Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ambassador of Cameroon,
Ambassador of France to the Congo,
Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union,
Representatives of the Ministry of Culture,
Ladies and gentlemen in your ranks, grades, and qualities,
Distinguished guests, dear cinephiles,
Good evening. Thank you for coming this evening to follow with us films that show an important part of our nation’s history. My thanks to the Ambassador of France and his entire team who graciously increased their involvement for the launch of the 5th edition of the African American Film Week. I would especially like to thank the French Institute of the Congo that for the past four (4) years has contributed its personnel for the success of the annual African-American Film Week.
The month of February is a powerful moment in our history during which we celebrate the history of African-Americans and their contributions to the United States and to the world. During this month, we reaffirm our unity in diversity clearly expressed by our moto, “E pluribus unum” – “Out of many, one.” Indeed, the founding fathers of the United States of America were immigrants in search of freedom. The United States is also a land of people ripped from their families against their will hundreds of years ago. Thus our history is composed of heroes of all races that took part in the struggle for social equality, civil rights, and human rights.
To cite an example, I would like to speak of the year nineteen-fifty-five (1955), more precisely December 1st, and an American by the name of Rosa Parks who refused to obey a bus driver who ordered her to go to the back of the bus. Under racial segregation laws, African-Americans had to use different spaces in public places, including restaurants, buses, schools, and water fountains. This law was in full swing in the segregationist South. When Rosa Parks refused to change her seat, she said later, that she was not truly tired, but only tired of always obeying and always giving in. Due to this act of peaceful protest, today she is recognized as the mother of the Civil Rights movement in the United States of America led by the charismatic and inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. The selection of films for the African-American Film Week this year follow this theme of diversity and resiliency of those who contributed to the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
Thus this African-American Film Week opens today with a film inspired by a true story, “Race.” This film follows the journey of the African-American athlete Jesse Owens, who alone opposed the racism of his country, the United States of America, and that of Nazi Germany at the nineteen-thirty-six (1936) Olympic Games in Berlin. Owens proved that the courage of one man can change the course of history worldwide. This film also shows the will of two Americans who transcended the difference in their skin to only consider their talents and their desire to work together. All of this, despite racial segregation in the thirties. I’m speaking of Jesse Owens and his white coach, Larry Snyder.
Wednesday’s film, “Fruitvale Station” is current, because it speaks of a subject that recently cropped up in conversations in the United States and the world. It is about police violence against the African-American community.
Friday’s and Saturday’s first film incorporates the same theme. “Red Tails”, or “L’Escadron” is an American war film in which African-American pilots face prejudices and must put forth greater effort than their white colleagues to distinguish themselves. “Dear White People” in contrast is a satire about the story of four African-American students at prestigious universities where emotions explode after white students organize an “African-American” themed party. This film explores racial confrontations in societies, but exposes these problems with humor.
Thursday evening’s and Saturday’s second film are examples of major advances in the African-American condition throughout society. The film “Concussion”, or “Seul contre tous” tells the true story of a pathological neurologist of Nigerian origin named Bennet Omalu. This man revolutionized the world of neurology by discovering cases of chronic encephalopathy trauma in the National Football League, the league of American football.
This film shows that despite the dark years of racial segregation in the United States, advances have been made. People like Jesse Owens in “Race”, African-American pilots in “Red Tails”, and Doctor Omalu in “Concussion”, are examples of Black people overcoming prejudice despite past ethnic and racial tensions in the United States.
The final evening is the film “First Date”. It is an American romantic film in which the actors interpret the young Barack Obama, first African-American president of the United States, and his future wife, Michelle Robinson Obama. This film recounts the first date of the couple one evening in nineteen-eighty-nine (1989) and their first kiss outside of an ice cream shop. As we know, Michelle and Barack lived in the White House, a house built by slaves and in which the most powerful couple in the United States lived for eight (8) years. Since his presidency, numerous persons in the United States and in the world associated this historic event with the famous speech of Martin Luther King Jr, I Have a Dream.
Once more, thank you very much for coming to celebrate with us the films of African-Americans. Please also join us tomorrow at the IFC café where thirteen (13) of the best slammers in Brazzaville will face off under the supervision of the famous Congolese slammer, Black Panther to celebrate diversity. With that, I wish you a good evening and a good week of African-American films. Thank you!