventive DIY crime thriller follows Tony, a young cigarette seller in an Abidjan ghetto. Ignoring the pleas of his policeman brother to stay on the right side of the law, Tony gets increasingly mixed up in local gambling and criminal activities until a moment of violence puts him on the run from the law. Chicago Premiere

Comrade President Zimbabwe (Director: Mosco Kamwendo) - An inspiring portrait of Mozambique’s founding president, Comrade President traces the life and legacy of revolutionary leader Samora Moisés Machel. At the forefront of a popular uprising, Machel helped establish a fledgling government and continued fighting for justice until his suspicious death in 1986. With candid interviews from those who knew Machel best - including his opponents - this documentary examines the indelible legacy of a revolutionary hero. US Premiere

Grigris Chad (Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun) - Despite a paralyzed leg that keeps him on the fringes of society, Grigris comes alive at the local nightclub, tearing up the dance floor every night. When a relative’s hospital bills start piling up, Grigris must turn to the black market for work. After double-crossing his new boss in a desperate attempt at fast money, Grigris finds himself on the run in this sensitive depiction of a desperate, marginalized man by one of Africa’s most celebrated directors. Chicago Premiere

Imbabazi: The Pardon Rwanda (Director: Joel Karekezi) - Best friends Manzi and Karemera find themselves on opposing sides in Rwanda’s ethnic civil war, with Tutsi Karemera’s family paying a horrific price for Manzi’s allegiance to his Hutu heritage. When Manzi is released from prison fifteen years later, his return re-opens old wounds. Filmmaker Joel Karekezi draws from his own experience as a survivor of Rwanda’s violence in creating this moving account of two former friends who must contend with the unimaginable horrors in their past. Chicago Premiere

Malak Morocco (Director: Abdeslam Kelai) - When 16-year-old Malak discovers that she’s pregnant, she quickly finds herself alone in a community that marginalizes and mistreats single mothers. Abandoned by the baby’s father, shunned by her family, and in dire need of cash, Malak is forced to take desperate measures. An elegantly-photographed portrait of a young woman’s struggles, Malak garnered major awards at Morocco’s National Film Festival, including the Jury Prize, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress for its young star Chaimae Ben Acha. US Premiere

Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom UK/South Africa (Director: Justin Chadwick) - Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education, and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild his country’s once segregated society. Idris Elba (Prometheus) stars as Nelson Mandela, and Naomie Harris (Skyfall) stars as Winnie Mandela, with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing. Chicago Premiere

Of Good Report South Africa (Director: Jahmil X. T. Qubeka) - This modern day film noir tracks Parker, a shy high school teacher arriving at a new school. While he is earnest in his passion for teaching, his extra-curricular attentions are drawn to a gorgeous young woman. When he realizes she is a student at his very school-and forbidden fruit-he grows increasingly obsessed. When the girl goes missing, a female detective comes snooping around, fueling Parker’s unstable, even dangerous, behavior as she gets closer to the shocking truth. US Premiere

Something Necessary Kenya/Germany (Director: Judy Kibinge) - Anne struggles to rebuild her life after Kenya’s civil unrest has killed her husband, gravely injured her son, and left her isolated farm in ruins. Joseph, a quiet and troubled young gang member who took part in the countrywide violence, is drawn to Anne and her farm, seemingly in search of connection and redemption. This powerful story of forgiveness and reconciliation presents an intimate look at the aftermath of violence on both perpetrators and victims. US Premiere

Die Welt Netherlands/Tunisia (Director: Alex Pitstra) - In the summer of 2011, Tunisia is finally free of its dictatorial shackles, but 23-year-old Abdallah is still a slave to his mundane life, dreaming of an escape to Europe -or “die Welt”- to fulfill his dormant ambitions. Following a chance encounter with Dutch tourist Anna, Abdallah’s passion to reach the other side of the Mediterranean burns brighter than ever before, prompting a desperate gamble for escape in this at turns comic and heartbreaking story. Chicago Premiere

Yema Algeria (Director: Djamila Sahraoui) - In an isolated house on a drought-stricken mountainside, Ouardia must bury the body of her son Tarik, a victim of the civil conflict waging between the government and the fundamentalists. She suspects her other son, Ali, a mujahedeen fighter, has had a hand in the killing. And their mutual distrust is evidenced in the young soldier that Ali has sent to guard her. Beautifully capturing the expansive Algerian countryside this minimalist tale of a single family’s tragedy takes on mythic proportions. Chicago Premiere

Shorts 5 Spotlight Africa - From Earth’s Center - These award-winning African short films tell us stories rich with sympathy and symbolism, hailing from across the continent and beyond.

A Ghanaian family, lost in America, travels to a Louisiana church to find a cure for its problem child in Boneshaker (USA). A majestic drag queen descends into a breakdown in Nairobi’s iconic central station in Fluorescent Sin (Kenya). When two best friends photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea, their small town blossoms into a tourist hot spot in Jonah (Tanzania/UK). In a township divided by an age-old feud, a boy falls in love with a girl from the other side of town in KanyeKanye (South Africa). An old man is getting ready to go to an important meeting in Siggil (France/Senegal). When a small boy catches her with her lover, Fatine must pay a terrible price in The Curse (Morocco, UK). Yellow Fever (Kenya/UK) reflects on the effects that globalization is having on the African woman's understanding of beauty.

Spotlight Africa Panels and Free Events

Meet the Filmmakers (Sunday, October 13, 1 pm) - Don’t miss this opportunity to meet filmmakers visiting the Festival as part of our Spotlight Africa program. The informal get together will take place at Black Cinema House, 6901 S. Dorchester Ave.

Producers Without Borders (Sunday, October 20, 12 pm) - Many of the films, both features and shorts, in this year’s Spotlight Africa program are co-productions. Through the experiences of our visiting African filmmakers, we look at how creative co-producing can enhance Africa’s increasingly vibrant and diverse filmmaking culture, and what can be done to strengthen and support these important international film industry connections. This is a FREE event; tickets must be obtained from box office at the AMC River East 21 Theater. 

Spotlight Africa is partially underwritten by Richard Ehrie.

Festival Passes and Theater Information
Festival Passes are on sale now. Pass options include:

Moviegoer (10 regular admissions): $95 for Cinema/Chicago members, $125 for non-members.
Passport (20 regular admissions): $180 for Cinema/Chicago members, $240 for non-members

Passes can be purchased online at


Individual tickets will be available to Cinema/Chicago members on September 18-20. General public tickets will be on sale starting September 21. Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster; by phone at 312-332-FILM (3456); or by visiting the Festival box office at AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.) or at the Cinema/Chicago office (30 E. Adams, Suite 800).

Festival screenings will be held at the AMC River East 21 Theater (322 E. Illinois St.).

Festival Sponsors

Led by Presenting Partner Columbia College Chicago, the 49th Chicago International Film Festival's sponsors include: Official Airline - American Airlines; Headquarters Hotel - JW Marriott Chicago; Producing Partners: AMC Theaters, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Major Partner: Intersites; Supporting Partners: DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media, Stella Artois, Effen Vodka, WBBM Newsradio 105.9, Cultivate Studios; Participating Partners: State Farm, AARP, Tres Generaciones®, Comcast, Allstate, Spotlight Cinema Networks, Casale del Giglio, Second City Computers, Shutterbox Entertainment, Gibson’s Restaurant Group, Creative Technology.

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About Cinema/Chicago

Cinema/Chicago is a not-for-profit cultural and educational organization dedicated to encouraging better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image. The Chicago International Film Festival is part of the year-round programs presented by Cinema/Chicago, which also include the International Screenings Program (May-September), the Chicago International Television Competition (April), CineYouth Festival (May), Intercom Competition (October) and year-round Education Outreach and Member Screenings Program.