Last month, the 20th annual African Diaspora International Film Festival opened in New York City. Whether you are a first time attendee or a trustee of the film festival attending your 20th, there is always something at ADIFF that’ll keep you coming back. Even if you haven’t ever attended, here are the Top 5 reasons why the African Diaspora International Film Festival matters:

Iiah Washington

Opening night at ADIFF: Isaiah Washington stars alongside Genevieve Nnaji in Dr. Bello.

1) The film industry is booming in Africa. It isn’t just traditional powerhouses like South Africa and Nigeria who are producing films. This year, ADIFF showcased 54 films from 33 countries.

2) One continent, many stories. Just as’s Africa: Straight Up seeks to dispel myths, and give a clearer picture of the continent through its peoples, ADIFF showcases a wide range of films from the continent–and diaspora stories from all over the world. In one weekend, you can watch Guerilla Grannies, a movie in English and Portuguese about about grandmothers who fought in Mozambique’s battle for independence, and La Playa DC, a movie in Spanish about an Afro-Colombian teen looking desperately for his missing brother.

3) Bragging rights at the water cooler. As has been documented, 2012 was a big year for African cinema. At ADIFF, you can catch award-winning movies like Scheherzade, Tell Me a Story from Egypt and big-budget Nollywood movies likeDr. Bello before they hit the multiplexes.

4) Watch smaller movies–and maybe even help them get distributed. Here’s one country that you probably don’t think of as producing many films: Namibia. Yet what Namibia lacks in numbers, it makes up in sheer creativity and personality. This year, the Namibia Film Commission sent a delegation of filmmakers to ADIFF to accompany a screening of their shorts.

The “Spotlight on Namibia” shorts featured stories ranging from a woman dealing with the aftermath of a miscarriage (“All She Ever Wanted”) to a stylish story of a small-time gangster trying to help out his law-abiding family (“Try”). Said filmmaker Joel Haikali, “we’re hoping somebody in the audience will have a friend, who has a friend, who has a friend, who has a friend.” So if you have a friend, who has a friend in the industry, pick up your phone now.

5) Share your love for African film, and join the discussion. Most of all the film screenings have Q&A’s with the filmmakers following, and some even have chances to mingle with filmmakers afterwards. Whether you are a film student, a director, or just a casual viewer, now is your chance to join the discussion.

For those of you who missed ADIFF in New York in December, the Best of ADIFF will be screened again in January, and join the Black Heritage Tour in Costa Rica from August 27th to September 2, 2013.

Are you a fan of African film? What are some of your favorite films from the continent? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!