The 2018 Harlem International Film Festival

by April 26, 2018

Award-winning NANA, winner of the annual Mira Nair Award for Rising Female Filmmaker at the 2017 Harlem International Film Festival, will have its theatrical release, coinciding with Yom Hashoah.

announces line-up for its 13th edition with several
World and NY premieres by returning filmmakers including
Opening and Closing Night
(May 3-6)

makes its New York Premiere as the Opening Night selection

John Irvin’s MANDELA’S GUN set to make its World Premiere
as the Closing Night selection

Additional World Premieres by Harlem International Film Fest alums
Daniel Armando’s Harlem produced THE BREEDING,
Indrani Kopal’s INCARCERATED RHYTHM, and Marko Vuorinen’s VIANEY.
Other World Premieres include Alan Swyer’s HARLEM TO HOLLYWOOD,
and Liat Krawczyk’s RETRACING JENEBA

TheRainbowExperiment_4web MANDELA'S GUN

New York, NY (April 25, 2018) – The 2018 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) today announced official selections for the 13th (or XIII) edition of the film festival taking place on May 3-6 at the Magic Johnson Theatre (2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd.). With a festival-wide theme of “Harlem International Presents XIIIgent films for Exigent Times!”, the Opening Night selection will feature the return of award-winning alum Christina Kallas, with her film festival hit, THE RAINBOW EXPERIMENT. Iconic British director John Irvin’s MANDELA’S GUN will make its world premiere as the Closing Night selection. The four-day film festival will showcase more than 80 films, music videos, and VR projects featuring world cinema, narrative, documentaries, animation, VR, and more, representing 25 countries. The lineup is filled with world premieres, East Coast, New York, and Manhattan premieres with 7 feature films leading the way as they making their world premieres in Harlem next week.

“This year’s lineup underlines the truly international scope of our film festival across all genres from fiction and documentary to animation, Virtual Reality, and music videos,” said Harlem International Film Festival Program Director Nasri Zacharia, “For 13 years now, we have prided ourselves on finding gems from around the world that we feel honored to introduce to New York audiences for the first time. One of the things the Festival does really well is to provide a forum for wonderful storytelling and unforgettable moments on the big screen created by talent from all around the world.”

Opening Night, on Thursday, May 3, marks the return of Christina Kallas to the festival with her new winding, propulsive drama, THE RAINBOW EXPERIMENT. The film, which debuted at Slamdance in January and recently celebrated its international premiere at the Moscow Int’l Film Festival, will make its New York premiere after winning the Best Alternative Feature Award at the Garden State Film Festival. The multi-character who-dun-it utilizes Kallas’ unique style of multi-screen within a screen presentation, complex sound design, and shifting perception to serve an intense and suspenseful sprawling narrative and exploration of interpersonal relationships. The screening marks Kallas’ return to Harlem, where her last film, 42 SECONDS TO HAPPINESS won Best Ensemble Award at Hi in 2016. Following the screening, Kallas will participate in a Q&A with Annette Insdorf, celebrated author and professor of film studies at Columbia University. International cinema legend, Mira Nair (SALAAM BOMBAY, VANITY FAIR, QUEEN OF KATWE), will open the celebration.

Closing Night, on Sunday, May 7, will feature the world premiere of award-winning John Irvin’s MANDELA’S GUN. Set in 1962, the film is a political thriller, based on Mandela’s African Odyssey. As Commander-in-Chief of the Liberation Army uMkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation – MK) he undergoes military training in Algeria and Ethiopia while surviving betrayal and assassination attempts. In the crucible of the surging African Liberation Movements of the early 60’s not only does he study the art of war, but also leadership and political survival. The film celebrates the man who became a national and global icon dedicated to the overthrow of an infamous racist regime, and paints a portrait of a leader whose impetuosity and vanity were tempered by compassion, self doubt and a relentless belief in justice for all South Africans, regardless of race.


Among the other films making their world premieres at the Harlem International Film Festival include a host of Harlem International Film Festival alumni, joining fellow alums Kallas and Irvin; Daniel Armando’s Harlem produced THE BREEDING, an erotic thriller about a young Harlem artist whose obsession with a taboo fetish leads to life-altering consequences; Alan Swyer’s documentary HARLEM TO HOLLYWOOD, about Billy Vera, the man responsible for the romantic slow-dance anthem, “At This Moment” made famous overnight on the 80s sitcom Family Ties as the love song of Alex P. Keaton (played by Michael J. Fox) and his girlfriend, Ellen Reed, played by Tracy Pollan (whom went on to marry Fox on and off screen); Indrani Kopal’s INCARCERATED RHYTHM, which chronicles the efforts of six imprisoned men to join a dance rehabilitation program that has never been tested before in the prison system; and Marco Vuorinen’s VIANEY, a documentary portrait about the life and hardships of the New Jersey and Bronx based underground hip hop artist Vianey Otero, also known by the stage name So Icey Trap.


Also making their world premieres are; Jonni Masella’s PRIDE OF DC: THE HYDE RUGBY ODYSSEY, a documentary that tells the inspirational story of the first all African-American, high school rugby team, set against the gritty backdrop of everyday life in Northeast Washington, DC; and Liat Krawczyk’s RETRACING JENEBA, about a young man who survived the horrors of the Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars as a child, who sets out on a journey to face his past and rebuild the country he once saw destroyed.

In addition to a dozen narrative features from almost the same number of countries, the festival commands a stunning slate of world class documentaries including; Geoff Pingree and Rian Brown’s THE FOREIGNER’S HOME, which explores the vision and work of Toni Morrison through “The Foreigner’s Home,” the 2006 exhibition she guest curated at the Louvre; the New York premiere of Hugo Berkeley’s THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS, which details how African-American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict, resulting in Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck, among others, being sent around the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors; Joanne Fish’s MR. HANDY’S BLUES, which profiles W.C. Handy, known worldwide as “The Father of the Blues” as we commemorate the centennial anniversary since he opened his music publishing offices in Times Square New York City; the New York premiere of Raul Gallego Abellan’s PANI: WOMEN, DRUGS AND KATHMANDU, which looks at Female drug addiction in Nepal, due to an especially cheap and dangerous drug, a cocktail of opioids called ‘Pani.’; Andoni Monforte’s TIGERNUT (HOMELAND OF THE WHOLEHEARTED WOMEN), about the worldwide trade war over the control and distribution of the new “superfood”, tiger nuts; and Didier Beringuer’s VIF, which tells the story of Christian Audigier, who revolutionized the Fashion Industry with glittering tattooed tees and trucker caps.

Film festival passes and tickets are on sale. For more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to

2018 Harlem International Film Festival film descriptions

THE RAINBOW EXPERIMENT                                             New York Premiere              
Director: Christina Kallas
Country: USA, Running Time: 129 min
Things spiral out of control in a Manhattan high school when a terrible accident involving a science experiment injures a kid for life. A who-dun-it with a how-they-saw-it leads to an explosion of emotions touching the teachers, the parents, the school authorities and, ultimately, the students themselves.

MANDELA’S GUN                                                                 World Premiere
Director: John Irvin
Countries: Algeria/Botswana/Ethiopia/South Africa/Tanzania/UK/USA, Running Time: 87 min
MANDELA’S GUN is the startling true story of the last 6 months of Nelson Mandela’s freedom before his arrest and life imprisonment in 1962. Five years in the making, it follows his epic journey as he illegally left South Africa.

Additional Feature Films

Director: Adrian Goiginger
Countries: Germany/Austria, Running Time: 103 min
One kid’s true story of his life in the unusual world of his heroin addicted mother and their true love for each other.

THE BREEDING                                                                    World Premiere
Director: Daniel Armando
Country: USA, Running Time: 83 min
A chance restroom encounter with a recently divorced financier named Lee (newcomer Joe MacDougall) leaves Thomas curious about exploring the taboo fetish of “race play.” But when the game gets too real, chilling actions are taken that will forever change the trajectory of these men’s lives.

ELVIS WALKS HOME                                                           New York Premiere
Director: Fatmir Koci
Country: Albania, Running Time: 94 min
Mickey Jones is marooned in the Balkan wars – carrying a guitar and wearing an Elvis Presley jumpsuit. His world tour kicks off by entertaining the British troops, but when the military police discover that he is an Albanian, they try to arrest him. As he flees, he meets a group of refugee children trying to get to the United Nations camp. Jones claims he is a UN doctor and can lead them there, and while they don’t trust him, the children agree, hoping he will take them to safety.

THE FOREIGNER’S HOME                                                  Manhattan Premiere
Directors: Geoff Pingree, Rian Brown
Countries: France/USA, Running Time: 56 min
Exploring the vision and work of Toni Morrison through “The Foreigner’s Home,” the 2006 exhibition she guest‑curated at the Louvre. Morrison invited renowned artists whose work also deals with the experience of cultural and social displacement to join her in a public conversation that she had been pursuing for years through her own research, writing and teaching at Princeton University.

FORGOTTEN MAN                                                               New York Premiere                                      
Director: Arran Shearing
Countries: UK/Canada, Running Time: 84 min
FORGOTTEN MAN tells the story of Carl, a troubled young actor with a history of incarceration in an East London Theatre Company for the homeless. When the opening night of his new play ends with a fellow actor attacking an audience member, Carl, in the affluent attire from his play, abandons the theatre for the bustling streets of contemporary London. He meets Meredith, a wealthy out-of-towner in the city for a funeral. Their sweet romance has Carl risking parole violation to pursue another life, but when Meredith invites Carl to see the very play he is the lead actor in, and the theatre erupts in violent conflict, Carl is found trapped between his desire and obligation.

HARLEM TO HOLLYWOOD                                                World Premiere
Director: Alan Swyer
Country: USA, Running Time: 96 min
From being the first white male ever to play the Apollo as part of a duet with a black woman to his improbable hit, “At The Moment,” from the 1980s television series, “Family Ties,” Billly Vera has had a remarkable unsung, yet influential career in the music business.

INCARCERATED RHYTHM                                                  World Premiere
Director: Indrani Kopal
Countries: Malaysia/USA, Running Time: 80 min
Six imprisoned men join a dance rehabilitation program that has never been tested before in the prison system. Upon their release they discover that the “rhythm of freedom” is harder to find than the “rhythm of incarceration”.

THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS                                                New York Premiere
Director: Hugo Berkeley
Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min
The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Union’s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, America’s most influential jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck, along with their racially-integrated bands, traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors. But the unrest back home forced them to face a painful moral dilemma: how could they promote the image of a tolerant America abroad when the country still practiced Jim Crow segregation and racial equality remained an unrealized dream? Told through striking archival film footage, photos and radio clips, with iconic performances throughout, the documentary reveals how the U.S. State Department unwittingly gave the burgeoning Civil Rights movement a major voice on the world stage just when it needed one most.

MEERKAT MOONSHIP                                                         East Coast Premiere
Director: Hanneke Schutte
Country: South Africa, Running Time: 96 min
After her father’s sudden death, Gideonette de la Rey, a fearful young hypochondriac with an overactive imagination, descends into darkness as she realizes that she’s the only one left with a cursed family name. With the help of her new friend Bhubesi and his make-shift Meerkat Moonship, she’ll have to find the inner strength to face her fears in order to break the curse.

MR. HANDY’S BLUES                                                           East Coast Premiere
Director: Joanne Fish
Country: USA, Running Time: 85 min
MR. HANDY’s BLUES is a musical documentary about W.C. Handy, known worldwide as The Father of the Blues. Handy transformed the oral traditions of his Post Civil War African American countrymen into a unique and popular musical genre called the Blues.

MY TOURETTES                                                                  
Director: Alessandro Molatore
Country: USA, Running Time: 76 min
Five brave individuals with severe Tourette’s Syndrome take part in an experimental case study that transforms their lives and raises profound questions about our perception of the neurological disorder.

ONE BEDROOM                                                                   
Director: Darien Sills-Evans
Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min
Breaking up is easy. Moving out is hard. After 5 years of ups and downs, a 30-something African American couple in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood spends their final afternoon together arguing and remembering better days.

PANI: WOMEN, DRUGS AND KATHMANDU                     New York Premiere
Director: Raul Gallego Abellan
Country: Nepal, 87 min
Female drug addiction is an extreme taboo in Nepal, but a group of brave women reveal their struggle to eradicate it, especially the cheap and dangerous drug called ‘Pani,’ a cocktail of opioids which users inject into their veins.

PRIDE OF DC: THE HYDE RUGBY ODYSSEY                   World Premiere
Director: Jonni Masella
Country: USA, Running Time: 100 min
PRIDE OF DC: THE HYDE RUGBY ODYSSEY is a feature length documentary that tells the inspirational story of the first all African-American, high school rugby team. Filmmaker Jonni Masella captures the most intimate moments of the team experience as players struggle to learn an unfamiliar sport, only to find an extended brotherhood in the game of rugby, against the gritty backdrop of everyday life in Northeast Washington, DC.

RETRACING JENEBA                                                          World Premiere
Director: Liat Krawczyk
Countries: Guinea/Liberia/Sierra Leone/USA, Runnning Time: 64 min
The extraordinary story of a young man who survived the horrors of the Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars as a child, elevated himself through education and has set out on a journey to face his past and rebuild the country he once saw destroyed. At first glance, Joseph seems like any other U.S. college student, but it is soon revealed that very few people know the full story of his life. Such begins Joseph’s journey back to West Africa to face the horrors of his past for the first time. A survivor of the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia, he retraces his experiences as a child prisoner and as witness to child soldiers, all the while coping with the loss of his father and grandmother.

Director: Ernest Abdyjaparov
Country: Kyrgyzstan, Running Time: 82 min
The film tells about young Chingiz Aitmatov’s visit to the great storyteller Sayakbay Karalaev to understand the value and greatness of the epic ‘Manas’. In the two days spent the future world-famous writer chronicles his origins and the roots of Kyrgyz Culture and spirituality.

Director:  Jason O’Hara
Country:  Brazil, Running Time: 88 min
As Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics, a community of self-described “urban Indians” are threatened with forced eviction to make way for a stadium named after the original indigenous inhabitants of the territory. As the mega-events begin threatening a number of other communities with displacement, residents unite to fight back in defense of their constitutional rights, temporarily suspended under a “state of exception”.

Director: Amiel Courtin-Wilson
Country: Australia, Running Time: 70 min
THE SILENT EYE is a highly intimate, impressionistic portrait of the unspoken rapport between Cecil Taylor and Min Tanaka – two masters of their form, at work together.

Director: Andoni Monforte
Countries: Spain/Burkina Faso/Germany/Mali, Running Time: 79 min
A worldwide trade war has broken out over the control and distribution of the new healthy Superfood, tiger nuts. An investigation uncovers a plot of international corruption and abuses around the production of tiger nuts by European and American companies exploiting African labor and resources. The film documents the growing movement among 30,000 African farmers to combat this exploitation.

VIANEY                                                                                   World Premiere
Director: Marco Vuorinen
Country: USA, Running Time:
VIANEY is an intensely personal documentary portrait about the life and hardships of the New Jersey and Bronx based underground hip hop artist Vianey Otero, also known by the stage name So Icey Trap. The movie reveals the reality behind growing up on the streets, the lure of escorting, everyday life in jail, and being a female artist in the music industry.

VIF                                                                                          East Coast Premiere
Director: Didier Beringuer
Countries: Indonesia/Brazil/France/Mexico/USA, Running Time: 98 min
VIF tells the story of Christian Audigier, who revolutionized the Fashion Industry with glittering tattooed tees and trucker caps. After being diagnosed with MDS, an aggressive type of blood cancer, Audigier was forced to accept what lies ahead of him. To find the strength to do so, he looks to his past, remembers what made him who he is today, what matters most to him and takes us on an introspective journey through his life.

WRITE WHEN YOU GET WORK                                          New York Premiere
Director: Stacy Cochran
Country: USA, Running Time: 99 min
Write When You Get Work is a comedy of money and access, a love story set in the Bronx and at a pricey school for girls on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Years after they’ve parted ways, Jonny Collins pursues Ruth Duffy for profit, and love.

Short Films

BABY WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME                        World Premiere
Director; Christopher Piazza
Country: USA, Running Time 22 min
Pearl Simmons (Michelle Hurst, ‘Orange is the New Black’), an aging jazz singer in brownstone Brooklyn, fights the early stages of Alzheimer’s. While she presents a strong front to her daughter Cynthia (Melanie Nicholls-King, ‘The Wire’), her sense of place and time begin to slip, and her memories of her days as a jazz singer in 1970s New York clash with the present. Cynthia, struggling to care for her mother, considers an offer to sell the family’s home.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER                                                        New York State Premiere
Director: Vegard Sorby
Country: Cuba, Running Time: 19 min
A look at the many challenges students in Camden, NJ face and how suspension rates and criminal arrests are disproportionately high for students of color.

BURNING ANGEL DUST                                                      Manhattan Premiere
Director: Jackie J. Stone
Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min
A Nigerian immigrant struggles to adapt to American life while preserving cultural customs for her westernized children. Mimi’s 10-year-old daughter Violet is excited about her coming of age celebration, but it turns out to be far more life-altering than she could ever imagine. There’s a price to keep traditions alive.

Director: Kadri Koop
Country: Cuba, Running Time: 13 min
Four decades after hijacking a plane to Cuba to avoid charges of killing a state trooper, a former black power militant reflects on his past in a letter to his nine-year-old Cuban son.

CONGO CABARET                                                               East Coast Premiere
Director: Quincy Gossfield
Country: USA, Running Time: 15min
A cabaret singer in a gay-owned Harlem speakeasy, seeking to reignite her man’s fading interest, seduces the whole room, including his best friend.

Director: Hajar Moradi
Country: Canada, Running Time: 2 min
This short animated piece observes the process of creating a work of art in four key stages: Observation, Pain, Creation & Obsession

Director: Randy Field
Country: USA, Running Time: 11 min
Using an interview with Lester Rodney (93 years old at the time) plus excerpts from some of his incendiary articles, we tell the story of how this little Jewish/communist sportswriter beat the drum louder than anyone to desegregate Major League Baseball and how he succeeded!

THE END OF INERTIA                                                          New York State Premiere
Director: Marisa Gershen
Country: USA   Running Time: 4 min
Iris pulls a man out of a puddle and the world starts disintegrating. What seems like a descent into chaos turns out to be a corporate takeover of reality.

FREED BY FIRE                                                                    World Premiere
Director: Michael Marantz
Country: Malawi, Running Time: 7 min
A 12-year old Malawian girl is forced to leave school and enter an arranged marriage to improve the family’s economic standing. Once married, Molina quickly becomes a young mother and the victim of an abusive husband until the arrival of Chief Kachindamoto.

HOME STREET HOME                                                          World Premiere
Directors: Tyler Hollinger, Robin Rose Singer
Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min
In 2015 veteran Shane Duffy met a homeless man named Damian ‘Dean’ Cummings. In an effort to directly help one man’s life, Shane built a ‘Hidden Home’ disguised as a dumpster. Damian lived in this home for over a year on the streets of SOHO New York City until the NYPD came to take his home away.

INTERFERENCE                                                                    Manhattan Premiere                        
Directors: Robin Rose Singer, Ruya Koman
Country: USA, Running Time: 15 min
A violent altercation between a police officer and an African-American man on a deserted country road has left one person dead. An interracial couple passing by must decide what to believe and what they are willing to do about it.

Director: Irina Patkanian
Country: Mozambique, Running Time: 16 min
LITTLE FIEL is a short documentary with stop motion animation about unending wars and ubiquitous guns. It is loosely based on the life story of Mozambican artist Fiel dos Santos – a man who is the only one in his family to never have shot a gun and who makes art of decommissioned firearms donated by the public in exchange for food and tools.

LOLA: GIRL GOT A GUN                                                    New York Premiere
Director: Emily Elizabeth Thomas
Country: USA, Running Time: 15 min
LOLA: GIRL GOT A GUN bares witness to a young and angelic girl who experiences the emotional weight of her mother’s abuse by her conservative NRA-member father. The heaviness of the abuse permeates her home, until one day she wanders into her parent’s room the morning after a particularly violent fight and finds her father’s loaded pistol. She decides to keep it as her own, and paints it bubble gum pink; the girl’s got a gun now – her very own defense – and nobody can take it away from her.

Director: David Brand
Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min
A Tennessee football player with a unique family history faces the pressures of upholding his family name.

PEI KIDS: GENERATION CHANGE                                                                        
Director: Joseph A. Halsey
Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min
PEI KIDS: GENERATION CHANGE focuses on interviewing at-risk youths from the inner-city on how they would solve the current problems in their neighborhood.

SLAVE ONE                                                                           Manhattan Premiere
Director: Juan Leguizamon
Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min
The film follows the life and legacy of the “Kung Fu Judge,” as activists attempt to save his forgotten Brooklyn theaters from demolition. The rise and fall of Judge John Phillips, a black Lawyer, Civil Court Judge, Martial Artist and aficionado Filmmaker whose legacy was shattered by corruption and gentrification at the heart of Brooklyn’s African American community.

Director: Leelila Strogov
Countries: Germany/USA, Running Time: 9 min
A well-intentioned Chinese immigrant father tries to teach his son, David, how to “make it” in America. When David becomes enamored by a Superman costume in a store window, his father sees an opportunity to impart to him the importance of hard work, thrift, and delayed gratification. But when the time comes for David to reap the rewards of his efforts, it turns out that the lessons he’s learned transcend those his father intended.

STAND DOWN                                                                       North America Premiere
Director: Dana Tynan
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min
Music video, featuring Billy Bob Thornton as a haunted ex-soldier who can no longer control the memories of war that beset his tormented mind; what we now call post traumatic stress disorder.

Director: Megan Miller
Country: USA, Running Time: 21 min
In an effort to use her tragic story as a catalyst for change, Ana Wagner began advocating for children’s civil rights in New York State. Despite the demands of motherhood, marriage, cultural oppression, and the haunting memory of her devastating experience, Ana is doing what she once wasn’t able to as a child – fight.

Director: Christopher Ryan
Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min
He wanted a home for artists. He found a community.  Avi Gitler is a born and bred uptown guy. His desire to open an art gallery in uptown Manhattan has already changed the landscape there in meaningful ways.

Director: Sarah Kazadi
Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min
Tony Wright spent over two decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Surviving this ordeal meant desperately holding on to faith, family and football. This is his story of resilience.

Director: Sean Conrad
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min
Based in NYC, White Mamba is a documentary that follows Brayan Leka, a first-generation immigrant who found family in the West 4th Street basketball scene.

Celebrating the art of cinema in the home of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) inspires and entertains by honoring dynamic films by anyone about anything under the sun. Conceived from the belief that we all have unique experiences and perspectives to share, the Festival actively seeks and exhibits fresh work. Hi is committed to exemplifying the eminence that Harlem represents and is dedicated to bringing attention to the finest filmmakers from Harlem and across the globe.

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