LifestyleStacy M. Brown

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Josephine Baker Docs Highlight Virtual African Diaspora Film Festival

Born to former slaves in Dayton, Ohio, Paul Laurence Dunbar is best remembered for his poem, “We Wear the Mask,” and for lines from “Sympathy” that became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

A clip of Angelou reciting Dunbar’s poem on “The David Frost Show” punctuates the documentary that will air during the virtual African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) this summer.

The festival, which runs from Friday, July 24 to Thursday, July 30, counts among the District’s favorite summer pastimes, filling up venues in and around George Washington University in Northwest.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, festival officials are presenting it virtually.

The Dunbar documentary, which revisits the life and legacy of the first African American to achieve national fame as a writer, highlights the festival, which includes a film that also pays homage to Josephine Baker.

“Black Diva in a White Man’s World,” focuses on Baker’s life and work from a perspective that analyses images of Black people in popular culture. It celebrates the artist and uncovers her role as a resistance fighter, an ambulance driver during WWII, and an outspoken activist against racial discrimination, festival officials noted.

“In these times of pandemic and deep reflection around the human experience of people of color, the ADIFF launches a free summer virtual festival that highlights socially relevant stories about people of color all over the world,” festival organizer Reinaldo Barroso-Spech noted in a news release.

An educator in foreign languages and Black literature, Barroso-Spech created the festival with his wife, Diarah N’Daw-Spech, a financial consultant and university budget manager.

With its first virtual edition, ADIFF offers 14 titles that have received limited visibility in the US market.

“A national audience now has the opportunity to discover award-winning Afrocentric and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) centered stories from New Zealand, Nigeria, Chile, the USA, Brazil, Senegal, the UK, Hungary, France, and Bangladesh,” Barroso-Spech added.

Among other films and documentaries are “2 Weeks in Lagos,” described as a turbulent and thrilling journey into Ejikeme and Lola’s lives, which captures the excitement, vibrancy, and complexity of everyday life in Lagos. In this dynamic city, anything is possible in 2 Weeks.

The festival also features “Made in Bangladesh,” a film that enjoyed its world premiere in 2019 and recounted a young woman working under deplorable conditions in a factory in Bangladesh.

She decides to fight to set up a union despite threats from management and disapproval of her husband.

ADIFF attendees also will have an opportunity to view “The Last Tree,” an official Sundance 2019 selection.

Festival officials call the film “a moving coming of age story about Femi, a British boy of Nigerian descent who, after a happy childhood in rural Lincolnshire, moves to inner London to live with his Nigerian mum.”

For more information about the African Diaspora International Film Festival Summer Virtual Festival, go to

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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