New wave breaking in African cinema
In his debut feature, The Burial of Kojo, Sam Bazawule, aka rapper Blitz the Ambassador, used magic realism to confront the subject of illegal mining. Meanwhile, Wanuri Kahiu shone a brave light on queer romantic relationships in Nairobi in Rafiki. Humanimals, a musical directed by Emmanuel Owusu Bonsu, aka Wanlov the Kubulor, made for the six-track EP of the same title by VILLY & The Xtreme Volumes, discusses the problems around attaining a UK visa. And Akin Omotoso’s A Hotel Called Memory is an ode to avant-garde cinema exploring the failure of a marriage through the eyes of Lola (played by Nse Ikpe-Etim). These directors are paving the way for a new wave of African cinema we can look forward to in the years to come.
British Ghanaian director Baff Akoto, known for his documentaries Star Cross and Football Fables, was tipped Screen International Star of Tomorrow 2018. Akoto is set to shoot his first two feature films at the beginning of next year with producer Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor: one will be a prison drama and the other is a comedy drama set in 1984, following a Jamaican family during the UK miners’ strike.
The 2019 film festival calendar will begin with Fespaco celebrating 50 years of its existence from 23 February to 3 March. We can expect lots of specials, including retrospectives on the founding fathers such as Ousmane Sembène and Kwaw Ansah. Other festivals to look out for are Luxor African Film Festival in March, NollywoodWeek Paris in May, Durban International Film Festival in July, Toronto International Film Festival in September, Africa in Motion Edinburgh in October and Film Africa once again in London in November.
Jihan El-Tahri, Filmmaker
“During this year’s Durban International Film Festival I said something that was widely circulated on social media: ‘African cinema doesn’t have an African industry at all and that’s where our problem arises.’ This is related to funding: on the continent we have four countries that have a film fund – Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa –, and even out of those countries as a filmmaker you cannot complete your film based on those funds, you would still need to get a co-production deal [in the West]. To get a foot into those funding bodies you have to pass through various hurdles. People within the industry look at me and think that I have it easy, but they don’t see that I have been knocking on those same doors for years. I believe the way forward is to work collaboratively: different filmmakers should work together on a film and apply for funding together. This is the only way I see an African industry slowly emerging and staying.”
This article first appeared in December-January 2019 print edition of The Africa Report
By Jacqueline Nsiah
Top Photo: Documentary filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri
Credits: Lea Crespi/Pasco
Lea Crespi / Pasco