Africana Studies Institute debuts its Film Festival

The African Studies Institute hosts a film festival in Student Union Theater. Students gathered on Wednesday to watch several films about African Americans from 12-5. (Joy Zhang/The Daily Campus)

The Africana Studies Institute kicked off its inaugural film festival yesterday in the Student Union Theater with screenings of films “I Am Not Your Negro” and “Life and Debt.”

The documentary “Life and Debt,” filmed in 2001, addressed the effects and impacts of globalization on Jamaica by contrasting the experience of Jamaica’s people with that of wealthy tourists who had come from all parts of the world.

Documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” follows James Baldwin’s accounts of his friends Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers. The film uses Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, “Remember this House,” to critique, chronicle and analyze racism in America in both the country’s present and past.

Both films feature the technique of cutting and piecing together film reels, interviews and audio. After each film, an informative discussion was led by Melina Pappademos, Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies Institute Director. The discussions touched on each film, its themes and the audiences’ reaction.

When discussing “I Am Not Your Negro,” a UConn alum shared his relation to various events that were shown in the film and expressed appreciation for it.

“Everyone, every student should watch this film,” the alum said.

Another audience member discussed her connection to the film, speaking on her personal experiences with problematic behavior and how it affected her.

Pappademos further spoke on the purpose of the festival and the methods in which the films were chosen.

“The faculty was very much concerned with exploring the depth of the Black experience. We wanted to analyze the range of various cultural expressions, of political struggles, of racial experiences, of creativity, of strength, pain and even ordinariness,” Pappademos said. “We wanted to draw on all experiences and provide different voices and stories in order to complicate blackness and challenge the idea of a heterogenous experience.

“The target audience of the festival is primarily students, but we were happy to advertise in places that might attract the general public.”

At a time in which political differences are so stark, it is integral that we must have these difficult conversations, Pappademos said.

“The aim of the film festival was to raise the profile of the Africana Institute. It was also to stress its significance across disciplines and maybe, mostly to signal to the audience how universal Black experiences are. To challenge the belief of the Black experience as narrow,” Pappademos added.

The festival continues Sept. 13 and Sept. 14 and features an interesting array of films such as “School Daze,” “Bamboozled,” “Get Out,” and more in the Student Union Theater.


Dahlia Delahaye is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at dahlia.delahaye@uconn.edu.