By Basia Lewandowska Cummings, Programme Associate.
In a year when cultural institutions of all kinds have felt under direct attack, building the size and scope of an African film festival in London has been no easy task. With funding cuts, and an increasingly rampant rhetoric of ‘necessity’ and ‘efficiency’, the question ‘why does London need an African film festival’ has been consistent. Yet, at Film Africa 2012, which runs from November 1-11, we’ve demonstrated, in a number of ways, just how vital a festival of this kind is. At Film Africa 2011 we had over 2000 people in attendance, and this year, with our expanded film and events programmes, this is set to grow even bigger.
With over 70 films screening, and 35 filmmakers in attendance, Film Africa is a unique opportunity to participate in African film culture, to watch it shift and re-negotiate itself in times of political and cultural change, to marvel at the inventiveness and determination of low-budget films, or to be amazed by big production feature films like Tey by Alain Gomis, Grey Matter by Rwandan director Kivu Ruhorahoza, or Otelo Burning by Sara Blecher. The festival co-directors, Lindiwe Dovey and Namvula Rennie, along with a set of Programme Associates, have ensured that Film Africa 2012’s extensive film programme cuts across contemporary themes such as sexuality, continental crossings, sport, and public space and citizen journalism. In the spirit of making film accessible and celebrating the importance of public space for expression and creativity, we have also commissioned an alternative cinema space, the Picha House, where films will be shown for free throughout the festival.
We have an exciting shortlist of films for our Silver Baobab Award for Best Short African film, which showcases the talent of young filmmakers, experimenting with form and narrative. Our 2011 award winner, Rungano Nyoni, went on to be nominated for a BAFTA with her film, Mwansa The Great. We are also inaugurating an award this year for the audience’s favourite film.
Film Africa has also increased its support for filmmakers, both established and emerging. Alongside the awards, we are hosting a series of master classes with directors, held for free at the BFI Southbank, the second annual Distribution Forum, and an Open Screen event (the cinematic version of the Open Mic). Not just a celebration of film, the festival also showcases African music and performance art, and runs a series of family activities and educational screenings for young people.
Our response to the question of relevancy has been to show how vital and embedded a film festival can be for a new and contemporary African and diasporic film culture in the UK.
For more information, please visit www.filmafrica.org.uk, or follow us on twitter @FilmAfrica #FilmAfrica2012
Tickets are now on sale.