Film Africa, the Royal African Society’s annual film festival, returns for its sixth edition, bringing London audiences the best contemporary cinema from across Africa and its diaspora.
Film Africa 2016 will take place from Friday October 28 to Sunday November 6, in 11 venues across London, including the Hackney Picturehouse, Ritzy Brixton, BFI Southbank, ICA, Ciné Lumière, the British Library and the South London Gallery.
The program will showcase 52 films from 22 African countries, including 33 UK and European premieres. Film Africa will host 23 filmmakers and onscreen talent, who will come to London to present their latest work and take part in Q&As. The festival will include the latest and best feature, documentary, experimental and short films with a particular focus on bold debut features, highlighting the exciting period of growth and recognition that African cinema is currently enjoying.
Opening this year’s festival is the UK premiere of “Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu,” the debut feature from South African director Mandla Dube. As part of the festival’s strand, Soweto: 40 Years On, it’s fitting that the incredible story of Mahlangu – a young freedom fighter who played a key role in the Soweto student uprisings of ’76 – should make it to the big screen 40 years later. Fresh from its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Film Africa will close with “Wùlu,” the auspicious debut feature from Malian director Daouda Coulibaly, which touches on the known yet unspoken dysfunctions behind Mali’s 2012 coup d’etat. Both opening and closing directors, as well as “Kalushi” lead actor Thabo Rametsi, will attend the festival.
Questioning the current discourse around migration today, Film Africa presents its flagship strand, Why I’m Here: Stories of Migration. Bringing together a collection of intensely personal stories, the strand will explore the complexities of modern migration and the relationship between self and place. Highlights include the UK premieres of: “A Stray” from Musa Syeed, set within Minneapolis’ large Somali refugee community; Robin Hunzinger’s “To the Forest of Clouds” which sensitively records his family’s journey back to the Ivory Coast, the birth place of his wife, using the past to explore whether we can ever truly go home again; and Giulia Amati’s documentary “Shashamane” – the region in Ethiopia that Emperor Halle Salassie reserved ‘for the black people of the world’ in 1948 – tells the story of those who have returned to live on their forefathers’ land, an exodus that for some has become a haven, but for others a cage with no escape. “Those Who Jump,” a powerful fly on the wall account of life in a refugee camp on the Spanish / Morocco border filmed by Malian refugee Abou Bakar Sidibé, will also be featured.
Film Africa 2016 will spotlight Nigeria’s rapidly expanding and evolving cinema industry in Nollywood Nights. The strand will present the latest works from three of Nollywood’s most popular directors, including Kunle Afolyan’s “The CEO” and the European premieres of Niyi Akinmolayan’s “The Arbitration” and Femi Odugbemi’s “Gidi Blues – A Lagos Love Story.” Nollywood Nights is presented by the UK African film festival network – Film Africa, Africa in Motion in Scotland, Afrika Eye in Bristol, Watch Africa in Wales, and the Cambridge Africa Film Festival, and is part of the BFI BLACK STAR season.
With the double screening of the 1994 musical “Sarafina!” alongside documentary “Soweto, Times of Wrath,” a seething indictment of South Africa’s current political elite, Film Africa continues its exploration of Soweto: 40 Years On.
Film Africa’s music strand Sounds of the Continent returns for the third consecutive year with three documentaries celebrating Africa’s rich soundscapes. In the preview screening of “Mali Blues,” some of the country’s most prominent musicians, including world music star Fatoumata Diawara, discuss their art and the threat they face from Islamic extremists who seized the northern regions in 2012. “The Revolution Won’t Be Televised” gets under the skin of Senegal’s now infamous political youth resistance movement ‘Y’en a marre’. Following this screening at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, the high energy hip-hop crew Keur Gui – among the most popular music artists in Senegal and founders of the resistance movement – will perform live for the first time in the UK. The UK premiere of musical road movie “Roaring Abyss” documents Ethiopia’s fascinating music traditions, and Film Africa will continue this celebration with live music after the screening from some of the country’s foremost artists.
Other stand-outs in this year’s program include the European premiere of Jean Pierre Bekolo’s “Naked Reality,” a dizzying alternate reality and trippy ride into the future as Africa breaks into new horizons of possibility; three films fresh from screening at Toronto: the UK premiere of Mbithi Masya’s debut feature “Kati Kati” – a poetic fantasy that offers a dark reflection on personal atonement in the shadow of Kenya’s violent past. “Kati Kati” was honored by the international FIPRESCI jury at Toronto, who described Masya as “an exciting and unique new voice in cinema”; Rahmatou Keïta’s first fiction feature, “The Wedding Ring,” gives voice to young women of Niger’s Sahelian people who question past ideas of love in an increasingly modern world; plus the documentary debut “Hissein Habré, A Chadian Tragedy” from one of the most important African filmmakers working today, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.
Also showing are preview screenings of Amma Assante’s “A United Kingdom”; the European premiere of Anisia Uzeyman’s psychedelic road movie “Dreamstates,” which tells the haunting tale of two wayward souls (Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman) who discover their love for one another while touring the US with some of the most pivotal figures of the Afro-Punk movement; Tamer El Said’s melancholic love-hate poem to “Cairo In the Last Days of the City” and Priscilla Anany’s debut feature “Children of the Mountain,” which is set against a picturesque Ghanaian backdrop and gives an honest exploration of a mother’s will in the face of adversity. Another notable documentary is Jonny von Wallström’s “The Pearl of Africa,” the inspiring story of Ugandan transgender woman Cleopatra Kambugu and her partner Nelson, living out a tender and playful love story against a backdrop of immense transphobic persecution in their native land.
The short film program this year highlights 12 shorts from seven African countries, which are vying for the 6th Baobab Award for Best Short Film, supported by MOFILM and judged by a panel of industry experts. The Film Africa Audience Award for Best Feature Film will return for its second year, giving festival audiences their say.
Other Film Africa program features include: The Industry Forum at BFI South Bank, which will look at the emergence and importance of film archives for Africa’s burgeoning film industries; Film Africa Family Day at the Rich Mix and a School Screenings program, in partnership with Picturehouse Education and Phoenix Cinema; plus a four-day Recreative Film School for budding filmmakers at the South London Gallery.
British actor Idris Elba, who presented his documentary “Mandela, My Dad and Me” at Film Africa 2015, said: “I want to say thank you to Film Africa for supporting my film and African film in general. The festival should keep introducing us to new African voices.”
Tickets on sale from on 3 October. To view the full Film Africa 2016 festival program visit www.filmafrica.org.uk.