Africa in Motion 2012


Posted by in October's Magazine

From Kichwateli (whose image graces our cover) to Swords (reviewed below) the Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival promises an absolute feast of colourful, challenging, inspiring, ground breaking cinema. A burnt sienna box of delights… if you will. I sent AiM Director Isabel Mendes five questions, which she answered in a wonderfully considered two thousand word reply for which, scandalously, there is only room for a scant 400 in this piece. I shall make sure Isabel’s full answers are made available here: www.leithermagazine.com, if only to show the dastardly art of editing at its most untrustworthy. The Levenson Inquiry has nothing on this…

The public perception is ‘I can catch a film anytime’. Not true with many of these films?

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The way the film production and distribution market is set up in the ‘western world’ has resulted in the marginalisation of regional African cinema, which is clearly under-represented in the UK. Having said that, we have evidence that the work being developed by AiM and other African festivals is raising awareness of the work being produced by talented African filmmakers and extending the life of their films – which are increasingly being picked up by other festivals, and distributed on the art house circuit.

What does AiM hope to achieve going forward?

We believe that the best way to learn about Africa is to listen to African voices and to view representations created by African’s themselves, as these often counter the stereotypical representations of Africa prevalent in mainstream media. But our main reason for screening the films is they are great and should be seen. Professionally and personally, I love helping move this proposition forward.

What are the criteria for film selection?

This year, with our ‘Modern Africa’ theme, we are focusing on films that represent Africa as part and parcel of the modern, globalised world – the urban, the new, the provocative, the innovative and experimental. We are interested in discovering and exploring Africa’s important role in the contemporary world, and how that manifests in African cultures.

Nollywood, a good point to go from in the future?

Curiously, at AiM 2012 we are generating a conversation around Nollywood and the dissemination of this increasingly popular African video-filmmaking industry model, which is now being replicated in other parts of the continent such as Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, etc; making it a transnational phenomenon. We also have documentaries on Arab Spring revolutions, looking at how these fledgling democracies are finding their feet, and how their artists are embracing the new found freedom of creative expression.

Which films in particular are you looking forward to?

As directly as possible, the whole programme, but I’m looking forward to seeing the African Sci-Fi films on the big screen and the Children’s Day programme. From the UK premieres I would highlight interesting work from Alain Gomis (Senegal), Faouzi Bensaidi (Morocco), Andrew Dosunmu (Nigeria) and Sara Blecher (South Africa), who is attending.

… AiM has invited African filmmakers to submit films of up to 30 minutes long for the Short Film Competition – part of AiM’s commitment to nurturing young African filmmaking talent – offering a cash prize of £1,000 to the winning film. Eight films have been shortlisted. Styles range from experimental and futuristic to animation and dramatic, these films will hopefully represent the potential for dynamic filmmaking in contemporary Africa. A jury of film practitioners and academics (including the ubiquitous Mark Cousins) will select the winner. But you will also have the opportunity to vote for your favourite films via the Audience Award. We review one below…Billy Gould

Hasaki Ya Suda (Swords)

Film cultures have tribal languages. While African cinema dances to its distinctive beat, the Japanese have their own samurai code of the silver screen. Imagine then, when our esteemed editor asks me to review an African samurai film with French subtitles. It’s got to be a fuckin’ joke, no?

Thankfully the 25 minute short, Swords has very little need for verbal language. Its soul lies in the wonderful, significant imagery presented. Opening with a beautiful animation, we then move onto an inventive chase scene, viewed only from the waist down but crammed with flair and tension. Lone-wolf Ronin stalk the African plains duelling for supremacy. They are disparate entities; treacherous and deceitful in sharp contrast to the honour code inherent in the Japanese originals this film pays homage to (too many to mention). Swords still manages to forge its own bold character, impregnating satisfactory fight scenes with a unique African mysticism. And most importantly the crimson blood jets freely.

If this is a taste of the quality Africa in Motion has to offer then you will find me in the ticket queue. – Alan Bett

Info: Africa in Motion,

Edinburgh & Glasgow, 25th Oct – 2nd Nov.

africa-in-motion.org.uk

 

And here is the Full Interview With Isabel Mendez, Director of Africa in Motion

Is the public perception: ‘Film Festival? We don’t need to go to that, the films will be at the Odeon in a few months’. If so, is that wrongheaded? What is the likelihood of these films getting full distribution…and if not why not?
The Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival was created in 2006 by Lizelle Bisschoff exactly to create more opportunities forScottish/UK audiences to see African films and to provide a platform to African filmmakers to exhibit their work, skill and artistry in Scotland. The reality has been that the way film production and distribution market is set up in the ‘western world’ has and does result in the marginalization of regional cinemas such as African cinema, which is clearly under-represented in the UK film-going culture. With our annual film festival in Edinburgh -and this year, for the first time in Glasgow too, and our schools and rural tours in less urban areas of the Highlands and Islands, AiM has made efforts to overcome these phenomena and introduce our audiences to the brilliance of African cinema, and, in that way change perceptions of Africa. Over the past 6 years we have screened over 200 African films to audiences totaling around 15,000 people, so we know our audiences appreciate the work we are developing.

We also believe and have evidence that the work developed in the last years by AiM and other African film festivals in the UK and around Europe are having an impact in raising awareness of the work being produced by talented African filmmakers and extending the life of their films – which are then increasingly being picked up and screened by other festivals, and being distributed in the art house commercial cinemas circuit too.

How did you arrive at Africa in Motion, and what are your aims going forward?
My (very fortunate) encounter with Africa in Motion happened in 2010, when I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to pursue a Masters degree in Arts & Cultural Management. After having worked as an arts manager for almost 3 years in the US, I became certain that enabling artistic events which emphasise multicultural and interdisciplinary understanding, critical thinking and leadership, is what I am most passionate about, and what I am best at. That is why I decided to pursue my studies in this field. At the same time, I also have to admit I had been following AiM’s work since 2007, so, almost as soon as I landed in Edinburgh, I sought out a way to become involved with the festival! Lizelle Bisschoff, festival founder and director and Stefanie van de Peer, co-director at the time, were kind enough to bring me on board and utilise my skills to the advantage of AiM. The rest, as they say, is history! I am truly proud of being part of an organisation that has as its core aim the desire to create opportunities for Scottish audiences to see African film. We truly do believe that the best way to learn about Africa is to listen to African voices and to view representations created by African’s themselves, as these often counter the stereotypical representations of Africa prevalent in mainstream media. But our main reason for screening the films is because we believe they are great films which should be seen the world over. Professionally and personally I could not be happier in giving my contribution to move this proposition forward.

What’s the criteria for film selection, is it personal, are the films invited? Or do the filmmakers put themselves forward? 
Throughout the years, AiM has focused on different overarching themes around which our different overarching themes around which our programme of films and events is built on. In previous years we have focused on themes ranging from Conflict, Trauma and Reconciliation to Celebrations, Children and Youth in Africa, etc. This year, with our ‘Modern Africa’ theme, we are focusing on films and events that represent Africa as part and parcel of the modern, globalised world – the urban, the new, the provocative, the innovative and experimental. We are interested in discovering and exploring through this year’s festival Africa’s important role in the contemporary world, and how that manifests in African cultures.

It is under these perspectives that our programming team sources, selects and shortlists the films in our programme, each year. African filmmakers are invited to submit their films to our competitive (Short Film Competition) and non-noncompetitive strands (which encompasses animation, experimental, fiction, features, documentaries, thematic strands, etc), through our annual call for entries. In addition to the increasing number of film submissions we receive, our team works year-round sourcing recent African film releases, talking to filmmakers, producers, and other African festivals (in the continent and around the world), to guarantee we offer our audiences a wide and varied programme of films, which include a significant number of UK premieres.

We know the Nollywood Scene…what other emerging African nations should we (in a filmic sense) be looking out for?
I think that answer can be found in out 2012 programme, actually. Similarly to previous years, we have organised different strands of films to help our audience identify the particular topics and genres we are highlighting this year.

We are generating a conversation around Nollywood and the dissemination of this increasingly popular African video-filmmaking industry model, which is now being replicated in other parts of the continent such as Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, etc; making it a transnational phenomenon.

We are also presenting a number of documentaries on the Arab Spring revolutions, and seeing how these young democracies in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are finding their feet, and how their artists are embracing the new-found freedom of creative expression and the positive effect this is having on the cinema industries in these countries. Also, and very much in line with our theme of ‘Modern Africa’, we are featuring an African Science Fiction strand, which, we hope, will allow our audience to see how African filmmakers have been exploring this genre beyond the more popular know District 9 example. The sci-fi film programme will include films such as the futuristic actioner ‘Afro-samurai’ short Hasaki Ya Suda (Swords) from Burkina Faso (26 Oct); and we will also be screening the 2005 feature Les Saignantes (The Bloodettes) hailed as of the first African science fiction films. Cameroonian director Jean-Pierre Bekolo will be in attendance, as one of our guest filmmakers this year.

Finally, two other ways to learn/understand about emerging filmmakers and regions in Africa where interesting cinema is being produced is to pay attention to the young and upcoming filmmakers featured on our Short Film Competition strand (29 Oct) and to try to catch as many UK premieres from our programme as possible (we have 20 this year, so a lot to look out for!).

Which films are you looking forward to (presumably) seeing again and why? Perhaps ‘tip’ a talent, writer/actor/director etc, we should watch out for in future. 
That is always a difficult question to answer! We have put together what we believe to be a very strong programme of films and events, so we would invite everyone to pick up a brochure, visit our website at www.africa-in-motion.org.uk or the websites of the two venues where we will be – Filmhouse Cinema and Glasgow Film Theatre – and see what we have on offer. As I mentioned, we have organised part of the programme into strands – Modern African Identities (30 Oct), African Popular Arts Doc. (01 Nov) , African Science-Fiction (26 Oct), Arab Spring Doc. (28 Oct), African Films for Children (28 Oct), Short Film Competition (29 Oct) and UK Premieres, to make it as accessible as possible to our audiences.

But to answer your question as directly as possible: I am particularly looking forward to seeing the African Science Fiction films on the big screen and I am also excited for our Children’s Day programme, which includes films, storytelling and workshops, and is always a success for families and their children. From the UK premieres we are bringing, I would highlight very interesting work by Senegalese director Alain Gomis – Tey (Today) (28 Oct); Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi – Death for Sale (29 Oct), Nigerian-born director Andrew Dosunmu – Restless City (02 Nov), and South African director Sara Blecher (who will be in attendance) – Otelo Burning (31 Oct).

Finally, I would also recommend our (now very well reputed) opening night events in Edinburgh (25 Oct) or Glasgow (28 Oct). We make a point of marking the opening of our festival with an unmissible big bash! This year it will include the UK premiere of the South African feature ‘Uhlanga’ (The Mark) with the presence of the director, Ndaba ka Ngwane, and an opening reception at Cargo Bar (Edinburgh) and The Lighthouse (Glasgow) featuring live African music, African canapes and South African wine. It is a great opportunity to join in the spirit of celebration African cinema and culture we bring every year!

Has finding funding been difficult, and how sustainable is it in the long run?
We are now a charitable organisation and we are taking steps to build a sustainable future for the festival, one which goes beyond the project based reality which has been ours since the festival was founded. This, is, in itself a big endeavor, since the arts funding landscape, in what pertains to small organisations as our, is quite challenging. We are aware we share in the same difficult economic and social reality as a number of smaller Edinburgh-based arts organisations, and that is why we are working alongside other smaller festivals to create a collaborative structure where we can share resources, support each other and promote sustainable growth.

We hope these organisational development efforts will support the growth of our festival, not only regarding its geographic scope, but also in terms of expanding our current activities, to include creating African film distribution and production opportunities in the UK.

It is with gratitude that we recognise the support of all our funders, sponsors and partners, notably Creative Scotland, Awards for All and Regional Screen Scotland; as we well as Filmhouse and GF

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