Thought provoking movies, insightful conversations with filmmakers, and appearances by iconic figures were all part of the experience at this year’s African diaspora film festival celebrating Black cinema in New York City.

Many of this year’s films looked at the lives of women and children in developing countries and the battles they often find themselves facing between modern culture and long held traditions. This year’s festival also focused on inclusion, offering opportunities to view a collection of LGBT films, movies on the Black British experience, and youth uprisings during the Arab spring of 2011.

Films from African American artists included the poignant White Water’, about the effects of segregation on a young boy in the American south of the 1960s. The diaspora’s shared cultural heritage was also represented in films exploring the roots of latin music followed by a live concert from Afro Cuban band, (U)NITY at MIST in Harlem.

ADIFF co-founder Diarah N'daw-Spech, filmmaker Sabrina Schmidt Gordon and Dr. Sonia Sanchez

ADIFF co-founder Diarah N’daw-Spech, filmmaker Sabrina Schmidt Gordon and Dr. Sonia Sanchez

The AIDFF experience also offered live Q&A sessions with featured filmmakers. On opening night, festival goers heard from Thierry Michel, director of ‘The man who mends women’ and on the last day of the festival, filmmaker Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, who produced the Sonia Sanchez doc, ‘BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez’, spoke on the festival’s importance to the Black filmmaking community.

“I think the African Diaspora Film Festival is very important because there are stories being told here that you would absolutely not see at other festivals or mainstream festivals. So I think they provide an invaluable service and I think we have to make our best efforts, so that it’s not just for them to carry the weight of publicizing their events and their films, we should be doing that as well and supporting their work. “ – Sabrina Schmidt Gordon

Dr. Sanchez was at ADIFF to help support the documentary along with another women’s and civil rights icon, Gloria Steinem, bringing two of the most important voices from an earlier era to a new generation.

Dami Akinnusi, a British-Nigerian filmmaker said she came to the festival to meet Dr. Sanchez and experience the too often hidden talents and stories from the African diaspora.

“What’s so great about the film festival is, it’s really done its job in the last fifteen years to bring these stories to the world. Those stories they usually marginalize and put on the fringes are being brought out into the mainstream. We’re creating our own flow, it doesn’t have to be the mainstream everyone gravitates towards. This is our mainstream” – Dami Akinnusi

Dr. Anna-Maria Thomas also attended several screenings during the 2-week festival and said she was, ‘more than satisfied’ with this year’s event.

Dr. Anna-Maria Thomas at the 2015 ADIFF

Dr. Anna-Maria Thomas at the 2015 ADIFF

“Every single screening I attended was outstanding. I learned so much about different issues that were presented in a way I had never thought about. It was just powerful, so powerful for me and that’s what I feel as I come out of this festival. I feel a lot more empowered about the knowledge of looking at things from different perspective.” – Dr. Anna-Maria Thomas

The artistry, intimacy and opportunities to meet and talk with iconic figures and supporters of the Black film community all made this year’s African Diaspora Film Festival an unforgettable experience.