Culture was the theme for the first annual Cape Verdean American Film Festival held over the Memorial Day weekend, May 23-24 in Washington D.C.
The CVAFF kicked off Friday evening with Mike Costa’s documentary about cultural pride, Proud to be Cape Verdean: A Look at Cape Verdeans in the Golden State, which set the tone for the entire festival. Rashad Rouhlac, the festival’s founder proclaimed, “This was a very good inaugural festival. We had a good turnout. We couldn’t make an event like this happen without certain individuals like Lucy Coutinho and her Cape Verdean DC Network and our fantastic support staff; Marleny DaRosa and Paige Haggins. We established this association because we wanted to create a group for Cape Verdean Americans who weren’t familiar or had questions about their unique culture. We also wanted to get people of all ages to get together and bond over shared interests.”
Actor/Producer Tim Reid acted as host for the 2-day event. “I love these people and the stories they tell. I see a bright future for Cape Verdeans in cinema.” Reid’s love for everything Cape Verdean was quite clear as he introduced his friends and collaborators, musicians Ramiro and Jon Mendes. “These guys are ambassadors for everything that is Cabo Verde. I love these guys. They’ve introduced me to a culture that has enhanced my life, made it better.” The Mendes Brothers, who scored the music for Proud to be Cape Verdean shared Reid’s excitement. “We’re on a good path,” they said. Spokesperson for the festival, Lucy Coutinho, said that one of the most important aspects of the festival was “Letting the masses know about our culture, who we are as a people and to be an inspiration to the youth that they can do anything that they can aspire to do.” The Friday schedule also featured video-taped messages from honorees Michael Beach, a veteran actor works include groundbreaking films such as “Soul Food”, “Waiting to Exhale”, and “Lean on Me”, and Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose. Nuala Cabral,a filmmaker, activist and educator, was also recognized as a “Rising Star” honoree by the festival.The excitement of the evening was fueled by conversation, speeches, autographs, picture taking, and the customary Cape Verdean cuisine: Catchupa, Jagacida, Pastels and Gufong.
Saturday featured an assortment of films, panels, and presentations. Eva Brito, the spoken word poet from New Bedford, Massachusetts gave a strong performance at the Sankofa Café, one of the festival’s venues. Brito said she was “Thrilled to have a chance to celebrate [her] beautiful culture and the beautiful people.” Bloombars, an art house in the historic Columbia Heights, another festival site, presented Anna Lima Delgado as she educated the audience with her presentation about Cape Verdean genealogy. “My father said it best. “Your branches can’t grow or extend unless your roots are strong.” Historian Vasco Pires’ presentation was inspiring with his vast knowledge of Cape Verdean history. “CVAFF is an important showcase of a multi-generational & international group of Cape Verdean visual artists telling our story from the reality of our own perspective,” Pires professed. Andrew Beamon reflected, “I have been inspired to begin interviewing all of my senior family members, so that my Cape Verdean and African-American family history is accurately documented for future generations.” Jonathan Branch, who runs Bloombars, added, “Film is a great way to learn about a country’s culture.”
The “Women of Color in Media” panel, curated by Marleny DaRosa, consisted of a “Who’s who” of Criola icons; Marcy Depina, founder of FORSA Media/Activist/Singer, Nuala Cabral, Lucy Coutinho, and singer Michelle Cruz who said, “It was such an honor to be part of the film festival as a performer and panelist. These women of color on this panel shared a beautiful exchange of ideas and perspectives.” Cape Verdean film entry “A Menina Dos Olhos Grande”, along with short film entry Yellow, screened to a full house at Bloombars. Nuala Cabral’s Walking Home delivered a strong message about sexual harassment.
“The CVAFF is a great way to learn more about my culture,” confessed festival attendee, Divanilde Neves Centeio, founder of “Our children, Our future Inc” (http://www.childrenofcaboverde.org) out of Braintree, Massachusetts, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide food, clothing, school supplies, and toys to the disadvantaged youth of the Cape Verde Islands. “We came to the CVAFF and saw an Opportunity to network and let people know about our organization.”
The Closing Ceremony held at the Gala Theater featured Guenny Pires’ docudrama, Contract. Pires’ film documents his journey to reunite his uncle, an indentured servant, with his family, 44 years after leaving home on a contract. Pires was rewarded for his efforts with the Grand Jury Award for Best Film. No Cape Verdean event would be complete without our music. Toi Pinto together with band members Hercules Lobo, Alfonso “Diki” Tavares, Francisco Evora, Klaudio Ramos, and Michelle Cruz were among musical performers on Saturday at the Gala. Noted politician and activist Gracia Hillman was also recognized as a festival honoree.
Rashad plans to hold the next CVAFF’ event in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He is also working on distributing the festival’s films films to RTC/TCV, Cape Verde’s national public television, in a presentation of the The Cape Verdean American Film Festival “Showcase”.
by Mike Costa -Side Door Entertainment
“If we don’t tell our story, who will?”
-Contribution from Lucy Coutinho
A complete list of the festival winners:
- Best International Feature Film –A Menina dos olhos grandes (The Girl with Big Eyes) Directed by Alexis Tsafas & Alfonso Fonseca
- Best International Documentary Feature Film –A Hora De Perdoar? (A Time to Forgive?) Directed by Napoleon X
- Best International Short Film- Djar Fogo Coffee Spirit, Directed by Felix Andrade
- Best International Independent Film- Rivalidadi, Directed by Azaiaz
- Best American Documentary Film – Black Men Can Fly, Directed by Ken Bento & Napoleon X
- Best American Short Film-Yellow Directed by Dominga Martin
- Best American Independent Film- A Perfect Day , Starring Kelly Perine, Directed by Adam Rubin
- Best International Documentry Short Film – Delice’s Ventures, Directed by Stephanie Da Rosa
- Best Inspirational Short Film – Dudley Street Dreams, Starring Liz Miranda & Directed by Tanisha Garner
- Best Kids Film- Princesses vs. Dinosaurs, Directed by Rio and Rome Roulhac (Ages 7 & 5 years old)
- Award for Cape Verde Historical Preservation- Cape Verde 1937, Directed by Mario Rose, Derek Rose & Ron Barboza
- Award for Best Editing, Mitch Hunter
- Best Documentary Feature Film – Proud to be Cape Verdean, Directed by Mike Costa
- Grand Jury Award for Best Film- Contract, Directed by Guenny Pires
A message from actor and honoree Michael Beach to CVAFF: