Cinefest to showcase roots of hip hop through films, performances

November 6, 2007 By Gwen Evans

The 8th Annual Cinefest Multicultural Film & Performance Festival, to be held Thursday-Sunday, Nov. 8-11, on the UW–Madison campus, will showcase films and spoken-word performances that trace the roots of hip hop from the 1970s Bronx to its current global popularity, as well as presenting the passion and poetry of cutting-edge artists currently working in the genre.

Small verson of Cinefest poster

"The festival brings some of the newer and most exciting names in hip hop and spoken word to campus, and the films put hip hop in a historical perspective," says Willie Ney, executive director of UW-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives. "The performances complement the films, and many of the films can’t be seen anywhere else."

With social messages of justice and mobilization, hip hop resonates with youth and communities of color. "We added hip hop to last year’s Cinefest, and it drew our most diverse audiences ever. We have to change with the times and pay attention to the interests of young people, and they came out in force," says Ney.

The four-day festival is organized by themes. The kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 8, will be held at the Orpheum Stage Door Theatre, 216 State St. The Chicano Messengers, featuring the nationally acclaimed poet Paul Flores, will heat things up with a dynamic evening of spoken-word poetry. A screening of "From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A Bronx Tale" follows the performance.

The lineup on Friday goes old school and new school, with the 25th anniversary screening of "Wild Style," a documentary on hip-hip pioneers; a preview of "Line Breaks," a work-in-progress from Marc Bamuthi Joseph; and a presentation of the fest headliner, the film "The Hip-Hop Project." The documentary, from executive producers Bruce Willis and Queen Latifah, tells the story of a former homeless teen, Kazi, who uses hip hop to change his life, and those of other teens. The evening wraps with a night of music and beats at Der Rathskeller with the stars of "The Hip-Hop Project," including emcee Kazi and reggaeton artist La Bruja.

If there is any doubt about the global popularity of hip hop, one need only check out the Saturday lineup, with films from South Africa, Morocco, Colombia and Germany. A spoken-word performance from La Bruja, star of Telemundo and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, closes the day’s events.

Cuba is the focus on Sunday, with screenings and discussions of the Cuban film industry, history, politics, culture and human rights. The programming is part of an ongoing campus series, "Afro-Cuba at the Crossroads: Arts, Culture, History."

All Cinefest events are free and open to the public and take place in the Memorial Union’s Rathskeller and Play Circle, with the exception of Thursday night’s programs at the Orpheum Theatre.

Cinefest is presented by the UW–Madison Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives and is held in conjunction with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film and Music committees and the Hip-Hop Association. It is co-sponsored by MECHA, MCSC, the College of Letters and Science, the John L. Childs Liberal Arts Fund, the Anonymous Fund and WORT 89.9 FM.

For more information on Cinefest, contact Willie Ney at (608) 890-1006 or at