Women filmmakers take centre stage


The 10th International Images Film Festival (IIFF) for Women, organised by the Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ), took place from 18 to 27 November in Harare. Chairperson of the main IIFF jury, Hans-Christian Mahnke, reports.

Within the scope of this year’s Women with Goals theme, the IIFF 2011 programme included award winning features, documentaries and shorts from more than 25 countries. Ten films came from within the SADC region, including works by four Zimbabwean filmmakers.

The event also included the 2nd Mini-Input Harare, showcasing the world’s best TV shows, and an outreach programme which took place from 5 to 7 December in the city of Binga.

At the opening of the festival, newly appointed IIFF director Yvonne Jila remarked: “Celebrating this 10th event is like a dream come true, from imaging women to fighting women, enriching women, transforming women – we finally celebrate stories of visionary women who have set and achieved their goals. As IIFF we hope to carry on the vision that Tsitsi Dangarembga has created and left for us.’

As veteran filmmaker Dangarembga stepped down after 10 years as festival director, IIFF hosted the world premiere of her newest film, Nyaminyami and the Evil Eggs, the second short film in a trilogy of Shona folktale musicals after the multi-award winning Kare Kare Zvako – Mother’s Day. At the closing ceremony, where 11 awards were presented, Dangarembga gave a moving farewell speech to much applause.

High praise

Along with my co-judges Beti Ellerson and Martha Fergusson, I experienced a well organised film festival with an excellent selection of films for and by women.

In my opinion, IIFF 2011 was a great achievement. Screening a wide range of films for and about women is unique in the region. IIFF operates in a totally different environment to festivals such as Toronto, Berlin or Durban. Other countries have more conducive environments for big festivals. But to organise a film festival, and one that focuses on women, in Zimbabwe, is far more challenging than the norm.

Festival winnersb

With three awards for Best Overall Film, Best Depiction and Best Direction, the Tunisian-French film, The Wedding Song, directed by Karin Albou and produced by Mohamed Habib Attia, won this year’s festival.

Other winners were actress Sibel Kekilli for When We Leave; Why Can’t I for Best Documentary; Distress from Iran in the Best Other Format category; and the Mozambican production Dina as Best Short Film.

IIFF included screenings of Zimbabwean films which were very well supported by the public and the media.

The jury congratulated all participating Zimbabwean filmmakers. Works like Gentleman, Playing Warriors and Heartless featured prominently next to Nyaminyami and the Evil Eggs. I think that local filmmakers should be encouraged to create a never-ending dynamism in Zimbabwean filmmaking.

IIFF also awarded a prize for “Distinguished Women of African Cinema. The nominated women were Jackie Cahi from Zimbabwe, Bridget Pickering from Namibia and Beti Ellerson from the USA.

This prize is given annually by Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ). IIFF 2011 jury member Beti Ellerson, who was overwhelmed with surprise and joy, was announced winner for her outstanding research and the promotion of African women in cinema.

Festival directors from around the world attended IIFF 2011, such as Lizelle Bischoff from Africa in Motion (Edinburgh), who gave a master class on Women in African Cinema, Pshamek Stepien from Afrykamera (Warsaw) and myself from AfricAvenir (Windhoek).

Valuable platform/b>

The film festival once again gave local filmmakers a platform and afforded us, the international guests, a superb networking opportunity. This is crucial for the globalised world that we live in. IIFF itself, local filmmakers, and international guests need to interact and exchange views and experiences, and share the challenges they encounter and if possible, come up with suggestions and solutions. Both the local industry and international guests have a strong need for this. It is a double-sided path we walk on.

IIFF 2011 and the WFOZ make a positive contribution to and a positive impact on global cinema.

First and foremost, through initiatives like IIFF, we are reaching out to other neighbouring African countries. You are laying the foundations for the much needed and crucial regional integration of the southern African film industries. This regional integration is needed for the development and growth of our respective film industries.

Our markets have to merge, to maximise the benefit to the national industries, create jobs and contribute to the national GDPs in order to fight poverty and – in line with the festival’s goals – achieve gender equality.

By Hans-Christian Mahnke


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