New socially conscious African film


A new documentary about divorce and human rights in Africa, will premiere mid 2012.

Fasenaala (Unholy Vows),a one-hour documentary largely filmed in Senegal on a HD camera, will also feature previously shot footage from The Gambia.

The featured language is Wollof with subtitles in English, and there is the possibility of French subtitles.

“As a work in progress obstacles continue to present themselves, such as sourcing people who are willing to talk about their personal lives. In addition, funding for the post-production phase is not yet secure,’ says writer / director Mariama Khan of The Gambia-based Development Film Initiative (DFI).

Established in 2008, the DFI has a pan-African orientation and a social justice mission. Its programmes offer alternative employment for young people, especially young females.

The DFI gets funding from partners who support the initiative by patronising its work. In return for documentary making related services rendered, it receives fees. As the founder of the DFI Khan is passionate about the work and sometimes uses her personal income to fund projects.

She notes that Fasenaala will take a little longer to complete than her other projects because of some unforeseen delays that she had to deal with in 2011.

Although the documentary’s distribution strategies are still being worked out, the goal is to distribute worldwide.

While writing, directing and producing most of her documentaries, Khan also co-edits with some of her partners.

DFI’s previous productions – all socially conscious films are – Sutura (2008); Devil’s Waters (2009); Serving Humanity: Volunteers in The Gambia (2010); The Journey Up the Hill; and The Professor.

Sutura is about what judges need to know about rape and justice in Senegal. It won an Encouragement Prize at the Unifem Film Festival for Gender and Violence in Africa, held in Dakar in 2008. After premiering in Ghana it screened in Senegalese venues including the West Africa Research Centre and at the Dutch Centre (Dakar). UNDP-Banjul showed it at the University of The Gambia. International screenings were held in the Netherlands, Germany and the US including Boston at the Boston Film Festival and at the West Africa Research Association.

Devil’s Waters focuses on Gambian youth who try to cross the ocean and enter Europe as illegal immigrants, while Serving Humanity is a film on volunteerism in The Gambia.

Khan says her organisation is currently working to streamline its activities – including social media networking and an educational programme – to ensure that it operates freely without any kind of outside interference. The social media component deals with hard social issues and often has a strong political impact.

Continued screenings of the DFI’s productions in African countries like Senegal and The Gambia and internationally have opened up more possibilities to increase the number of people around the world who view their films.

The Gambia Family Planning Association Multi-Media Unit is among key organisations that continue to be engaged in various collaborations with the DFI.

By Martin Chemhere


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