The third edition of the Film Africa festival continues around nine venues across the English Capital London. The festival will run between November 1-10 2013.
Some of Africa’s best film producers in and out of the continent are showcasing their work to a western audience and some have never had the kind of exposure that the festival will give them.
However, apart from the fast growing Nigerian film industry, African film makers still face teething problems from getting the necessary finances needed to produce their films to getting their work seen by a global audience.
Suzy Gillett is the newly appointed curator of the London based Royal African Society, main organizer of Film Africa.
She has been talking to Francis Ngwa.
Q. Why did you think it necessary to organize film africa ?
A. The Royal Africa Society has been runnnig Film Africa since 2011, so it is in its 3rd year. It is very important to ensure African films are given screenings in London as this is one of the most multicultural cities anywhere in the world, and our cinemas are often filled with many people. Amazing films are being made in Africa and these films need to be seen and there is a huge demand for them.
Audiences are hungry for different voices, different images.
Q. What are some of the best films you will be projecting this year?
A.We’ve got 3×3 strand screening films by the three most innovative and accomplished directors of their generation: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (from Chad) has won prizes in Cannes and is up there with the greatest directors alive today, Alain Gomis (From Senegal) is a young man with an incredible poetic sensibility. His film “Tey” won this year’s FESPACO (the largest festival of African Cinema on the continent. ) and Mati Diop, neice of Djibril Diop Mambety has directed “Mille Soleils”, an exquisite hommage to her uncles’ film “Touki Bouki”. Both will be playning again in the festival. Touki Bouki is a cult film from 1973 which everyone should see.
We’ve also got a Nollywood strand, celebrating 21 years with Osuofia in London and Living In Bondage.
We’ve also got over 30 short films which showcase the new talented directors making really interesting films. They are the feature directors of tomorrow.
Q. How representative are the films about the realities in Africa today?
A. All the films, whether fictional or documentary are highly accomplished. They are selected to guarantee the satisfaction of the audience; the quality of the vision. We have a huge range of films from all over the continent and each is the individual response of the directors to life events around them. We have an evening called Bonfires and Revolutions on the 5th November which gathers films that have been made as a response to wars, revolution or post election violence, and offer another way of looking at war; not in some gung ho way.
Q . Yours is not the only African film festival in London . What makes yours different from the others?
A. Ours is the largest by far, covering 6 venues, 10 days and has the widest remit . That said; smaller festivals focusing on specific areas are also very useful and necessary.
Q What do African film makers benefit from participating in this festivals?
A. Their films get a wider audience. Films are made to be seen, as the UK distribution of any independent cinema is getting harder and harder. Often, some films are only only seen in festivals. We only have three films in the festival that have UK distribution, which goes to show how tough it is.
Our opening film ‘Of Good Report’ got a 4 star review in the Guardian, but is still looking for UK distribution, so its not the quality of the films that is the problem but how cinemas are becoming a tough market to crack.
Q. The UK does have a vibrant African community but do they really attend festivals like yours or the films just tell the African story mostly to a foreign audience?
A. We have a good record of mixed audiences from all communities, but if your local cinema never shows films that speak directly to you, you might not be even looking out for a sudden wave of sixty films appearing in a festival on your doorstep – so we’ve tried as much as we can to market to all audiences.
Which is another reason why we are so geographically spread – covering different localities helps get people to come. That said, fans of African cinema will travel for miles for the chance to see the unique screening of a film.
Q, What will be the highlights of this years’ African film festival
A. The highlights will include:
“Of Good Report”, our opening FIlm, “Gris Gris”, our closing film, “Touki Bouki”, “La Pirogue”, “Coz Ov Moni ll”, I really love the documentary “Cursed be the Phosphate”.
Q. What future film projects does the royal society has to develop African film and african film makers?
The Royal African Society will continue…