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to Dec. 11
Though the films of Iran and Afghanistan have made inroads into American arthouses, African cinema is too often missing in action. Even selecting “African” films presents huge curatorial hurdles—how to represent 50-plus countries and countless languages with a handful of movies? Including efforts from Kenya, Mozambique, and Mali, the AFI’s “New African Films Festival” does its best to give everyone their due. The apartheid themed Drum does feature Day Break hunk Taye Diggs, but the festival’s diverse offerings are mercifully free of explicit Hollywood connections and focus on untold stories; the four North African soldiers battling Nazis on behalf of their French colonizers in Rachid Bouchareb’s Indigènes (aka Days of Glory, pictured) probably never found their way into your history textbook. Most notable is the inclusion of Abeni, from Nigerian director Tunde Kelani. The film comes from a nation that has seen no shortage of violence, but its simple cross-class love story—absent a short detour into a bleak prison—does not address AIDS, genocide, famine, or any of the other Big Issues the West usually files under “white man’s burden.” Featuring twisted musical sequences and bizarre characterizations of Americanized Africans, Abeni crosses Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts romantic comedy with Bollywood, with nods to Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice along the way. Kenali has stumbled on the first step in “saving” Africa—the recognition that its diverse peoples are more than candidates for U.N. stewardship but human beings who love, lose, and love again. The series runs to Monday, Dec. 11, at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $9.25. (301) 495-6700. (Justin Moyer)