Next week signifies the start of Scotland’s annual celebration of African cinema and culture, the Africa in Motion Film Festival. Now in its eleventh year, the festival aims to showcase a variety of cinematic works from across the continent and bring these stories to the people of Scotland who would not ordinarily have the opportunity to see such films.
Although the films being shown are from a number of different genres, they all relate to this year’s theme of time, exploring the past, present and future of Africa. This is especially accurate for AiM’s opening feature, the European premiere of Rahmatou Keïta’s Zin’naariyâ! (The Wedding Ring). Having had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month Keïta’s second feature film pays homage to the fading customs of Niger’s Songhay people; telling the story of a young girl who returns to her village after studying abroad and documents the cultural traditions and way of life of the Songhay so as to preserve them for future generations. Zin’naariyâ! will be screened on the 28th October at the Edinburgh Filmhouse.
The theme of time and the examination of fading traditions is also evident in numerous other films being shown throughout Edinburgh and Glasgow. Roaring Abyss is a documentary which explores the diverse musical culture of Ethiopia from its pre-colonial tribal traditions through the introduction of western styles after the attempted colonisation by Italy in late 19th century, to the present day. Similarly Nakom, a Ghanaian film performed entirely by non-actors, conveys the difficulties faced by the people of Ghana and beyond as they attempt to navigate the difficulties created by the contrast between urban and rural, modern and traditional, with an especially local approach to the matter.
The festival is not just about time though, as many films being showcased feature numerous inherently political messages. No Land No Food No Life is a hard-hitting film about the struggles faced by small-scale farmers both across Africa and outside of the continent as a result of land grabs by global corporations. Meanwhile Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump) is a documentary filmed using hand-held cameras given to the refugees living in the mountain camp above the Spanish enclave of Melilla in Morocco. The film provides audiences with a glimpse into the hopes and fears of the people who are willing to risk everything for a better life in Europe.
Both screenings will be followed by discussions on the respective issues raised in the films and their wider implications in the world at large. As Festival Manager, Justine Atkinson explains: “It is vital that these films are shown widely, as they shine a spotlight on issues that affect us all. That is why it is so important for festivals such as Africa in Motion to exist, as we provide the rare opportunity to see these films on the big screen”.
Indeed by offering a platform for directors and filmmakers to bring these issues to the forefront of audiences’ attention, AiM is providing a means by which to raise awareness of the struggles faced by those in Africa and beyond and remind them of the human beings facing these struggles.
Since its inception in 2006, Africa in Motion has succeeded in bringing the brilliance of African cinema to nearly 35,000 people, helping to overcome the lack of representation faced by African cinema within Britain, showcase the excellence and diversity offered by African cinema and bring attention to the problems that are rarely addressed in western cinema. Thus it is my hope that the AiM can continue for years to come. Here’s to another sixteen years.
Africa in Motion Film Festival runs from the 28th October to the 6th November with screenings throughout Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Image: Africa in Motion; The Wedding Ring