East Africa wins: DISCOP Zanzibar and ZIFF 2018


SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) 2018 and inaugural DISCOP Zanzibar marked a key turning point for the East African region. Both events were remarkably well-attended and their combined impact has been tangible for the industry, with some notable outcomes.

The prominence of Kenya and Kenyan filmmakers was on everybody’s agenda at both events, and as the nine days wrapped up with the ZIFF Awards night on 14 July, the success of women at this year’s festival was also the top talking point.

The rise of the Kenyan film industry is not news to anyone who follows the region, however, their strong showing in Zanzibar this past month signals even more growth to come. The Kenya Film Commission (KFC) was one of the key sponsors of both DISCOP Zanzibar and ZIFF, and not only did they support the screening of the Golden Dhow winning feature film Supa Modo at the event, but the organisation also sponsored at least another 15 to 20 filmmakers from Kenya to attend ZIFF. Along with the Kenya Film Classification Board, the official Kenyan delegation to Zanzibar numbered well over 30, with at least another 100 or so guests also taking part across the two events.

This delegation also included six members of the Kenyan parliament who were sent specifically to investigate and research the needs of Kenyan filmmakers, as well as the importance of festivals and markets such as ZIFF and DISCOP. These MPs will be drafting a report that will be used as the basis for new policy development aimed at further promoting and supporting Kenya’s film industry.

The results of this kind of support are obvious. At this year’s event, as in previous years, Kenyan filmmakers did exceptionally well on awards night. Apart from scooping the night’s top award for Supa Modo, Kenyan filmmakers won awards in 10 categories.

This prominence of the KFC was in stark contrast to the complete lack of appearance of the Tanzania Film Board (TFB). The TFB was invited many months ago to be part of these events, for whatever reasons, they have failed for two years running to leverage on this key opportunity taking place within their own country. Tanzanian filmmakers feel very much on their own, especially when compared to their Kenyan counterparts.

The other group that came out shining this year at both ZIFF and DISCOP Zanzibar were women filmmakers and professionals. In fact, the development and recognition of women within the film industry was a reoccurring theme throughout both ZIFF and the inaugural DISCOP Zanzibar.

Women filmmakers took home a total of 10 awards, with the documentary SILAS, directed by Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman taking home two awards; Best Documentary and Best International Film.  Best Short Film, Best TV Series, the Sembene Ousmane Award, the Emerson Award, and the Chairman’s Award amongst others, were all taken home by women.

The overall number of films submitted by women increased this year, and the history and status of women in the industry was also the focus of some key programmes at both events this year.

The Ladima Foundation hosted two events and also awarded the Adiaha Award for Best Documentary from an African Woman to New Moon, from Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann.

A full-day event at ZIFF saw the Africa in Motion Film Festival’s Lizelle Bischoff, along with fellow Stephanie van der Peer, present two restored African Lost Classics from women filmmakers, Fatma75 and Mossane. The screenings were followed by a discussion on the lost history of African women filmmakers.

The Ladima Women of Influence Panel was especially well-received with its focus on tangible steps to be taken to assist the development and recognition of women within the film and media industries. The panel included Bikiya Graham-Douglas, a Nigerian actress, singer, entrepreneur and the founder of Beeta Universal Arts Foundation; Biola Alabi, an African media expert with over 25 years of local and global media experience; Theresa Hill from South Africa, general manager for STEPS and acquisition manager for AfriDocs; Dr Mzuri Issa Ali from Zanzibar, director of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA); Giselle Portenier, a Canadian award-winning journalist and filmmaker; and Farida Nyamachumbe, a filmmaker from Zanzibar.

Some key outcomes of this discussion will see the development of a Pan-African list of women in the industry that can then be used by production houses to source qualified women across a range of film industry services. The Ladima Foundation will also be focussing on lobbying for policy change in Tanzania and Nigeria to promote film education in schools from an early age.

The overwhelmingly positive energy and impetus for change and development that was expressed throughout this year’s ZIFF and DISCOP Zanzibar bode well for the entire East Africa region, not just for Kenyans and not just for women. It will be essential however to keep focussing on the necessary support mechanisms that are proving to be successful when implemented properly.

By Lara Preston


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Lara Utian-Preston
Lara Utian-Preston is a passionately committed marketer and strategist with a focus on promoting African content and events. Two decades of working across Africa have provided her with insights and experience that she puts to work for the projects she manages. In 2006, Lara founded, and still personally manages, Red Flag Content Relations, a full service below-the-line agency that also focuses on African entertainment and lifestyle brand marketing, strategy, and publicity.


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