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2014 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s An African Spring

Last year we had a docu about the aftermath/current state of the Arab Spring (Jehane Noujaim’s The Square), so keeping with the same subject thematic, we could technically be following this up with An African Spring. Winner of the Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival for her debut film, A Normal Life which she then followed by the popular Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (2009) and Touba, the SXSW Special Jury Prize for Best Cinematography (2013), Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi mathematically has good chances to squeeze into the comp.

Gist: In the Spring of 2011, Senegal was pitched into crisis when President Abdoulaye Wade decided to change the constitution to allow for a third term. An artist-led youth movement erupted to protect one of Africa’s oldest and most stable democracies. In a country where 70% of the population is under 30 – like much of the global South – the Y’en a marre (Enough is Enough) movement caught fire. After 12 years of corruption and nepotism, of high food and gasoline prices, of constant power outages, and schools shuttered because of striking teachers, the constitutional crisis had become the last straw for the people of Senegal. 14 candidates ran for President. The film follows the main players: incumbent President Wade, opposition candidate Macky Sall, music superstar Youssou Ndour, and the Y’en a marre movement.

Production Co./Producers: Vasarhelyi. Ass. Producer: Hilary Gish

Prediction: If this doesn’t land a U.S. Docu Competition slot, SXSW and the Tribeca Film Fest will be keen on having her back.

U.S. Distributor: Rights Available

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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