Mission and History
The Cascade Festival of African Films is the longest-running annual, non-profit, non-commercial, largely volunteer-run African Film Festival in the United States.
We are committed to the following:
- Developing knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the richness, complexity, and diversity of African peoples and their cultures.
- Building community and encouraging open, honest dialogue by bringing people together to view African films, meet African filmmakers, participate in after-film discussions, and debate issues of personal and global significance.
- Encouraging inclusiveness and accessibility by offering the festival free of charge.
- Creating an audience for African film in Portland, Oregon, and its environs.
- Serving as a resource of information about African cinema.
- Working with Portland Community College to build a library of African cinema for use by students, faculty, staff, and the public.
- Sharing our passion for and knowledge of Africa and African cultures through film.
The Cascade Festival of African Films was founded in 1991 by four Portland Community College faculty members. Linda Elegant, English and writing instructor, served as the festival coordinator in the beginning years. Mary Holmström, a native of South Africa and African literature instructor at PCC Cascade from 1989-2001, served as the festival’s film programmer. Michael Dembrow, English and film studies instructor, wrote the festival’s renowned film notes. Joseph Smith-Buani, a native of Sierra Leone and math instructor, was the festival’s host.
Read more history…
Approximately 400 people attended the First Annual Cascade Festival of African Films in February 1991. Today, over 5,000 people attend the festival annually. Since its inception, the festival has been offered to the public free of charge and has been organized and run primarily by volunteers. Aside from the volunteers, the festival is now run by two paid staff: Festival Director, Aviva McClure, and Associate Director, Eugenie Jolivett Fontana. Three of CFAF’s founding members – Mary Holmström, Joseph Smith-Buani, and Michael Dembrow – serve as festival advisors and meet with the Executive Committee Members monthly throughout the year to manage the festival planning The CFAF Committee, comprised of 35-40 volunteers from the community, helps plan and run the festival.
From its initial four-film program in 1991, the festival has expanded to a five-weekend-long festival of 20-24 feature and documentary films. Popular festival events include:
- Opening Night
- Thursday evening documentary series
- Family Film Day
- Student Fest
- Women Filmmakers Week, held during the first week of March in celebration of Women’s History Month
An important offshoot of the festival is the African Film Collection in the PCC Library, which includes videos and DVDs purchased by the festival. It is one of the largest collections in the Pacific Northwest and is accessible to students, faculty, staff, and the public.
Actor Danny Glover attended the festival in 2002 to receive an award from CFAF for his contributions to African cinema.
Visiting film directors
View film directors by year on the filmography page.