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Filmmakers from Senegal visit Albany as part of tour of American film industry

The International Center of the Capital Region recently welcomed a group of filmmakers from Senegal.
Youth FX
Michael O’Brien, president of board ICCR, Bhawin Suchak, Co-Executive Director of YouthFx, Jennifer Zhao, executive director of ICCR, Fatou Ndao Mbaye Director, Communication, Dakar International Short Film Festival. Janilio Mendy, Associate Producer and Co-founder, Guuy Production. Ibou Gueye , General Director, EvenProd. Fatim Cissé, Owner, Proud’Action. Mame Woury Thioubou Head, Culture Desk, Le Quotidien. Momar Talla Kandji, Coordinator, Ciné Banlieue. Bigue Bob, Editor in Chief, Journal Enquête. Courtney Staton, Youthfx, Lead Educator and Creative Producer. Khadidiatou Sy, Showrunner, Marodi.TV, and Rashid Howell, Youthfx, Technical Director & Co-Founder.

The International Center of the Capital Region recently welcomed a group of filmmakers from Senegal.

Albany is one of just three stops for the group in the United States. I caught up with them as they participated in activities at Youth FX, an organization near Lincoln Park that works with Albany’s young people of color from underserved communities who are interested in new digital media technology.

ICCR Executive Director Jennifer Zhao says the filmmakers also visited Los Angeles and New York City, recognizing the impact the three cities have on the film industry.

"We are a hub for film making," said Zhao. "Especially with the different productions that have been here with the Gilded Age, and also in Schenectady. We've become a rising star, I will say, in the film industry, and also specifically for Youth FX. Maybe some people may not know about what they do, but their impact is just tremendous. And it's actually been well recognized nationally for the impact that they're making with youth, and teaching them marketable skills through media development and production, shooting. They're definitely a highly sought after organization and the Senegal folks are very excited to learn from them and maybe execute some of those programs back home."

Zhao says a virtual meeting took place last year because of COVID restrictions that prevented the group from traveling to the states. When the ban was lifted, arrangements for this year’s trip were completed.

Youth FX Co-Executive Director Bhawin Suchak says he's glad the filmmakers were finally able to make it to Albany.

"And so it was a really great experience to connect with folks from, you know, the place that African cinemas really birthed, which is Senegal," Suchak said. "My family's from East Africa, from Dar Salam and from Zanzibar. And so it's something that we've also already been having conversations about as an organization, how do we expand some of our opportunities to folks from other countries, you know, specifically places that just don't have the ability to acquire cameras and things like that. So it was a really incredible opportunity to talk. And then when Jennifer Zhao from the International Center reached out and said they were actually coming to the states, we were just thrilled to be able to invite them to our location and have them actually come and meet us in-person, and for us to hear about the work they're doing, and really, you know, hopefully inspire each other in the work that we both are doing and really help to kind of build some sense of collective you know, knowledge sharing and collaboration," said Suchak.

Fatim Cissé owns a production company and produces a TV series. Her filmmaking focuses on portraying female independence and autonomy in modern Senegalese society. We spoke through an interpreter.

"I am both the writer, the producer and the director of a TV series which is called 'Lives of Women,' and it talks about things that are usually not talked about in Senegalese society and can be even considered taboo. It's a great pleasure to be able to come to the United States to look at the film industry," said Cissé. "The name of this program is 'The United States TV and Film Industry, the Keys to Success,' and in fact we have been here and able to get some of those elements which have ensured that the United States industry continues to be a healthy one."

The Senegalese filmmakers' Albany visit was made possible through the International Visitor Leadership Program, the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program.

Located at Hudson Valley Community College, the International Center of the Capital Region is a non-profit founded in 1956 that promotes cultural understanding among others by welcoming international leaders and newcomers to the area.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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