Lupita Nyong’o’s 10 Favorite Books
Lupita Nyong’o. Photo: Vulture and Getty Images
Bookseller One Grand Books has asked celebrities to name the ten titles they’d take to a desert island, and it’s shared the results with Vulture. Below is actor and children’s book author Lupita Nyong’o’s list.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The book I have read the most times. I love the decadent melancholy of it. I also love the delicate relationship between Gatsby and his unrequited love, Daisy. My favorite sentence from the book is when Daisy says, “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? And the day after that, and the next thirty years?” Now that is restlessness and privilege if I ever heard it!
$17 at One Grand Books
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is a dramatic romance and a coming-of-age story, a class narrative, and a comedy of manners. I first read it in 2013, and I was struck with how exactly I related to Adichie’s depiction of the contemporary African immigrant experience. She captures it, expresses it, analyzes it, and celebrates it. It’s a story begging to be experienced visually.
$16 at One Grand Books
An Exaltation of Larks, James Lipton
A book on collective nouns that I read from often, and I wish more people knew about it. I am madly in love with collective nouns! They make language so colorful and ticklish. I love throwing them into casual conversation.
$20 at One Grand Books
Not Quite Narwhal, Jessie Sima
I love the whimsy of both the story and the illustration. It’s a story about being the odd one out, adoption, and belonging, and it tells it so gently and sweetly.
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South Africa: New Books | Our Words, Our Worlds
In this short interview, poet Makhosazana Xaba speaks to fellow writer Natalia Molebatsi about dance as a metaphor for freedom and about how women can finally voice their truth.
This is an excerpt from Our Words, Our Worlds: Writing on Black South African Women Poets, 2000-2018 edited by Makhosazana Xaba (UKZN Press, 2019). This interview first appeared in the South African Labour Bulletin 33, no 5 (December 2009/January 2010), pp. 65-66.
Makhosazana Xaba (MX): Congratulations on your debut collection Sardo Dance. You dedicated the title poem to Silvana – who is she and why is it the title of your book?
Natalia Molebatsi (NM): Sardinia is well known for its beauty geography-wise, as well as the hospitality of her people, and its dancing. So I asked a woman, Silvana – I was interested in this dancing, as it is done in a circle by men and women holding hands, which symbolises unity, as well as coming from death into rebirth. Silvana mentioned that she was forbidden to dance by her father. But she didn’t have any resentment because she watched her brothers dance. But I feel that this is the story of many women globally.
Dance in this way is used as a metaphor for freedom. When I submitted this collection to my editor, she read through the manuscript and said that Sardo Dance speaks to her the most, as it talks to every woman and every little forgotten or forbidden action or voice. Many women, when they take their lives and choices in their hands, are regarded as rebels or outcasts (and sometimes called bitches). They are made to feel they do not belong.
Dance is also used to go beyond borders. Sardinia as a location is at the middle of it all. It is an island outside of Italy, but it is outside many other countries that are close by, such as Tunisia and France. It is therefore used as a metaphor for an outsider, one who does not quite belong.
MX: When I read the poem, I could see Silvana in the eyes of many women. How would you describe your views on women?
NM: As an African, I know dance is vital in the lives of Africans, both men and women. In South Africa, song and dance were used as a means to shake the load of oppression off our muddy hands and sweaty palms. So I was shocked when Silvana told me she was not allowed to dance in her home by her own father. It also says to us as Africans that we need to dismiss the stereotype that African women are oppressed and non-African women are not, particularly those who live in Europe.
MX: Last year you compiled and edited a vibrant volume of poetry called We Are. What motivated this and how did you choose contributors?
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Caribbean Film Hero To Open LA’s 28th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival
CaribbeanTales Media Group, California Pictures and Imagine Media International announce the screening of their feature film HERO: Inspired by The Extraordinary Life and Times of Ulric Cross directed by Canadian-Caribbean filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon at the Opening Night of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) on Tuesday February 11 th, 2020 at the Directors Guild of America Theater, 7920 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.
“To be selected as the opening film for this prestigious festival is an honour,” says Solomon. “It’s a go-to event for Black Hollywood and to be recognized in this way by an audience of my peers is important to me as a Caribbean filmmaker of African descent.”
PAFF is the largest Black film festival in America with approximately 200 films from around the world and 100 fine artists participating in the largest Black History Month cultural event in the United States. The festival will be held from February 11 – February 23, 2020 at the Cinemark Rave 15 Theaters and the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live action and animation short films.
“We are very excited to screen HERO and share the triumphs and victories of Judge Ulric Cross and his Pan African brothers, which led to the creation of our modern world. It is truly an honour for me personally, as well as the Pan African Film Festival to present and create awareness about this great, important, enriching and entertaining story,” said Ayuko Babu, executive director of PAFF.
HERO is inspired by the extraordinary life and times of Trinidad and Tobago citizen, diplomat and judge Ulric Cross, the most decorated West Indian of World War II. He was a member of the highly decorated group of Caribbean pilots who flew combat missions for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) in World War II. After his service, Cross went on to play an active and important role in the Pan African Movement, which led to the creation of the 28 modern Caribbean and 54 modern African nations.
“I first had the opportunity to see Hero in London’s Piccadilly Circus and was captivated by the depth and flavors of Ulric Cross’ life,” says Steven Istock of California Pictures. “I immediately knew I wanted to be involved in helping spread awareness of this great man’s story and impact around the world.”
Funded by Canada’s Telefilm and Trinidad’s Republic Bank, HERO boasts an all-star international cast that includes Trinidad and Tobago’s Nickolai Salcedo , in the lead role of Ulric Cross, alongside Canada’s Peter Williams ( Stargate SG1 ), UK stars Joseph Marcell ( Fresh Prince of Bel Air ), Fraser James ( Resident Evil ), Pippa Nixon ( John Carter ), and Ghanaian superstars John Dumelo, Adjetey Anang and Prince David Oseia.
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This Festival Could Alter Your Sense of Film History
To Save and Project, the annual MoMA series, unearths forgotten works
Just because movies spent more than a century as physical objects — as strips of film, not the digital files of the 21st century — doesn’t mean they can’t disappear. And their loss, to decomposition or to memory, inevitably leaves gaps in knowledge.
Did you know that three sisters made independent features in Australia in the 1920s and ’30s with a sophistication to rival the Paramount comedies of the early ’30s? That a Frenchman who ended his career in obscurity, working for a chemical company, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as his contemporary Jean Renoir? That George A. Romero’s oeuvre includes a public-service feature on behalf of the elderly?
To Save and Project, the Museum of Modern Art’s annual festival of film preservation, offers those lessons and more. The series, running Thursday through Jan. 22, showcases recent restorations from the museum and other archives around the world.
This year, as with the Romero feature, some better-known directors are represented with out-of-character films. (D.W. Griffith shot a 1924 movie, “Isn’t Life Wonderful,” on location in Weimar Germany, applying his suspenseful cutting to show the hyperinflating prices at a butcher shop.) But the biggest revelations in the lineup are the films that challenge established canons: nearly lost movies brought back from the brink, newly refurbished to expand your sense of film history.
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Take “The Cheaters,” an Australian silent made in 1929, though converted to a by-all-accounts inferior sound film before release. It was the third feature from the writer-director Paulette McDonagh and her sisters Isabel (who acted, credited with the name Marie Lorraine) and Phyllis (who produced and art-directed).
ImageA scene from the Australian film “The Cheaters,” directed by Paulette McDonagh.
A scene from the Australian film “The Cheaters,” directed by Paulette McDonagh.Credit…National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
Raised in an affluent, artistic Sydney family, the McDonagh sisters were effectively self-taught and initially had the means to finance their films at a time when few women anywhere made movies. The sophistication of their technique is readily on display in a Lubitschian early sequence, in which two women (one played by Isabel) conduct an elaborate con to swindle a jeweler out of a necklace.
The McDonagh sisters were honored by the Australian Film Institute in 1978, but their international reputation is not what it should be. Susan McDonagh Fryer, Paulette McDonagh’s niece, can’t say with certainty that “The Cheaters” never played in the United States before, but the MoMA screenings (of the silent version) in a sense fulfill one of their goals.
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“I think that my aunts had a strong feeling that they didn’t want to make films that represented the Australian landscape thing,” she said, even though the country’s cinema at the time was trying to distinguish itself amid American-dominated distribution. They wanted to make films with an international appeal.
Another filmmaker who hasn’t gotten his due is Louis Valray, who has two films in the series, “La Belle de Nuit” and “Thirteen Days of Love,” both from the 1930s. According to Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, which is responsible for the restorations, French cinephiles knew of Valray’s movies as something that probably no one would ever see. Both films flopped on release, and Valray “gave up cinema,” Bromberg said. He went on to become a radio host and finished out his career as an engineer for a chemical company.
But to encounter “La Belle de Nuit” is to see a film stunningly ahead of its time. A playwright (Aimé Clariond) whose paramour and star betrays him with his war buddy escapes in a huff to Toulon and meets the woman’s doppelgänger, a prostitute played by the same actress, Véra Korène. The use of sound (cutting from a dog’s yapping to a train’s steam whistle, for instance) rivals that of Orson Welles several years later; the shadows of the back streets of Toulon anticipate film noir. If “Thirteen Days of Love” is a lesser film — an attempt, Bromberg said, to recapture the magic of “La Belle de Nuit” — that doesn’t make Valray any less a director in need of serious rediscovery.
Other innovations may have occurred earlier than is widely recognized. Leo Hurwitz, a documentarian marginalized by the Hollywood blacklist, has three short films in the program from the early 1950s. Two, “Emergency Ward” and “The Young Fighter,” neither of which apparently warranted a mention in his obituary, lay the groundwork for the “direct cinema” movement of Robert Drew and the Maysles brothers, which dictated that filmmakers should shoot unfolding events, interposing themselves as little as possible.
“Emergency Ward” watches doctors candidly examine patients at St. Vincent’s Hospital nearly two decades before Frederick Wiseman made “Hospital” (and more than four decades before H.I.P.A.A., the federal privacy protections). “The Young Fighter,” though burdened with an very un-direct cinema voice-over, observes a rising boxer in his home to illustrate the tension between ring and family life.
Marvel fans complained last year that Martin Scorsese never did as much for diversity as the comics juggernaut. Here, thanks in part to Scorsese’s Film Foundation, which collaborates on the African Film Heritage Project, is Timité Bassori’s “The Woman With the Knife.” In this brisk 1969 Ivorian feature, a young man, convinced he has left superstition behind for an independent, modern Africa, has visions of a woman who may represent a repressed, romanticized past.
Sometimes significant films weren’t even intended for theaters. MoMA will hold the New York premiere of a restoration of “The Amusement Park,” an hourlong Romero feature from 1973 that has practically never been seen. Although Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, the widow of the “Night of the Living Dead” director, told me there were probably isolated screenings over the years, very few copies were known to exist, and the film was only made to be shown in community centers.
Commissioned by the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania, “The Amusement Park” was meant to raise awareness of the poverty, neglect and mistreatment of the elderly. “To be honest, I don’t know if they realized what kind of a filmmaker George Romero was,” Desrocher-Romero said.
Although she said that Romero, who watched “The Amusement Park” shortly before he died in 2017, wrote off the movie as a for-hire job, he gave the assignment an unmistakable personal stamp. The movie is another of his blunt social allegories: It follows an aging man (Lincoln Maazel) as he makes his way through an amusement park where other patrons condescend to him, assault him and otherwise treat him with roughly the same level of dignity accorded one of Romero’s zombies.
“Land of the Dead” would be just as appropriate a title. And once intended to demand respect for the forgotten man, “The Amusement Park” now doubles as a plea for the forgotten movie.
AFRICA OYÉ FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2020 DATES
Malawian sensation Gasper Nali on the Africa Oyé Main Stage, 2019 – Photo by Teltone
The 28th annual Africa Oyé festival is set to take place at Sefton Park in Liverpool, UK on June 20th and 21st, 2020. The festival will showcase the music and culture of Africa and the Diaspora, along with DJs and dance, as well as workshops, food vendors and traders in the Oyé Village.
In 2019, Africa Oyé broke its single-day attendance record and took two awards at the inaugural Liverpool City Region Culture & Creativity Awards.
Oyé’s Artistic Director, Paul Duhaney said: “In 2019 we focused on the amazing music from across the wider African Diaspora, so this year we’ll be looking at a more traditional Oyé line-up. Local artists will once again open the music offering each day via our Oyé Introduces program, and we’ll again be showcasing community acts, giving some Liverpool creatives the chance to share the stage with world music stars.”
The first of the main stage artists are set to be revealed next month.
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The Looks at Afrochella 2019 Show Just How Diverse the Afrocentric Aesthetic Is
Let’s just say we were super inspired.
To close out 2019, hundreds of thousands of tourists flocked to Accra, Ghana to celebrate the conclusion of The Year of Return, the country’s tourism push that took place in the 400th year since the first African captive was brought to the United States as a slave. Though the occasion’s roots might be a call for somber reflection and reverence, the tone of the whole affair, particularly at the end of December, was also one of celebration and homecoming.
Afrochella, a music festival and celebration of African culture, was one of the many events during this time where Black attendees from all over the world were able to rejoice in just that. And wherever Black people go to express their creativity, joy, and culture, there is beauty. Lots of it. Afrochella, which celebrated its third year, was no exception.
On December 28, thousands of people came not only to take in the musical artists (it is a music festival, after all), but also to immerse themselves and relish in their beautiful Blackness. The mood was, of course, decidedly Afrocentric, a safe space for Black people to express their unique beauty rooted in traditions from all over the continent (particularly West Africa), and the diaspora. In their looks, it is clear to see the melding of different worlds that are all connected, not just through blood and history, but through traditions and notions of beauty preserved and evolved, sometimes in the face of adversity. The resulting display is a reminder of the diversity of Blackness, of African-ness, and how important it is to celebrate it, not just in Ghana, but all over the world.
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Nigeria: Davido Is the King of African Music – Miraboi
Entertainment PR man and musician, Miraboi has picked Davido as the number one musician in Africa. In a chat with Showtime he said no one has put Nigerian on the world map than Davido.
He said, “I’m not trying to create any controversy or make anyone feel bad but what Davido has done for African and Nigerian music is unprecedented. Without him I don’t Nigerian music or African music for that matter, would have been appreciated as much as it has on the international scene.”
He argued that the ‘Risky’ crooner has brought joy and blessings to so many through his brand of music regardless of other shortcomings he may have.
” I don’t think any Nigerian should have to hate Davido for any good or bad reason. No musician of his generation has made more positive impact on our youth than him and I don’t think any one can sincerely say they don’t like his kind of music. His back to back hit is a testimony of his greatness and Africa should celebrate him,” he added.
Miraboi, born Miracle Kelechi Chike started his journey in the entertainment as a Public Relations hype man until last year when he dabbled full scale into music with his debut single “My Baby” and it has since been enjoying rave reviews.
Talking about his plans for 2020, he said the world should expect great works from him.
“My plans are big for 2020. I have plans to feature the likes of Davido and Zlatan on different singles. I believe God is at work, so let’s see how far is gonna go. I will also be dropping the video of my debut single “My Baby,” he said.