Shine on east African film

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(Photo credit: Peter Bennett)

The East African film and TV industries are riding high these days, and this year’s Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) and DISCOP Zanzibar, while both internationally focused events, will have a strong focus on the high quality productions coming out of the region.

This year’s 21st annual Zanzibar International Film Festival will take place from 7 to 15 July in venues in and around Stone Town, Zanzibar. This year, ZIFF has partnered with Africa’s largest content markets, DISCOP Markets, to present the first annual DISCOP Zanzibar, that will take place from 11 to 13 July at the Hotel Verde Azam Luxury Resort.

A remarkable array of East African, African and international films will be on display at this year’s event which saw a record number of entries across all categories with over 4 000 films submitted across the various entry platforms.

This year also saw a marked increase in the amount of documentaries submitted, with over 800 being entered for consideration. With nearly 400 features being submitted, the selection process for 2018 was extremely difficult.

Entries were also received from all over the world with submissions coming from over 140 countries, with the USA and India leading the number of submissions. East African filmmakers have also shown amazing interest in ZIFF with Ugandan filmmakers submitting 55 films, 54 from Kenya, and 31 from Tanzania

The films in selection cross a broad spectrum of topics and genres and represent over 40 countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda South Africa, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Western Sahara, Niger, Iran, The United States, France, Ghana, Belgium, Tunisa, Swaziland, India, United Kingdom and many more.

East African films and TV content feature strongly in this year’s line-up, with key films being included in high profile screenings.

Every year the Zanzibar International Film Festival bestows the honour of the Opening Night film on a new and noteworthy African film, and this year is no different. For ZIFF’s Opening Night 2018, the festival will present the world premiere of the Tanzanian film Bahasha.

The film was the directed by Jordan Riber and featured some of Tanzania’s most talented actors including Ayoub Bombwe, Godliver Gordian, Omary Mrisho and Catherine Credo.

Another film to be screened, with generous support from the Kenya Film Commission, is the inspiring new Kenyan film, Supa Modo. The film which had its much acclaimed world premiere at Berlinale in February this year, has been heralded as a stunning debut for director Likarion Wainaina and its young cast. The Kenya Film Commission will be hosting the screening of the film on Wednesday, 11 July, at ZIFF’s main venue of the Old Fort Amphitheatre with various members of the cast and production team in attendance.

As one of the new editions for this year’s event, ZIFF in partnership with DISCOP Zanzibar, the Zanzibar TV Series Festival will unfold its first edition from 12 to 14 July 2018. The event aims to highlight series from all over the world and to give an international voice to this increasingly popular and fiercely creative new art form.

Open to the public, the Zanzibar TV Series Festival will celebrate excellence. Striving to create a stage on which the foremost creators in the world of TV series come together, where tomorrow’s talents are showcased, and a prestigious international competition for a wide range of genres and for series of all shapes and forms is presented. Over 9 different East African TV series will be screened during the two-day event.

Once again, ZIFF will also focus on Zanzibari filmmakers with the Emerson’s Zanzibar Foundation Film Award, whose mission is to recognise the unique and significant nature of the local film talent. The award aims to inspire and promote Zanzibari film artists, who are pursuing their artistic vision in the archipelago, as well as promoting the culture and history of Zanzibar.

It is exciting to see the impact that the Emerson’s Award has had on the recipients’ professional lives and what they used the award money for. Salum Stika, the first recipient for his short film Daladala went on to direct Binti Zanzibar, a Kiswahili feature film, which scooped four trophies, and 4 000 000 TSH from the Azam TV Sinema Zetu Award.

Mbarouk Mussa, a forester and the second recipient for his inspiring documentary about Kokota island in Pemba, has used the award to increase awareness of the important work he is doing on the island. Mussa was nominated for the prestigious BBC Outlook Inspiration Award.

DISCOP Zanzibar’s NEXT Gen programme will also feature a range of East African industry experts looking at topics ranging from Animation to eSports – the fastest growing spectator sport in the world, with an estimated global audience of more than 380 million in 2017, and successful competitive video gamers now making millions of dollars annually.

Animation Africa will run its Animation Unites Africa programme and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and its market, MIFA – the world’s top reference for animation films and industry – returns to Africa to scout for the best talents for Animation du Monde 2019.

Also featured is a focus on Ethiopia, with a journey through the last 30 years of broadcast media in Ethiopia. Experts will look at the state monopoly on broadcasting and the birth of new radio and TV stations, censorship of the media space, how the internet has changed access to information, the rise of new radio and TV stations and the type of content they are focusing on.

East Africa’s thriving music industry will also be in focus with both the Trace Mziki and ZIFF East African Music Video Award. Additionally, DISCOP Zanzibar will host its DISOCRE programme on the growing global recognition of African music in film, TV, gaming and advertising.

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Lara Preston
Lara Utian-Preston is a passionately committed marketer and strategist with a focus on promoting African content and events. Two decades of working across Africa have provided her with insights and experience that she puts to work for the projects she manages. In 2006, Lara founded, and still personally manages, Red Flag Content Relations, a full service below-the-line agency that also focuses on African entertainment and lifestyle brand marketing, strategy, and publicity.

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