Ancestors rule the African world, whether they live in the spirit world or the in-law apartment downstairs.
Generalizing about African film, with its dozens of nations, many languages and rampant styles, is always risky. But this much can be said: the past is always present.
This year's Planet Africa taps ancestor worship -- and ancestor critique -- with ecumenical variety. Three films tell the story of Europeanized Africans going home to face vexing family tradition. In Les Chemins De L'Oued home is Algeria, in Waiting For Happiness it's small-town Mauritania, and in Promised Land it's an Afrikaaner family in the South African veldt.
Family is a compromised comfort in these films, and no more so than when it takes the name of the father. Even when Planet Africa's films aren't dealing directly with going home, they're chronicling all the disappointments waiting for those who put their trust in fathers, leaders or father figures.
Camille Billops and James Hatch's A String Of Pearls opens up the section this year, documenting three generations of shaky dads in Billops's family. Charles Najman's Haitian allegory, Royal Bonbon, tells the story of a man who tries to rule a village as King Chacha, which leads straight to tyranny.
And Mahamet Saleh Haroun, who made last year's aching, dusty drama Bye Bye Africa, returns with Abouna, in which a father's disappearance precipitates the disintegration of his family.
Planet Africa began as a stage where audiences could find common ground in films from Cape Town to Cairo to Kingston. (This year Shottas represents the Jamaican gangsta stylee.)
It looks like that consistency is there in theme. What's still missing is the singular breakout film, the African Raise The Red Lantern or Gabbeh.
Cameron Bailey founded Planet Africa in 1995.