Silicon Valley African Film Festival (SVAFF) Celebrates 10 Years

From left, SVAFF Director of Business Development Deffria Bass-Nwoffiah; her husband and SVAFF Founder Chike C. Nwoffia; SVAFF Cultural Icon Awardee: The Honorable, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Mother Pratt, and international jazz artist Oluwole Alabi, more commonly known as “Olu Jazz”. Photo by Carla Thomas.

With 85 films, representing 35 African countries packed in one weekend, the Silicon Valley African Film Festival (SVAFF) celebrated 10 years at the historic Hoover Theater in San Jose Oct. 4 – 6.

The cultural extravaganza opened ceremoniously with a parade of African flags, saxophonist OluJazz and singer Victoria McDowell, who performed the Black National Anthem and “The Greatest Love of All”.

Festival director, Chike C. Nwoffia and his team were presented recognitions from Congressman Ro Khanna, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, California State Senator Bob Wieckowski, San Jose Vice Mayor Charles “Chappie” Jones and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

Nwoffiah presented the festival’s cultural icon award to The Honorable Rev. Dr. Cynthia Mother Pratt, the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas. The entrepreneur, philanthropist and author shared her story of rising from poverty and racism in the Bahamas to becoming a member of parliament, the first female minister of national security, deputy prime minister and acting prime minister of the Bahamas.

“I was given an opportunity to go to college when I was a wife with children,” said Pratt. “My husband was very supportive, so I took the opportunity.”

As a result, Pratt says she entered the college employed as a volleyball recruiter and a student among people half her age.

“I traveled to and from the Bahamas recruiting the disadvantaged because I knew all they needed was an opportunity to change the course of their lives,” she said. “Today, there are hundreds of doctors, lawyers and professionals because I sacrificed and I opened doors for others. Use your life to help others. The only way the minorities in power dominate you is by keeping you ignorant, so get your education.”

For the SVAFF festival director Nwoffiah, creating festival was his calling to share “Africa through the lens of Africans.

“I wanted to confront the sad reality that after over 50 years of post-colonial rule in Africa, most of Africa’s narrative is still presented to the world through a foreign lens with narratives that have created blurred interpretations and perceptions of Africa and Africans,” he said. “The affordability of filmmaking in the last few decades has catapulted the growth of the African film industry with African filmmakers eager to share the true stories, hopes and dreams of Africa with the global community.”

Sponsored by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Silicon Valley chapter, the opening film, “Veronica’s Wish,” was directed by Ugandan filmmaker Nisha Kalema. Kalema produced and starred in the film portraying a woman whose was life interrupted by a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis days before her dream wedding to her millionaire boyfriend.

“I wanted to share the strength, love and determination of the couple along with the awareness that my country does not have the proper technology to diagnose cancer in the early stages to prevent death,” said Kalema.

Kalema’s film, which is based on a true story, won 12 nominations at the 2018 Uganda Film Festival, including best actress. Kalema continues to advocate for better medical technology in her country.

“It is wonderful to celebrate 10 years and have so much support locally and globally for African filmmakers showcasing their art,” said Nwoffiah. “ ‘Veronica’s Wish’ is a prime example of the power of film and its transformative uses.”

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