“Bright’ sparks break African films into UK


Despite the presence of several African focused film festivals in the UK, breaking
into this market has been very tough for most African filmmakers.

The Afrika Eye Film Festival in Bristol, co-founded by Zimbabwean filmmakers
Simon Bright and Ingrid Sinclair in 2005, is a viable platform to channel African
film productions into the UK and Europe.

Bright has enjoyed personal success with last year’s successful screenings of his
documentary, Robert Mugabe… What Happened?

“Through Africa Eye we screened the film in about 30 venues in the UK – the first
for an African documentary. Consequently we would like to be the channel for
pushing African films in the UK,’ explains Bright, who in the mid-2000s
abandoned Zimbabwe, where he and Sinclair ran the production company,

Bright and Sinclair make frequent trips to major African festivals on the continent
to source local films. In 2012 they sourced a number of films at the Durban
International Film Festival (DIFF), South Africa’s largest and longest running film

Last year in November Africa Eye screened films such as La Pirogue, Kinshasa
Symphony, State of Mind and Weapon of War.

“Even when you have a good African film there is a lot of work to be done to
publicise it and get it onto the circuit. This is where our film festival and the
network we have established with regional cinemas in the UK comes in. Less
than 1% of total cinema screenings in the UK are African, so African films rely on
festivals like ours (plus Africa In Motion, Film Africa) to create awareness and an
appreciation of African cinema in the UK. These platforms can also be used as a
launch pad for wider distribution,’ comments Bright.

A case in point is the hectic touring schedule enjoyed by Robert Mugabe… What
Happened? After playing in the UK, the documentary screened to full houses in
Germany. This prompts Bright to say that he has tips for African filmmakers
seeking a breakthrough overseas. He believes that all type of stories and
genres from Africa could be popular with both UK and European audiences.
“Whatever the genre – be it tragedy, comedy or whatever – it just has to tell a
powerful and authentic story. Our screenings of La Pirogue were very successful
because the film has powerful and engaging content.

“It would be interesting to develop African political crime thrillers – there is a lot
of material there! Or science fiction, or Sowetan detective fiction, just as long as
it is well-written and effective storytelling. Genre is less important than having a
well told story,’ concludes Bright.


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