Any self-respecting film buff is familiar with the virtues of a foreign film festival. Especially stimulating are festivals that include films as rare as the ones featured in the Twelfth Annual Cascade Festival of African Films. Held in honor of Black History Month, the festival offers an eclectic selection of African films, which are generally difficult to find and expensive to obtain. This year pays tribute to Danny Glover, who not only dazzled American couch potatoes with Lethal Weapon I and II, but won a great deal of respect for his work in African cinema. In keeping with the festival's aim to educate as well as entertain, the two Glover films being showcased take place in apartheid-era South Africa.
In fact, according to Mary Holmstrom, one of four founding members on the committee that hosts the event, you'd be hard-pressed to find many African films without substantial content. It makes sense that, in an environment as tumultuous as Africa, masturbatory drivel like Serendipity and Coyote Ugly would seem even more vapid. Holmstrom compares the African style of filmmaking to oral traditions, also intended to teach and entertain simultaneously.
Films included this year are T.G.V., a comedy about a bus line between Dakar, Senegal, and Conakry, Guinea, and a documentary on South African leader Steve Biko. Directed by his son, Nkosinathi Biko, it promises to be a spellbinding and heartfelt presentation. On a lighter note, the festival offers a Family Film Day with Sirga: The Lion Child, about the bond between a young boy and lion born at the same moment. It sounds like a Disney cartoon, but actually features trained lions, which may either offend you or pique your interest. Also, this is the first year in which the committee has been able to obtain examples of gay African cinema.
Accompanied by speakers, the festival uses film as an easily and widely accessible medium to inform its audience about African culture and history, as well as providing a rare cinematic opportunity.