Broadly speaking, film, media and many other aspects of popular culture are largely dominated by white males. To combat this, forward-thinking Vassar students are attempting to fill this void in order to reach a greater cultural scope, especially those focused on the film industry.
To address this problem, a group of Vassar students have gotten together to form a new organization at the college: the Africana Film League.
This film league will be bringing different movies relating to Africana Studies to the college campus to help educate students and increase discussion about subjects that have worldwide significance. The first film to be screened by this organization, “Call Me Kuchu,” will be shown on Friday, May 2 at 5 p.m. in Blodgett Auditorium.
This event will act both as the launch of the Africana Film League as well as a space to facilitate critical conversations about the movie, which is about the struggles facing the LGBTQ community in Uganda.
Vassar students Imara Jones ’16, Marisa Ray ’16, Naomi Johnson ’16 and Cheikh Athj ’16 made the campus’s Africana Film League possible. Jones wrote in an emailed statement, “The Africana Film League was started because the campus needed a film league that screens movies that are meaningful and informative about real life. Other film leagues on campus do screen films that are enjoyable and that people want to see, but not necessarily films that people need to see. The Africana Film League selects and screens must-see films that are informative about a challenging issue that is pertinent to the Africana World (in its extremely expansive territory).”
What distinguishes the Africana Film League from other film groups on campus is the subject matter their screenings tackle. Johnson wrote in an emailed statement, “The organization was created by Imara Jones because she saw a lack of representation from other film organizations in their screenings on campus of people from Africa and its diaspora. With this idea in mind, she came to myself and other students who she believed shared the same interest. Stephanie George, the Africana Studies intern, and Zachariah Mampilly, the director of the Africana Studies department, have also been integral to the creation of the League.”
Some complications in the funding process of the organization slowed its formation, but the group’s members were able to bring their idea to life nonetheless.
Jones wrote in an email, “Zachariah Mampilly (current head of the Africana Studies Dept.) suggested that I and a few of my colleagues pick some films and have a campus-wide screening. After, I approached him about getting funds to screen another film, but the asking price was way too high in order to cover pre-release screening rights and bring the film to campus. The only thing was that we really wanted the opportunity to show an impactful film about a very important social issue. We then decided that we indeed COULD do this, for way less. So I got funding from the department to choose and buy a film, then screen it and lead a critical discussion about the film’s content.”
The organization works with the Africana Studies department at Vassar to screen these films, but as a whole, the students involved in the group have been the main driving force behind making the film league a reality. Mampilly wrote in an email, “We were pleased to see student interest in showing Africana related films on campus and so I suggested to the students that Africana would be willing to offer limited financial support for such films so long as the students took care of everything else. As a steering committee, we also agreed to participate in any post-film discussions organized by the students if one of us had the necessary expertise to be useful.”
Thanks to this help from the Africana Studies department and the determination of the Africana Film League’s members, the film “Call Me Kuchu” will be brought to the Vassar campus on May 2. Jones wrote, “Our first film, ‘Call Me Kuchu,’ is a film about the struggle of the LGBTQ community in Uganda, where gay rights is a HUGE issue on the forefront of society’s mind right now. This is an important movie for everyone to see because too often people get wrapped up in their own lives and are so comfortable with their own privilege that they forget that there are other people in the world who are really struggling without certain rights that we have and consider unalienable.”
The organization hopes that this screening will allow for more informed discussion about the Africana World around Vassar. Jones wrote in an email, “Vassar is a perfect community to show a film like this because it is a safe place to talk about social issues like equal rights for all people regardless of their race, class, ethnicity, identity, religion or sexual orientation.”
With the formation of the Africana Film League, students can expect to see more screenings of films relating to the Africana World shown on campus, and can attend the launch of this organization on Friday, May 2 at 5 pm in Blodgett Auditorium.
“Call Me Kuchu” focuses on LGBTQ issues in Uganda, and gives a perspective that the film league believes is essential to achieving a better understanding of the topic.
Johnson wrote, “It is important for people to see ‘Call Me Kuchu’ because it is careful to not generalize Ugandans and does not make homophobia an ‘African problem.’”