Women in Media Segment – Series 1 Episode 6
Indigo Tongues features Mahen Bonetti originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, is the Founder of The African Film Festival inc., producers of the New York African Film Festival, one of the largest film festivals dedicated to celebrating African cinema in the U.S.
Mahen grew up during an era of Africa that was inspirational and empowering, having witnessed in “real time” Sierra Leones’ transition from colonial rule to independence. Her vast knowledge of post colonial African politics stems from the fact that her parents, in particular the maternal side of her family were heavily involved in the political transition during this era. Her mother’s brother was the first Prime Minister of Sierra Leone – Sir Milton Margai and her father, Doyle Sumner acted as Education Minster and later on Finance minister in Sierra Leone’s new independent government.
Mahen attended Bradford college in Massachusetts for under-graduate studies and NYU for post-grad. In the 80’s she worked in the media and advertising world for a while where she gained an appreciation for how powerful the media could be in shaping peoples perspectives. Being very exposed to the artistic scene of New York in the 80’s due to the fact that she used to throw African themed parties with some friends, she was continuously frustrated in seeing how images of African’s were depicted in the media during that era. A visit to the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland inspired and prompted her to create a platform that is used to celebrate a balanced view of Africa and Africans through the medium of Film.
A historian and documentarian at heart, Mahen’s passion for shedding positive light on the images of Africans is evident in the powerful programming her festival produces year in year out. With the likes of Ousmane Sembene(considerd to be the Father of African Cinema), Tunde Kelani, (Dir. Dazzling Mirage, Ma’ami) Abderrahmane Sissako (Dir. Timbuktu) , Kunle Afolayan (Dir. October 1, Figurine), Souleymane Cissé (Dir. Yeelen), Lupita Nyong’o (Dir. In my Genes) attending the festival with their films, the venue is a meeting point for African filmmakers and African film lovers from all over the world.
The African Film Festival inc is an institution in itself. It not only produces a festival that educates as well as entertains, it is marking its stamp in the preservation of African culture.
Mahen lives with her husband and daughter in Manhattan, New York.
About the interview
Ever since I started the Indigo Tongue series, I have wanted to interview Mahen. Aside from myself, Mahen is one of the handful of African woman I know that founded a Film Festival in the US. Mahen is one of the busiest women you will ever meet and she is also an energizer bunny. We had been trying to schedule the interveiwe for months and as soon as she offered me a date, I grabbed it and figured out how I was going to make it happen.
I certainly didn’t regret it. I spent lots of time meeting up with Mahen, taking shots of her at different events and hanging out with her in her office where all the ”African Magic” happens. Speaking to Mahen is like browsing though an encyclopedia on post colonial Africa. Mention any country in Africa and Mahen can give you their political history from as far back as independence. Her understanding and articualtion of African politics, culture and traditions is phenomenal and I love chatting with her. Genuie, funny, sweet and accomodating, Mahen gave us a good insight into her work, life and world views.
Interview Date: Saturday June 21 2014
Location: Manhattan, New York
Producer & Director: Mojisola Sonoiki
Co-Producer: Cy Nakpodia
Editors: Oluwaseun Sonoiki, Gerald K. Barclay
“A” Camera: Daty Kaba
“B” camera: Dara Ojugbele
Indigo Tongues Logo
“Black Woman Experience”: Courtesy mojorisings youtube channel
“Man Pass Man, Iron De Cut Iron”: Courtesy mojorisings youtube channel
“African Hustle”: Courtesy Antonio Lucente youtube channel
By Geraldo Pino & the Heartbeats (Sierra Leonia afrobeat artist from the 60s)
Confusion Na Wa: Courtesy: Cinema Kpatakpata Youtube channel
Ninas Dowry : Courtesy International Film Festival Rotterdam Youtube channel
Burn it up Djassa: Courtesy Africafilms TV Youtube channel
Beleh: Courtesy Christa Eka Vimeo channel
Sierra Leone Independence footage
Provided by Mahen Bonetti – African Film Festival Inc.
Mahen Bonettis’ family Pixs provided by Mahen Bonetti
Indigo Tongues Interview series
Follow us on twitter
Friend us on facebook
An Iyalode Productions Presentation