Angolan filmmaker Dom Pedro’s “Tango Negro” was supposed to end a three-screenings run at The Thalia Cinema at Symphony Space Theater in New York City on Aug. 10, but three more screenings were added to allow more people to witness this powerful statement on the African roots of one of the world’s most famous and beloved dance forms.
The film is a 93-minute documentary in French and Spanish with English subtitles, loaded with captivating scenery and the stirring, seductive music of the tango. Released in France in 2013, it portrays the tango as a reflection of the social life of the slaves that were taken to South America, including Argentina and Uruguay, mostly from central Africa and particularly from the former Kongo Kingdom, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) and the Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville).
“Director Dom Pedro reveals the depth of the footprints of the African music on the tango, through this rich movie combining musical performances and interviews from many tango fans and historians in Latin America and Europe, including the renowned Argentinean pianist Juan Carlos Caceres,” writes ArtMattan Productions, distributor of films that focus on the human experience of Black people in Africa, the Caribbean, North and South America, and Europe; and owner of African Diaspora Film Festival Inc., which presents the annual African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF).
“Tango Negro,” which is distributed by ArtMattan, was just one of the monthly, public movie screenings that have been offered by ADIFF’s Ciné-Club since 2003. There are single screenings and film series of a specific theme, such as the Afro-Latino series, the Back to Roots series and the Stories of Love series. They fill the space between the annual New York African Diaspora International Film Festival that runs for 18 days at various locations in New York City, beginning on the last Friday of November. This year marks the festival’s 22nd anniversary.
The festival features world and U.S. premieres, recent popular titles, classic movies, foreign and independent releases, all depicting the lives of people from Africa and people of African descent worldwide. Filmmakers, critics, and academics participate in post-screening question-and-answer sessions and panel discussions. A special feature of the festival is the competition for the Public Award for the Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color. Women of color from around the world are invited earlier in the year to enter their feature length narrative or documentary in the competition. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and a plaque. Past winners include Yvonne Welbon (U.S.) for “Sisters in Cinema”; Sylvia Hamilton (Canada) for “The Little Black School House”; Yasmina Adi (Algeria/France) for “Here We Drown Algerians”; and Pratiba Parmar (U.K./U.S.A.) for “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth.”
If you miss the monthly screenings and annual film festival in New York City, you can catch them elsewhere. ADIFF holds events in New York at the Brooklyn Museum in February; at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago in June; in Washington, D.C., in July; and in Paris, France, in September. New York City venues include The Thalia Cinema at Symphony Space; Quad Cinema; The Cowin Center and Chapel at Teachers College, Columbia University; and the Black Spectrum Theatre in Queens.
For a catalogue of films distributed by ArtMattan Productions that are available on DVD for purchase, go to www.africanfilm.com. For upcoming ADIFF Ciné-Club screenings and Festival schedules, go to www.nyadiff.org.