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Films screened by the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme (2010-2016)

2016 theme - “Remember Slavery: Celebrating the Heritage and Culture of the African Diaspora and its Roots

On 16 February 2016, the New Jersey Amistad Commission, the New Jersey and New York Departments of Education and Focus Features, hosted a private screening of RACE at the AMC Loews Theatre on 34th Street in New York City for educators. RACE, a film about Olympian Jesse Owens shines a spotlight on the racist behaviour that was prevalent in the 20th century and challenges racist attitudes that are still omnipresent today. Directed by Stephen Hopkins, RACE is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend.  The biographical sports drama is based on the incredible true story of Jesse Owens, the legendary athletic superstar whose quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party’s vision of white supremacy over Jews, Blacks and other minorities. The screening was followed by a discussion on the film and the distribution of educational resources.  A curriculum guide on the film was later made available to educators at BazanED.com. Members of the United Nations Remember Slavery team attended the screening.

2015 theme – “Women and Slavery”

On 7 January 2015, The New Jersey Amistad Commission, Paramount Pictures and the United Nations Remember SlaveryProgramme, hosted a free preview screening of the movie SELMA for educators at the AMC Loews Theatre on 34th Street in New York. Selma is the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic struggle to secure voting rights for all people – a campaign that culminated with the epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended and met with the film director, Ava DuVernay and a representative of Paramount Pictures.

SELMA was also screened at United Nations Headquarters for the diplomatic community, staff members and students on 23 April 2015. A discussion with the director was moderated by National Public Radio (NPR) journalist Michele Norris. The event was co-sponsored by the United States Mission to the United Nations and organized in partnership with Paramount Pictures and the “Selma4Students” project.  The screening was followed by a discussion with the film’s director, Ava DuVernay and Maher Nasser, Director of the United Nations Department of Public Information’s Outreach Division, which was moderated by NPR host and special correspondent Michele Norris. A group of 50 students representing schools in New York and New Jersey also had the opportunity to meet with Ms. DuVernay.

On 11 February 2015 a pre-screening of Episode 4 from the 2015 miniseries THE BOOK OF NEGROES, was hosted at United Nations Headquarters in observance of Black History Month in the United States. The event was organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in partnership with Black Entertainment Television (BET) and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations. The Book of Negroes is a historical document which records names and descriptions of 3,000 African-American slaves who had to work for the British army during the American Revolution in order to qualify for their freedom and were evacuated on a British ship to points in Nova Scotia.  The miniseries aired from 16 to 18 February on BET. The event also included a discussion with the director and executive producer, Clement Virgo, and actors Aunjanue Ellis and Louis Gossett, Jr.

The world premiere screening of QUEEN NANNY: LEGENDARY MAROON CHIEFTAINESS was hosted at United Nations Headquarters on 19 October 2015, in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations. Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess is a one-hour documentary film that unearths and examines the mysterious figure - Nanny of the Maroons - Jamaica’s sole female national hero and one of the most celebrated heroines in the resistance history of the New World.  The film documents the struggle for freedom by the Jamaican Maroons, led by Queen Nanny.  This film also looks at Queen Nanny’s legacy and her impact on contemporary women in general, with appearances by Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller; double Olympic sprinting champion Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce; the “Queen of Reggae”, Rita Marley; University Professor Verene Shepherd; and many others. The screening was followed by a discussion moderated by Cristina Gallach, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.  The panellists included: Roy Anderson, director, producer and writer of the film; Harcourt Fuller, producer and historian on Africa and the African Diaspora at Georgia State University; Gloria Simms, lead actress; and Gaynel Curry, Gender and Women’s Rights Advisor for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2016, the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme subtitled the movie in French, Spanish and Portuguese, so that it could be shown to wider audiences.

2014 theme - “Victory Over Slavery: Haiti and beyond”

Recognizing the power of film as an educational tool, in 2014, the United Nations Department of Public Information organized a multilingual film festival featuring films related to slavery and its legacy. The Department engaged with a number of partners for the festival, including the African Burial Ground National Monument, the New York African Film Festival, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the International Organization of la Francophonie. Screenings and discussions took place at United Nations Headquarters and other venues in New York, with the sponsorship of a number of Permanent Missions to the United Nations, as well as in a number of United Nations Information Centres. The films were in a variety of languages, including English, French, Spanish and Wolof, with follow-up discussions in English and French.

12 YEARS A SLAVE was screened at the United Nations Headquarters on 26 February 2014, in the presence of the Secretary-General.  Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC moderated a discussion with the British film director, Steve McQueen, following the film. 12 Years a Slave, winner of Best Motion Picture of the Year, as well as Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2014  Academy Awards®, is a film that depicts the harrowing tale of a New York State-born free Black man kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery.  It is distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures (United States) / Lionsgate (International).

In partnership with the United States National Park Service, TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE was screened on 8 March 2014 at the African Burial Ground in New York. Directed by French-Senegalese director Philippe Niang, this award-winning production tells the story of the man who led the slave revolt that resulted in the independence of Haiti. The screening was followed by a discussion with Mr. Jacques Antoine Dorcely author of “Toussaint Louverture: A Missing Hero from American History”. The free screening was co-organized by the National Park Service, which manages the African Burial Ground National Monument, and the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme. It was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Haiti to the United Nations and the International Organization of La Francophonie within the celebrations of the “Month of La Francophonie”. The film is distributed by France 2.

In partnership with the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom, BELLE was screened at United Nations Headquarters on 2 April 2014. The film is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. The screening was followed by a discussion moderated by T. J. Holmes of MSNBC with British director of the film, Amma Asante, and lead actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The film is distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

In partnership with the New York African Film Festival, SARRAOUNIA, was screened on 13 May 2014 at Lincoln Center, in New York. Sarraounia is a 1986 historical drama film written and directed by Med Hondo. Based on historical accounts from Queen Sarraounia, who leads the Azans into battle against the French colonialists at the turn of the century, Med Hondo’s film is a sweeping epic. A brilliant strategist and forceful leader, the queen commands respect from the men she guides into battle and deep loyalty from her people. Hondo contrasts the strong alliances that emerge among African communities with the self-seeking Europeans and provides much needed African historical perspective. Sarraounia is not only an engrossing tale of a remarkable woman’s bravery, but also a captivating study of revolution against enslavement and the struggle for peace and freedom.

COEUR DE LION, by director Boubakar Diallo of Burkina Faso, was screened on 14 May 2014, in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso, the International Organization of la Francophonie and the New York African Film Festival.  Coeur de lion is a 2008 Burkinabé film where a lion causes havoc among livestock and several people disappear. Seeing the village chief is doing nothing, a young shepherd, Samba, decides to follow the lion’s tracks on his own.
The screening was followed by a discussion with lead actor Mahamadi Nana, Mamadou Diouf of Columbia University and Huffington Post film critic Zeba Blay. Screenings were also held at UN Information Centers in Antananarivo, Brazzaville, Bujumbura, Ouagadougou and Tunis.

In partnership with the New York African Film Festival and the Bronx Museum of the Arts,
THEY ARE WE, by Australian director Emma Christopher, was screened on 11 July 2014 at Joyce Kilmer Park, New York Live.  There was also a live performance by The Miguelo Valdes Project & DJ Asho!.  This 90-minute film tells the story of survival against the odds and how determination and shared humanity can triumph over the bleakest of histories. In Perico, Cuba, is an Afro-Cuban group that has kept alive songs and dances brought aboard a slave ship by their ancestor, known only as Josefa. They preserved them proudly despite slavery, poverty and repression. Through years of searching, filmmaker Emma Christopher tried to find their origins. Then, in a remote village in Sierra Leone, people watched a recording of the Cubans’ songs and dances, joyously declared ‘They are We!’ and joined in with the songs. They had never forgotten their lost family, and now their descendants were coming home. So began preparations for the biggest festival in the village’s history, a welcoming home for their cousins.The film’s producers were Emma Christopher and Sergio Leyva Seiglie. On 27 December 2014, They Are We was shown at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in observance of Kwanzaa, a celebration of the influences of African heritage on African-American culture. In 2015, the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme subtitled the movie in French, Spanish and Portuguese, so that it could be shown to wider audiences.

On 9 September 2014, TULA, THE REVOLT, was screened at Fordham University in New York.  Tula, The Revolt is an international English-language feature length movie about the leader of a major slave uprising on the island of Curacao, a Dutch colony, on 17 August 1795.  It tells the true story of a man who dared to stand up against his oppressors leading his people in a peaceful march for freedom, equality and brotherhood.  He was soon captured and tortured to death, but as a result, slaves earned some rights under colonial rule, and the movement for freedom began. The screening was followed by a discussion with lead actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Danny Glover; Yuko Miki, Assistant Professor of History at Fordham University; and Natasha Lightfoot, Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University. Stephanie James Wilson, Executive Director of the New Jersey Amistad Commission moderated the discussion. The film is directed by Jeroen Leinders and produced by Jeroen Leinders and Dolph Van Stapele.

AKWANTU: THE JOURNEY, by Jamaican-American director Roy Anderson, was screened at United Nations Information Centres and Offices in Accra, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Lagos, Minsk and Yerevan in 2014. The film documents the struggle for freedom of the legendary Maroons of Jamaica, former enslaved Africans, who were able to flee the plantations and slave ships to form communities in some of the most inhospitable regions of the island. Poorly armed and outgunned, these brave warriors engaged the mighty British Empire over an 80-year period and were victorious. As a result, two peace treaties were signed between the British and the Maroons in 1738-39 that established Maroon self-government in Jamaica. Nowhere else in the New World had Africans enjoyed such a degree of autonomy, coming almost sixty years before the Haitian Revolution, and more than one hundred years before the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the United States. The film was produced by Action 4 Reel Filmworks, LLC.

2013 theme – “Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation”

In collaboration with the United Nations Department of Public Information, the feature film LINCOLN was screened on 20 March 2013 at the United States Mission to the United Nations. The film covers the final four months in the life of Abraham Lincoln and focuses on his efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States passed by the House of Representatives. Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning and Oscar-nominated screenwriter, introduced the film. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (North America) / 20th Century Fox (International).

2012 theme- “Honouring the Heroes, Resisters and Survivors”

The documentary film entitled SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME: THE RE-ENSLAVEMENT OF BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO WORLD WAR II was screened at the United Nations on 28 March 2012. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name by Douglas A. Blackmon, the film challenges the belief that slavery in the United States ended with the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It chronicles the ways in which African-Americans were coerced into forced labour in the Reconstructionist South following the Civil War and into the twentieth century. Following the screening, the film’s producer, Sam Pollard, led a question and answer session with the audience, which included representatives of Member States and civil society and students.

2011 theme - “The Transatlantic Slave Trade: The Living Legacy of 30 Million Untold Stories”

At United Nations Headquarters on 21 March 2011, a screening of the award-winning film, TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY FROM THE DEEP NORTH was held. The 86-minute film tells the story of the largest slave-trading family in the history of the United States, the DeWolfe family of Rhode Island. It follows the remarkable journey of a group of family members, including the director/producer, as they traced the Triangular Trade from Ghana to Cuba and then back to Bristol, Rhode Island, and tried to come to terms with the role their predecessors played in slavery, and the history and legacy of the hidden slave trading enterprise of New England. It illuminated the untold stories of the contributions that enslaved Africans made to the development of North America. Following the screening, there was a question and answer session between the audience, the Chair of the Permanent Memorial initiative for victims of the slave trade and four members of the DeWolfe family, who were featured in the film. The film was first released at the January 2008 Sundance Film Festival.  It was directed by Katrina Browne, Alla Kovgan and Jude Ray.

2010 theme - “Expressing Our Freedom Through Culture”

On 23 March 2010, at United Nations Headquarters, there was the screening of the film SLAVE ROUTES: RESISTANCE, ABOLITION AND CREATIVE PROGRESS.  The 100-minute documentary addressed the persisting knowledge gap about aspects of the transatlantic slave trade, including the full geographic scale of its impact, the human losses to Africa, the number of casualties during the ill-fated middle passage, the impact of deportation in some instances and the role of the slave trade in the economic and industrial development of the participating countries. The screening was attended by the representatives of Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations. It provided a rare opportunity for attendees to hear the recorded discussion of those issues by more than 90 experts who participated in a symposium on the same topic held in 2008 by the Institute of African-American Affairs of New York University to mark the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.  Also in attendance were staff members and guests from the Institute of African-American Affairs, where the documentary was made, as well as the director of the documentary, Jayne Cortez, whose remarks at the screening drew the attention of the audience to the need for greater awareness and knowledge about many aspects of the slave trade. The film was produced by Manthia Diawara.


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