“I Scrubbed to Make the Black Go Away” and Other Tales from the 27th New York African Film Festival

Cinema from Nigeria and Sudan Get Their Due

Poster for “You Will Die at Twenty”
From Amjad Abu Alala’s “You Will Die at Twenty”
From Ngozi Onwurah’s semi-autobiographical short, “Coffee Colored Children” (1988).

Her classmates “thought they could catch it. Blackness. If you touched us, you’d go black.”

The camera then hurdles to scenes of her brother and herself at various ages trying to scrub their blackness away, even abusing scouring powders to try to reach their goal. “Sometimes I scrubbed until I bled.”

From Ngozi Onwurah’s “Coffee Colored Children” (1988).

“Teacher wanted me to color my face with a brown crayon. I couldn’t. I was nearly 14 when I could, and then it was without any pride.”

The pair do eventually achieve a sense of self-respect, but in doing so they are compelled to ask, “So is Great Britain a great Melting Pot or just an incinerator?” In an unforgettable 16 minutes, Onwurah answers that question.

Ambroise Ruzidana is on the run in Ibrahim Shaddad’s “Hunting Party” (1964).
Petra Hinze can’t believe who’s being run down in Ibrahim Shaddad’s “Hunting Party” (1964).
Sudanese director Marwa Zein has two of her films showcased at the Festival.
Poster for Morowa Loga’s “Shoot the Messenger”

Brandon Judell has published in The Village Voice, The Advocate, and 50 or so other outlets. He is currently a lecturer at The City College of New York.

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