The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

18 February 2012

Women Filmmakers from the Ethiopian Diaspora Tell Their Stories

AllAfrica.com - 17 February 2012 - Africa: Women Filmmakers Tell Their Stories

These interviews of three women filmmakers of Ethiopian origin reflect the experiences of women living and working in the diverse Ethiopian diasporas: pioneer Salem Mekuria, a professor based in the United States, came there as a student some four decades ago; Sosena Solomon, born in Kenya and raised in the United States, returned to her ancestral home and ended up making the film Merkato about the famous open air market of Addis Ababa; and Rahel Zegeye who has lived in Beirut as a domestic worker for ten years, used her savings to make the film Beirut, about her and other Ethiopian women's experiences living in Beirut.

Read the entire article at AllAfrica.com: http://allafrica.com/stories/201202171378.html

Les réalisatrices de la diaspora éthiopienne nous racontent leurs histoires

AllAfrica - 17 février 2012 - Africa: Women Filmmakers Tell Their Stories (Afrique: Les réalisatrices racontent leur histoires)
Ces entretiens par AllAfrica avec trois réalisatrices d'origines éthiopiennes reflètent les expériences de femmes qui vivent et travaillent dans les diverses diasporas éthiopiennes : la pionnière Salem Mekuria, professeure basée aux Etats-Unis, y est venue comme étudiante il y a quatre décennies. Sosena Solomon, née au Kenya et élevée aux Etats-Unis, est retournée au pays ancestral où elle a réalisé Merkato, un film qui nous montre le fameux marché d’Addis Abeba. Et Rahel Zegeye qui habite à Beyrouth comme domestique depuis dix ans, a utilisé ses économies afin de réaliser Beirut (Beyrouth) un film de fiction qui raconte son expérience et celles d’autres éthiopiennes à Beyrouth.

Lire dans son intégralité en anglais sur http://allafrica.com/stories/201202171378.html

17 February 2012

A Conversation with Rumbi Katedza

Rumbi Katedza, actively involved in Zimbabwean cinema culture, talks about her evolution into the moving image, the role that she would like to play in forging a modern Zimbabwean cultural identity, and her new film Playing Warriors.

Rumbi, while you are Zimbabwean you are also a world citizen having lived in many locations around the globe. You are also involved in many aspects of cinema and the audiovisual. Please talk about yourself and how you came to cinema.

I always knew I wanted to work in cinema, but I didn’t quite know which road I would take to get there. When I was a young girl living in Japan, I joined a video club, and during the long summer holidays I would spend hours upon hours consuming different films. To me it was amazing how people I did not know could create a reality out of an idea and get an emotional reaction from me. I found that very powerful, and I wanted to be able to do the same one day. I did some work in theatre in high school and university until I decided to return to Zimbabwe after my first degree to immerse myself in the Zim film industry. I started off working in production management, then moved to distribution and festival management, until I finally settled on writing and directing, where my true passion lies. It was a journey that allowed me to witness and appreciate the changes in our industry and to appreciate the struggles of others. I now produce independent documentary and narrative content through my company Mai Jai Films.

I recall in your discussion about your first film Asylum (2007) at the Women in the Sun Film Festival in Johannesburg in 2010, that you wanted to delve into the psychological effects on African women who experience the trauma of displacement. What inspired you to make the film, what were your experiences in the process, and what has been the reception of the film, especially by the women whose experiences you draw from?

When I made Asylum I was a doing my Masters in London and I saw a news piece on refugees in the UK. What struck me about the stories was how so many of the people still experienced fear every day of their lives because they were still haunted by the experiences they went through. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be helping them psychologically. The assumption was, if you are in a ‘safe’ country, then all is fine, but to be honest, you are never safe from the prison that your mind can create for you. Making the film with no dialogue was a very deliberate choice, because I felt no words had to be said to convey the war that continued to be waged in the character’s mind every day. I spent time with Sudanese refugees in London who were very generous with their stories, and they appreciated the film once it was made. The film has travelled to scores of festivals now and won a couple of awards, and wherever it goes, it resonates with audiences. The character in the film could be from anywhere because her experience is a universal one.

Your 13-part TV series The Team explores a completely different theme—boys and sports. What has been the reception?
The Team is a multi-nation project, which has also been produced in countries like Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Morocco amongst others. We were fortunate enough to produce a Zimbabwean version that was a big hit on our local TV channel. With the series we wanted to tackle issues of conflict in our communities and challenge people to be more responsible for the issues that arise. The series merges the global appeal of football with drama to help transform social attitudes and diminish violent behaviour in a country with deeply rooted conflict.

Your very brave documentary, The Axe and the Tree, was produced under difficult circumstances, and for security reasons has not yet been screened in Zimbabwe. The title is an interesting one, what was your experience with the film, your process, audience reactions? Would you like the film to be a vehicle for discussion among Zimbabweans? And for the larger public?
I was approached by producer David Jammy to direct a film about how a community that has experienced conflict and violence is dealing with the repercussions, and how or if they are able to move on. The producers and I decided to work with a group that was already working on a community-healing project, and through my research, I learned a lot about the terrible things that had happened to every day people during the 2008 Zimbabwean harmonised elections. It was an eye-opener, a kind of education in fear, and how fear can paralyze people and make it impossible to live their lives to their full potential.It obviously was not an easy film to make because there were certain people who did not want the story to be told, but I was completely humbled by the bravery of the people who agreed to be in the film. They shared very painful stories of torture and rape. It was because of them that I finished the film and believed that it had to get maximum exposure. Eventually, I would like a wider Zimbabwean audience to watch the film and discuss its content because what happened in 2008 should never happen again.

The subject matter is of course controversial. Have you personally had repercussions as a result of making the film?

I have not had any repercussions as a result of making the film, but the people in the film still live in volatile communities, where the circumstances that created violence in the first place still exist.

You were festival director of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival from 2004 to 2006, what were some of your achievements during your tenure?

I left the Zimbabwe International Film Festival at the end of 2006, at a time when the festival was focusing a great deal on its outreach programmes. The Trust focused on visual literacy and audience development programmes that allowed the festival audience to grow. This was very close to my heart because we were going out and developing new audiences through our work. This was necessary not only for the festival, but for the growth of the Zimbabwean film industry. The festival truly started to become a national brand while I was there, with the event getting unprecedented corporate support at that time. Unfortunately, with the challenging economic times that Zimbabwe experienced from 2007, cultural organisations took a big hit in funding, and the repercussions are still being felt today.

You also worked at the Media for Development Trust. What are the objectives of the organization and what role did you play.

I worked as the Distribution Manager for Media for Development Trust, and I was responsible for sales for a catalogue of over 200 short films, documentaries and features, predominantly from Africa. At the time, Media for Development Trust was the leading film production house in Zimbabwe, producing such critically acclaimed films as Neria, More Time, Everyone’s Child and Yellow Card, so the distribution wing supported the production work, by expanding our ties with broadcasters and with NGOs, so that grassroots distribution programmes could be set up to disseminate the films.

Postcards from Zimbabwe is a community-focused audio-visual and life-skills training project for Zimbabwean teens. How did it come about and what are some of the projects that have resulted from this initiative?

 Postcards is an outreach programme for Zimbabwean youth that uses video as a tool to deal with trauma. The children we select for the programme come from various parts of the country, and we actively seek to have them reach their full potential and discover their voice through the screen.I founded the programme when I noticed that our children in Zimbabwe knew far more about people in the Americas and Europe than they did about people on the other side of their own country. The media was saturated with foreign children’s content. I wanted the children to interact with each other, learn about each others lives and cultures and tell stories that they could share with their communities, and more importantly, with each other. To date, six short films have been produced.The programme is funding-dependent, so we run it when we can, but we find that it is effective in instilling confidence and hope in our participants, because the last thing you want the children of a nation to lose is hope.

Earlier you mentioned your company Mai Jai Films, what is its mission and what has been some of its accomplishments?

Mai Jai Films is a production company focused on pioneering a new generation of Zimbabwean films through smart partnerships and co-productions. Some of our accomplishments in its few years of operation include producing a documentary with National AIDS Council and STEPS International called “Tariro”, the TV series “The Team”, that I talked about earlier, which we produced together with Search for Common Ground, and of course, our feature film “Playing Warriors” which we produced with Pangolin Films.

You are very involved in the myriad aspects of cinema culture in Zimbabwe, some reflections on the future of Zimbabwean cinema?

In recent years, many cinemas in Zimbabwe have closed down and converted into businesses and churches. This is a sign of the times for us. Unfortunately, our filmmakers do not own the means to dissemination and distribution. What I see happening now is a kind of renaissance in dissemination methods, as we become more of a video society. We are making films for the DVD market, and local audiences are buying content more and more from flea markets.This has brought a lot of new players in the industry who are producing low-budget films with Zimbabwean stories, and we are starting to recognise local actors and stars. This is just the beginning of something that has the potential to grow much bigger. In time, as the quality improves and the quantity of our films increases, the industry will grow.Plus, a large part of the major producers and directors in Zimbabwe are women, so I’m also looking forward to the body of work they produce to tell the Zimbabwean story.

Your new film Playing Warriors is yet another theme, very different from your other films. Do you intentionally want to present an eclectic body of work? What would you like your audience to bring from the film?

Playing Warriors is a film that took about 8 years to make for various reasons. Fundraising was difficult and finding the right time to shoot was always a challenge, but we made it. We didn’t want to make another ‘message film’, we just wanted to tell a uniquely Zimbabwean story that entertained audiences, and we feel we have achieved that. Zimbabwean audiences have responded very positively to the film.

During the International Images Film Festival for Women in Harare in November 2011, I viewed the film Playing Warriors, after which we had a long discussion about your intentions, audience reception, outside influences on Zimbabwean identity. Let’s pick up that conversation…

Set in modern day Harare, Playing Warriors is a sexy social comedy that features four ambitious young women and the challenges they face in balancing the expectations of tradition and social norms with being modern, independent women in present day Zimbabwe.This is a film I have wanted to make for a long time. I was able to make other short films, TV series and documentaries in between, but this feature was always close to my heart, because it told a story that related so closely to the people in my life.I like that the story resonates with so many women who finally feel their story is being told. I also like that it gets audiences talking, wherever they are from. Tradition vs. modern, urban vs. rural, older vs. younger etc. Our lives are full of conflicts and contradictions, and this is what I show in the film, and I encourage audiences to allow themselves to laugh at those realities, reflect on them and challenge them.I find myself doing eclectic work, because there are so many untold stories in Zimbabwe, and I find myself always striving to do something new. Who knows what the next project will be? But ultimately, I want to tell human stories, about real people. I want to show the many faces of Zimbabwe today.

Playing Warriors is a film that explored the conflict that exists between notions of tradition and modern lifestyles and how a group of women friends navigate that. Though it is set in Zimbabwe, it is a universal story. We recently screened the film at the Goteborg International Film Festival in Sweden and the audiences truly identified with the situation of the women in the film.

The representation of tradition as it confronts a modern Zimbabwe is done in a playful way, especially the lobola practice…

Bride price and the traditional lobola ceremony is still widely practiced today across socio-economic lines. What we challenge in the film, is how many families are disrespecting the tradition by making it more of a financial transaction, and a means to earn money. Historically, lobola was more of a token of appreciation that was given to bring two families together, but today, with monetary transactions, it feels like daughters are being sold off, and this does not make for a good start to any marriage.

And thus the light-hearted, playful approach is driven by your assertion that: “our lives are difficult enough, we want some entertainment.”
In the past, the Zimbabwean film industry was more of a service industry in which foreign companies would come in to make their films and then leave. We had a highly skilled crew-base in the 80s and 90s, but this has changed over the years, with Zimbabwe losing business to South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, etc. Local films were predominantly donor-funded and focused on a specific issue. They were primarily made to educate. Fortunately, a new generation of filmmakers is emerging and they are making more entertainment films for local audiences. Our audiences are tired of being preached to. Like any other audience, we want films that tell stories we can relate to, stories that represent us, with actors we can recognise. And we want diversity in stories. Africa is not homogenous and even within Zimbabwe, we have diverse communities and economic classes. You can’t tell one story and say that that is ‘the’ Zimbabwean story.

During our discussion Jacki Cahi the co-producer emphasised the importance of framing the film within the context of a society in transition.

The film most definitely does show a society in transition. There is conflict between generations as we question what it truly means to be Zimbabwean, and we want to build our identity and, ultimately, celebrate our differences. The urban/rural divide is getting bigger with increased access to information and technology and Zimbabwean women, particularly in the urban areas, are part of the ever-changing world. They want to be a part of the change in their lives and their country without feeling that they need a man’s affirmation or validation.
Also during our discussion I mentioned the emergence of a “sex and the city” genre in African women’s filmmaking and you agreed that this genre was indeed a sign of the times where women get together and talk about themselves and relationships, and that Playing Warriors is a story where women talk about their own bodies rather than being talked about.

It’s a story about the women in my life. They represent the emerging middle class. They are women who are comfortable amongst themselves, but still struggle against societal prejudices every day.

Interview with Rumbi Katedza by Beti Ellerson, February 2012
Links:

La parole à Rumbi Katedza

Rumbi Katedza, très active dans la culture du cinéma au Zimbabwe, parle de son évolution dans l’image, du rôle qu’elle espère jouer dans la construction d’une identité culturelle Zimbabwéenne moderne et de son nouveau film Playing Warriors.  

Entretien avec Beti Ellerson dans son intégralité en anglais sur l’African Women in Cinema Blog: http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com

16 February 2012

Branwen Okpako: "The Education of Auma Obama" – Black World Cinema Interview


In this Skype interview, Branwen Okpako, director of The Education of Auma Obama talks about her journey in the making of the documentary film about President Barack Obama's sister Auma, in "a captivating and intimate portrait of the U.S. president's older half-sister, who embodies a post-colonial, feminist identity."

Dans cet entretien via Skype par Black World Cinema, Branwen Okpako, réalisatrice du documentaire The Education of Auma Obama parle de son parcours pendant la réalisation du film sur Auma, la demi-soeur ainée du président des Etats-Unis, Barack Obama. « Un portrait intime et passionnant [d'une femme] qui incarne une identité postcoloniale féministe. » En anglais sans sous-titrage. 

14 February 2012

"Gender and Media in Africa" Africa Media Review: Call for papers for a Special Issue


Deadline: 1st March 2012

In November last year CODESERIA held its annual Gender Symposium in Cairo, Egypt on the theme “Gender and the Media in Africa,” opening up a much needed platform on which gender and media scholars could renew reflection on the multi-faceted connection between media and gender in Africa. This special issue of Africa Media Review seeks to continue the dialogue by examining how political and social transformations on the continent resulting from re-democratisation, neo-liberalism and globalisation are implicating the nature of the relationship between media and gender.

We welcome contributions on theoretical and practical perspectives on the subject including, but not limited to:
  • Gendered audiences 
  • Gender and media entrepreneurship 
  • Gendered implications of changes in media landscape resulting from democracy, globalisation and economic liberalisation 
  • Gender and film industry/culture in Africa 
  • Gendered access and appropriation of new media and communication technologies: gender and online journalism; social networking and gender, the female bloggers, SMS /text messaging in gender-related campaigns, etc. 
  • The gendered dimensions of covering critical issues such as HIV/AIDS, peace and conflict, sexual and gender-based violence, elections and politics, etc. 
  • Gendered representations in African popular culture 
  • Representations of femininity and masculinity in the media 
  • Media as gendered activist space 
  • The relevance of gendered media spaces 
  • Gender and media education/pedagogy

Final articles should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length. All contributions will go through a rigorous anonymous peer-review process.

Deadline for short proposals: March 1, 2012
Deadline for acceptance note: April 1, 2012
Deadline for full papers: May 1, 2012

« Genre et médias en Afrique » Revue africaine des médias : Appel à contributions pour un numéro spécial


Date limite : 1 mars 2012

En novembre de l’année dernière, le CODESRIA a organisé au Caire, en Egypte, son symposium annuel sur le genre avec pour thème « Genre et médias en Afrique ». A cette occasion, une plateforme a été définie sur laquelle les spécialistes de ces questions pourraient renouveler la réflexion relative aux relations multiformes entre médias et genre en Afrique. Ce numéro spécial de la Revue Africaine des Médias vise à poursuivre ces échanges en examinant comment les transformations politiques et sociales sur le continent, résultant de la re-démocratisation, du néolibéralisme et de la mondialisation, influent sur la nature des relations entre médias et genre.

Les contributions sur les perspectives théoriques et pratiques de ce sujet sont les bienvenues. Elles pourraient, par exemple, tourner autour des thématiques suivantes : 
  • Les audiences (ou les publics) médiatiques selon le genre en Afrique
  • Genre et entrepreneuriat médiatique en Afrique
  • Implications sur le genre des changements dans le paysage médiatique africain résultant de la démocratie, de la mondialisation et du libéralisme économique
  • Genre et industrie cinématographique / culture en Afrique
  • Genre et appropriation des nouveaux médias et technologies de la communication : genre et journalisme en ligne, réseautage social et genre, blogueuses, SMS / messagerie texte dans les campagnes liées au genre, etc.
  • Dimensions sexospécifiques de la couverture de questions cruciales telles que le VIH / SIDA, la paix et les conflits, la violence sexuelle et sexiste, les élections et la politique, etc.
  • Représentations du genre dans la culture populaire africaine
  • Représentations de la féminité et de la masculinité dans les médias africains
  • Médias africains comme espace de l’activiste de genre
  • Pertinence des espaces médiatiques africains « sexués »
  • Genre et éducation (ou pédagogie) aux médias en Afrique
  • Les articles définitifs devraient avoir une longueur variant entre 6 000 et 8 000 mots. Toutes les contributions passeront par un processus rigoureux d’évaluation par des pairs.
Date limite pour l’envoi des propositions : 1 mars 2012
Date limite pour la notification d’acceptation : 1 avril 2012
Date limite pour l’envoi des articles complets : 1 mai 2012


IN ENGLISH

10 February 2012

Isabel Moura Mendes takes the torch: The Africa in Motion Edinburgh African Film Festival

Isabel Moura Mendes, of Cape Verdean origins, found in (AiM) Africa in Motion Edinburgh African Film Festival, a space to develop her interests in African culture and to hone her skills in arts and cultural management. She talks about the goals and objectives of the Festival and its plans for the 2012 edition and the future.

Isabel, please talk a bit about yourself, your background and your experiences with the cinema while growing up.

I am the daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants in Europe. In 1975, in an act shared by so many African families across the continent, my parents left their homeland and the barren mountains of the island of Santiago, in search for a better life in Portugal, the country that, until the year before, claimed Cape Verde amongst its colonised territories. It was thanks to their sacrifices that I was able to pursue my education and major in Media Studies and Journalism, thus becoming the first in my family to hold a college diploma. My particular focus on the written word clearly sprung from my lifelong interest and relationship with the arts and its multiple manifestations. I have always been drawn to the positive transformative power of arts and this fact, along with my desire to more fully understand my identity and sense of belonging, have shaped both my personal and professional paths. I have worked with different outlets in media both in Portugal and Cape Verde. In 2004, I was appointed co-Director of the arts training exchange program between Cape Verde and US Centre for Creative Youth/CuturArte, and later that same year, took over as the head of the state-owned Cape Verdean national television channel, TCV. My love affair with African film started in 2006, when I collaborated with the documentary training scheme, Africadoc, with which I worked until 2008. Through this connection, I had a chance to be involved in the production of a number of African lusophone documentaries and to meet inspiring filmmakers such as Flora Gomes, from Guinea Bissau.

How do your studies connect to cinema and how did you become involved in the African in Motion Film Festival?

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, 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 which has as its core aim the desire to create opportunities for Scottish audiences to see African films while providing a platform for African filmmakers to exhibit their work in Scotland, and in that way change perceptions of Africa. 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.

In 2007 I was invited to speak at a panel organised by the festival and attended many of the film screenings and am very impressed with the evolution of the festival. Please talk a bit about its history.

Africa in Motion has proved very successful over the past six years. From the first edition of the festival in 2006 to 2011 we have screened over 200 African films - a significant portion of them being UK premieres - to audiences totalling around 15,000 people. These numbers are indicative of our ability to reach wider audiences by including new events, reaching out more widely in press and marketing and also succeeding in making the festival known in niche communities such as the African Diaspora in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as noted every year, by our audience feedback. The consistently exciting and varied film programme and the broad offer of complementary events, such as talks and discussions, workshops, masterclasses, seminars, art exhibits and live performances by African artists/musicians, are what makes AiM an anticipated and popular event in the Edinburgh arts calendar. In response to the demand we received from both our younger public, and also audiences outside of the urban centres, we have devised and expanded specific programmes for children and youth in our festival programme, as well as implemented tours to schools and rural areas in Scotland. These outreach activities have not only expanded our festival's reach, but have enabled us to create new audiences for African film. Similarly, the multiple partnerships AiM has established with other festivals and arts organizations throughout the UK, Europe, US and in Africa itself, have granted long-term benefits for the filmmakers that have been part of our programmes, namely by extending their film’s longevity and increasing the potential that they will be picked up and programmed by other festivals. Finally, the ever-growing number of film submissions we receive every year, and the prestige that our festival has gained, both nationally and internationally, confirm to us the importance of a festival such as ours.

What has been planned for the 2012 edition in terms of theme and events?

This is an especially exciting and crucial time for AiM. We have just launched our calls for submissions for features (documentaries and fiction) as well as for our much-anticipated short film competition, now in its fifth year. We have also just unveiled the theme for the 2012 festival, which, as usual will take place in the Fall - 25 Oct to 2 Nov 2012. This year, Africa in Motion will be looking at 'Modern Africa'. What we mean by this is that we will focus on films and events encapsulating Africa in the 21st century. We will host screenings 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 regard “modern” not as belonging solely to the “West”, and through the festival we want to emphasise Africa’s important role in the modern world.  We are interested in discovering and exploring how modernity manifests in African cultures, and, once again, counteract the stereotypical view of a continent locked in ancient traditions and superstition. For that reason also, we are bringing back our academic symposium series this year, and have already put out a call for papers on themes related to African popular culture. International researchers are invited to present their research on contemporary African popular culture, which not only includes film, but also other manifestations of popular culture in Africa such as music, dance, street art, sport, theatre and literature. We believe the symposium will further enhance our festival theme.  All this information has been made available on our website at www.africa-in-motion.org.uk.

In addition to these preparations for the festival in Edinburgh, AiM is taking on board the increase in demand we have received from Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, and its African Diaspora and cinephile communities. As a result, we are developing a plan to expand the festival's impact to Glasgow, and potentially implement a fully-fledged Africa in Motion film festival there in November this year, after the main festival in Edinburgh.

You are the new director of the festival, having taken the torch from co-founder Lizelle Bischoff, what are some of your goals for the festival and future plans?

The expansion of the festival to Glasgow is already part of a larger strategic plan we are currently developing for AiM. After 6 years of excellence in film programming, inspirational guests, discussions, and events, AiM has built a strong track record and enviable reputation, recognised by our partners and competitors alike. This team—in which Lizelle is still very much involved, albeit in a less executive and more advisory role—now has the responsibility to uphold this legacy, and, at the same time, take the festival's proposition forward. This means working on developing a more structured organisational composition for the festival, which will enable us to shift from a mostly volunteer-based to a more professionalised and skills-based formation. Steps such as obtaining charitable status for AiM, establishing a high profile Board of Trustees, are some of the actions we are implementing in order to give us the organisational stability we need to ensure the continuation of the festival. This 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.

Interview with Isabel Moura Mendes by Beti Ellerson, February 2012


Isabel Moura Mendes prend la relève en tant que directrice: Afrique en mouvement festival du film africain d’Edimbourg

Isabel Moura Mendes, diasporienne de Cap-Vert, a trouvé en AiM (Africa in Motion) Afrique en mouvement festival du film africain d’Edimbourg, un espace dans lequel se développent ses intérêts sur la culture africaine ainsi que ses compétences gestionnaires dans l’art et la culture. Dans l’entretien avec Beti Ellerson, elle parle des objectives du festival et des activités pour la prochaine édition en octobre 2012, ainsi pour ceux du futur.

08 February 2012

Mojisola Sonoiki: The Women of Color Arts & Film Festival is "my destiny"

Mojisola Sonoiki, founder and director of the Women of Color Arts and Film Festival (WOCAF) based in Atlanta, has found her calling as cultural activist. She talks about her passion for art and culture and her journey through three continents.
Mojisola, you have a rich background in cultural production and advocacy on three continents! Tell us a bit about your trajectory and the experiences that inspired you on this path.
I have been involved in artistic events from a very early age and music and dancing was my first love. From primary through middle school in Nigeria, I was a member of the traditional dance groups that entertained guests at our end-of-school-year cultural event. Then I was one of the organisers of the foundation week at my secondary school, the International School of Ibadan (ISI), which was a celebration of the cultural diversity at our school. At ISI, I was also involved in the Drama Society where I acted in plays, as well as a member of the school band where I played the recorder. On graduating from secondary school my plan was to study literature in university as I loved to write and had been writing since I was two years old. But being from a middle class Nigerian family and being the first born it was almost an abomination at that time to want to be anything outside of a doctor, lawyer or engineer. As I was adamant that I didn't want to study any of these, selecting computer science was the closest I could come to appeasing my parents. 
Still having the artistic itch, during my first year at University of Lagos where I studied computer science, I was the social secretary of the Jazz Club, and we hosted a sold out Fela Kuti show. I was the only woman on the production and I had the nickname "Thatcher" which in retrospect established my leadership qualities I guess. This definitely peaked my interest in organising cultural events. As I grew older I knew my calling was not in the sciences but in the arts and I have managed to balance both ever since.
What have you been able to bring to your work as cultural activist having studied computer science?
Being tech savvy has definitely made my life easier working as a festival director, as I am very comfortable using the computer. When I started the festival, most times I had to update the festival website myself, create the festival brochure and market the festival online. This has meant that it was easier for me to be a one-woman show, having the skills that I had. And of course I believe I have the natural knack for organising events.
You have been involved extensively in film festival organising, in Nigeria, Ghana, the UK and in the US, please talk about these initiatives and give some highlights.
In 1998, I was one of the founding members of the Black Filmmakers Magazine (BFM) and the International Film Festival in London. I also coordinated the first of its kind mini film festival of short films by Black women filmmakers called È wá wò (come & see) Sistahs in Film in Brixton, London. It was a sold out event and the beginning of a wave of black film festivals targeting women.
In 1999 I was invited by the Women and Earth Eco-Network International in New York to program their Film Exposition for the Accra chapter of their organisation. This was an exciting and challenging project, as I had to search for films that fit the mission of the organisation. It was also one of the first times that I had to reach out to filmmakers globally. It was my first trip to Ghana and I stumbled upon a place called Lake Bosumtwi near Kumasi, which is apparently a sacred place and believed to be the home of gods and goddesses of Ghana. It is one of the most serene and beautiful places I have been to, and I have been in love with Ghana ever since.
In 2005 I was the festival director for the Out on Film Festival in Atlanta and programmed the first series of shorts by black GLBT filmmakers, which was a sold out event. I was also the first black woman to head this festival in its 18-year history.
Over the course of the years, I have taken films that were shown at my festival, the Women of Color Arts and Film (WOCAF) Festival, to other film festivals where I have programmed screenings based on that festival’s theme. I have programmed screenings for two film festivals in Nigeria—the Lagos International Film Festival and the Zuma Film Festival in Abuja. At the Zuma Film Festival, the screenings I programmed included twelve films and seven of them won awards including awards for Best Editor, Best Cinematographer, Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film. I programmed the film screening segment of the 4th Women in Africa and the African Diaspora (WAAD) International Conference in Abuja, Nigeria in 2009 and this was the first time the conference had such an extensive screening that showed films that addressed each of the conference topics. 
What have you gained from your experiences as festival founder and organiser? What are some of the challenges? What are some differences, commonalities when comparing the various locations?
I have discovered I have a good eye for selecting films that capture people's attention. I have gained the ability to organise large events successfully. I am very good at multitasking at the festival and typically, I run the festival as a one-woman show most of the time, with people coming on board to help a few months before the festival. The challenges of running a festival of any size in any country is getting the funding to pay for the films that are to be screened, funding for bringing in the filmmakers to talk about their work, funding for paying the artist and her band to perform and funding to market the event. Another big challenge is getting committed and experienced people to work on the festival. One of the big differences I find is that dealing with artists and filmmakers from Africa, they make different demands and have interesting expectations as to how they want to be treated if they are invited to attend a festival. To some degree I understand that they are treated as celebrities in their home countries but at the end of the day what our festival offers them is a free platform to promote themselves and their work in a different country. I have had an artist scheduled to perform at my festival in Atlanta, who got to Atlanta and did not perform even though we had paid for everything upfront. Granted we had some technical difficulties, but these were resolved and the artist still did not perform. This is part and parcel of running a festival of this nature...you win some you lose some...
Of course when one talks about a festival, the audience plays an important role in its success. Some reflections on audience building, the role of spectatorship and the importance of Africans as cultural readers?
The audience is very important when it comes to a festival as without them, there is no point in what we are doing. Therefore I value the feedback that the audience gives and we try every year to get feedback from our audience through ballots and surveys. I find that it is important for us as Africans to explore different cultures to expand our horizon so that our culture and traditions can evolve and grow and not remain stagnant.
Benefiting from your diverse experiences, do you attempt to make connections with Africa and the African Diaspora in your work?
Always! It is very important to me as an African to reach out to other Africans and support their work. We are a marginalised group in the context of world politics, or anything else within the global context really, so the more we can support each other, the more our voices will be heard, our stories told and our problems solved.
In 2005 you founded the Women of Color Arts and Film Festival (WOCAF), bringing to it a great deal of experience with festival organising with a focus on women. How did your interest in promoting women in culture develop? What are the mission and projects of WOCAF.
I kind of metamorphosised into this lol.... It was a natural transition for me having worked with various female artists in London, managing them, playing with an all female African drum group, and being surrounded by a lot of female filmmakers, it was only a matter of time. I resisted my role in being one of the voices for African women for a long time and one day I meditated deeply on it and accepted it for what it was, "my destiny", as my mother would say.
WOCAF's mission is to be at the forefront in promoting the leadership capabilities of women of colour media makers/artists; the Festival serves to expand the global dialogue on women’s issues through the presentation of positive empowering images in film, music and art.
WOCAF will soon celebrate its seventh year in March, what are the plans for the 2012 edition?
The theme for the 2012 Festival is "Celebrating the African woman" and films by and/or about women from the African continent as well as showcasing music and art by women from the continent too. We have scheduled the films, The Education of Auma Obama by Branwen Okpaku, a documentary about president Obama's activist sister, Ties that Bind by Leila Djansi, starring Omotola Jolade Ekeiinde and Kimberly Elise, and Ma'mi by Tunde Kelani, starring Funke Akindele, to name a few.
Visit our website http://www.wocaf.org for the schedule of events. The festival is scheduled for March 15th - 18th 2012. Sponsorship is still welcome.
Interview with Mojisola Sonoiki by Beti Ellerson, February 2012.

Mojisola Sonoiki : Le Women of Color Arts & Film Festival est « mon destin »

Mojisola Sonoiki, fondatrice et directrice du Women of Color Arts and Film Festival WOCAF (Festival d’art et film de femmes de couleurs) basé à Atlanta (USA), a trouvé son véritable métier en tant qu’activiste culturelle. Elle parle de sa passion pour l’art et la culture ainsi que son parcours à travers trois continents. 
Entretien avec Beti Ellerson dans son intégralité en anglais sur l’African Women in Cinema Blog: http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com

Veuillez visiter leur site internet : http://www.wocaf.org pour tous renseignements sur le festival qui aura lieu du 15 au 18 mars 2012.

02 February 2012

Marie Clementine Dusabejambo talks about cinema in Rwanda

Marie Clementine Dusabejambo, a young filmmaker from Rwanda has great hopes for the future of Rwandan cinema. She talks to us about her passion for filmmaking.

Marie Clementine, first tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Marie Clementine Dusabejambo, electronics and telecommunications engineer from Rwanda. I am 24 years old and a filmmaker by profession where I work with Rwandan-based Almond Tree Films.

I notice that there is a real transformation in cinema in Rwanda, which is in the process of affirming itself. What was your experience with the moving image while growing up?

When we were children we saw only foreign films, especially American or even Chinese films. But later even the neighboring countries such as Congo, Uganda among others, began to make their own films, which influenced Rwandan cinema. But I would say that cinema in Rwanda actually developed after the 1994 genocide when people began to write about their experiences regarding this period.

You are also an electronics and telecommunications engineer, how did you evolve into cinema?

While doing my studies, I was also involved in filmmaking. In fact, I acquired my knowledge of cinema on location while working on various film shoots, and I gained quite a bit of experience since I started four years ago.

Your first film, Lyiza recounts the story of a young student who discovers that the parents of one of his classmates were responsible for his family’s murder. Is the objective of the cinema of your generation of Rwandans to reconcile and rediscover an identity through filmmaking?

I would not say that this generation of Rwandans attempts to find its identity through cinema, but rather that the films act as a vehicle for this identity.

Cinema is a profession for us; and sometimes, a means for others to relax.

The transition from French to English, what role will it play?

In artistic terms, I do not think that it has changed things because in art there is a freedom linguistically speaking.

What contribution would you like to make towards the growth of cinema in Rwanda?

I would like for filmmaking to be a profession that is first of all accessible. I will make more films and eventually create a school to train others in cinema production. There are a lot of people who have the talent for filmmaking but who do not know how to develop it.

And as a woman in cinema…

My role is to make people aware, especially women, that as any other profession, women can make films. And that it is an incredibly remarkable experience that allows women to transmit their ideas and to better express themselves.

Interview with Marie Clementine Dusabejambo and translation from French by Beti Ellerson, January 2012.


EN FRANÇAIS



Marie Clémentine Dusabejambo parle du cinéma au Rwanda

La jeune cinéaste rwandaise Marie Clémentine Dusabejambo a beaucoup d’espoir pour le futur du cinéma au Rwanda. Elle nous parle de sa passion pour les films.
Clémentine, parlez-nous d’abord de vous-même.

Je m’appelle Marie Clémentine Dusabejambo, ingénieur en électronique et télécommunications. Je suis rwandaise et j’ai 24 ans. Cinéaste par profession, je travaille avec Almond Tree Films basé au Rwanda.

Je vois que le cinéma au Rwanda commence à se transformer et s’affirmer, quelle était votre expérience avec l’image en grandissant ?
Pendant notre enfance, nous regardions uniquement des films étrangers, surtout américains ou alors chinois. Mais plus tard, même les pays voisins du Rwanda comme le Congo, l’Ouganda et d’autres ont commencé à faire leurs propres films, et ont eu une influence sur le cinéma rwandais. Pourtant, je dirais que le cinéma au Rwanda s’est développé après le génocide de 1994 quand les gens ont commencé à rédiger leurs expériences concernant cette période.

Vous êtes ingénieur en électronique et télécommunications. Quel était votre parcours au cinéma ?
Parallèlement à mes études, j’ai fait du cinéma. Il faut dire que les connaissances que j’ai du cinéma, je les ai eues directement sur le terrain en travaillant sur divers tournages. Maintenant depuis quatre ans que je travaille dans le cinéma j’ai acquis pas mal d’expériences.

Votre premier film, Lyiza raconte l’histoire d’un jeune étudiant qui découvre que les parents de l’un de ses camarades de classe ont été responsables du meurtre de sa famille. Est-ce que le cinéma de votre génération a pour objectif de se réconcilier et trouver une identité rwandaise à travers les films ?

Non, on ne peut pas dire que cette génération tente de trouver son identité à travers des films, je dirais plutôt que les films agissent comme un véhicule pour cette identité. Les films sont un métier pour nous ; et pour les autres, quelquefois, un moyen de se détendre.

La transition de français à l’anglais, quel rôle aura-t-elle ?

Côté artistique, je ne pense pas que cela ait changé grand-chose car l’art est linguistiquement libre, qu’il y est une transition ou pas.

Quelle contribution voulez-vous avoir sur l’épanouissement du cinéma au Rwanda ?
J’aimerais que le cinéma soit un métier accessible d’abord. Je vais faire encore des films et éventuellement fonder une école qui aiderait les gens à étudier le cinéma ; car il y a beaucoup de gens peut-être doués pour le cinéma qui ne savent pas quoi faire de leurs talents.

Et vous en tant que femme dans le cinéma ? 

Mon devoir est de faire comprendre aux gens et aux femmes surtout que le cinéma, comme n’importe quel autre métier, peut être fait par des femmes et que c’est quelque chose d’extrêmement intéressant qui nous permettrait à nous femmes, de transmettre nos idées et de mieux nous exprimer.

Entretien avec Marie Cleméntine Dusabejambo par Beti Ellerson, janvier 2012.