Among the stand-out projects being pitched at the Durban Film Mart (DFM) earlier
this year, two were singled out for particular recognition and showcased the rising
film talent to be found in the Great Lakes region in the eastern part of the continent.
The first was Caroline Kamya’s In Search of African Duende: The Uganda
Flamenco Project, from Uganda, which won the Docubox award consisting of a
US$2 500 development grant. The second was what promises to be a hard-hitting
piece from the tiny nation of Rwanda, Kayambi Musafiri’s Home
Expulsion, which walked away with the €5000 Organisation Internationale de
Francophonie (OIF) award.
These two films could not be more different in terms of content. Kamya’s
documentary explores the African roots of the distinctively Spanish dance style of
flamenco, while Musafiri’s examines a little-publicised humanitarian crisis developing
on the border between his home country and Tanzania.
The idea for In Search of African Duende was born when Kamya’s sister
Agnes, a passionate flamenco lover who has practised and researched the dance in its
heartland in the Spanish city of Seville for over two years, discovered the link
between Africa and flamenco during the course of her studies. “The Spanish kept
meticulous records,’ Kamya says, “and Agnes found records of a thriving African
population in Seville as early as 1372 when the first black religious brotherhood was
Starting from an exploration of these connections, the film follows the year-long
journey of six youngsters from the slums of Kampala – the Ugandan capital – as they
learn flamenco. “The individual obstacles that the young Ugandans must overcome –
poverty, disenfranchisement, being refugees and orphans, as some of them are –
form the context of the documentary,’ Kamya explains. “The climax of the film is the
first local flamenco dance performance at the National Theatre in Kampala.’
At the moment, Kamya and her producer, the Netherlands-based Keren Cogan, are
busily working up finance for Duende and are searching for co-
production partners in Africa and Europe.
Exploring far heavier subject matter, Musafiri has boldly set out to tell the story of the
7 000 ethnic Tutsis who were forcefully “repatriated’ from Tanzania to Rwanda in
2013, seemingly as a backlash against the Rwandan government after presidents
Kagame and Kikwete had a major disagreement over the handling of peacekeeping
missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
One of the many disturbing aspects of this story is that the expelled Tutsis were all
bona fide Tanzanian citizens. “In 1959, when the Hutu ethnic group gained power in
Rwanda, many Tutsis fled the country to escape ethnic turmoil. Thousands of these
arrived in Tanzania, where in 1961, president Julius Nyerere offered them full
citizenship,’ Musafiri explains.
In 2013, these people, who had lived as Tanzanians for half a century or more, were
deprived of citizenship of the country they called home, and forced to leave their
loved ones and property behind. Arriving to an ethnic homeland in which they no
longer had any connections, they were forced to live in refugee camps under harsh
conditions. Musafiri has now offered them the opportunity to tell their stories.
Like Kamya, Musafiri is also still on the hunt for funding and co-production
opportunities. He is looking to start shooting in January next year and have the film
finished by February 2016.
Both Kamya and Musafiri say they found the DFM pitching process extremely useful
as it exposed them to industry professionals from within Africa and abroad and taught
them some valuable lessons about preparing the perfect pitch. These filmmakers
appear to be part of rising tide of cinematic talent beginning to emerge from the
Great Lakes region, an area that Africa’s film enthusiasts would be wise to watch