Perspectives from the next generation of African cinema at DFM

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SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: On 19 July, as part of the Durban FilmMart (DFM) 2015 programme which runs alongside the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), a panel discussion titled “Removing the Frame – Perspectives from the next Generation of African Cinema’, was held.

The discussion was facilitated by project manager for the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Tiny Mungwe. The panel was made up of Mayenzeke Baza, filmmaker and leader within the Association for the Transformation of Film and Television (ATFT); Aria Lalloo, filmmaker and organiser of the People2People (P2P) International Documentary Conference; Tracey Lee Dearham, script editor, writer and leader within the Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA); and Judy Kibinge, filmmaker and organiser of the East African documentary film fund Docubox.

Among other aspects relating to the importance of pan-African collaboration with regard to policy making, the panel discussed the concept of “voice’ in depth. Mungwe gave each member on the panel an opportunity to share their perspectives on what “voice’ means to them as filmmakers and also as organisers. “All these individuals, with regards to their organisational work, try and contribute to enabling those who do not have a voice in society – both in South Africa and on the continent – to have a voice,’ said Mungwe.

Baza spoke first saying that for him as a South African black filmmaker, it is most important to tell stories that represent his voice. “From my work and the films that I’ve made it has always been about what I want to voice, my true sense and the way I reflect in stories…When you are in a place where you are dependent on hand-outs, on other people finding your stories, often times your voice is the last thing that comes out because you have to tell stories based on who is giving you the money,’ Baza said. He continued by explaining that in his past experiences he found that whenever he wanted to tell a story and make a film that came from his own voice, he struggled to find funding. Baza said that due to the fact that he had to make a living he often had to sacrifice his voice and the stories he thought needed to be told.

Lalloo said that she feels fortunate to be a part of People2People as it has always had a very political identity. “Looking forward is very important especially in the political moment that we find ourselves in, in South Africa and all over the world…I think that it’s an incredibly precarious time but full of possibilities. Maybe a couple of years ago the idea that we could talk more about politics than industry and how our industry works seemed ridiculous…No one wanted to have those conversations,’ said Lalloo. She went on to explain that the language of the developmental economy has been one with which she has grown up and therefore she struggles to talk about the concept of voice outside of that context.

Dearham explained that she runs the Africa initiative for the WGSA. “Our goal is to bring together writers from all over the continent and to create guilds in those countries that will assist in putting together or aligning treaties because we need to work with each other on the continent, especially because our markets are becoming mixed in the sense that we are no longer just speaking to one group, it’s different niche markets, it’s diverse, so it would be good to have different voices that represent different stories from cultures in different places,’ she explained. Dearham said that the goal is to assist in forming guilds in different African countries, which sounds simple in theory but the political systems in different areas make it difficult to do so. She explained that collaboration is important to create authentic African stories for ourselves and for different markets and that in order to collaborate; systems need to be in place.

Kibinge explained that she started her career in advertising and had crossed over into film. She shared that in her journey to become a fairly well-known filmmaker in her own country of Kenya, she realised that with every accomplishment and every attempt to be heard it would always come down to raising funds. Kibinge said that this demoralising cycle directly led to the organisation of Docubox. “If you’re actually gonna get anywhere, you better get together with some other people,’ said Kibinge.

The People2People International Documentary Conference will take place on 21 and 22 July in partnership with DIFF.

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