The London African Film Festival, launched on 27 November, is an initiative from the cultural agency, the Commonwealth Foundation, to celebrate African cinema in the form of 40 ground-breaking films from the continent and 10 of its most exciting filmmakers.
Running at the Commonwealth Headquarters in London from 29 November to 8 December, the festival signals the Foundation’s support for Commonwealth filmmakers. The festival programme is presented by Africa at the Pictures and the Royal African Society, in association with the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London). The films span the continent, from Chad to Tanzania; from Mauritania to South Africa.
At the Festival launch, the Foundation presented a DVD entitled Action! Developing the Commonwealth’s cinematic culture, which features interviews with Commonwealth directors Horace Ove CBE (Trinidad and Tobago) and Zina Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria), who discuss their experiences of filmmaking in the Commonwealth and its importance as a tool for creative expression.
“Film is a growing and vibrant means of communication in the Commonwealth,’ said Commonwealth Foundation Director Dr Mark Collins. “All over the Commonwealth’s 53 countries people are watching and making films; it is a popular and accessible medium. But films are not just sources of entertainment, they also give people a means to find out about other cultures, tell human stories and can communicate important social and development messages.’ In addition to the two interviews, Action! also contains eight regional short films and excerpts to highlight the medium of film’s role in this context.
The Commonwealth Foundation’s work in film follows a new research report entitled Putting Culture First, which assesses at the importance of integrating cultural issues with development practices to ensure successful development outcomes, and highlights the need to support independent cultural practitioners such as filmmakers. Consultation across the Commonwealth showed that people considered film to be the area of cultural expression most in need of support in their countries. The research also found that support for creative industries, such as film, can generate economic growth and foster community cohesion and social transformation.
The potential for film to bring together communities is supported by Horace Ove. “I think all the countries in the Commonwealth should come together to help a lot of people in those parts of the world who really want to get into the arts and film,’ he said. “We have all been a part of each other for hundreds of years so let’s come together, work together and do something to help each other.’