Zimbabwe’s Film Festival

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(Sembene is the Dean of African cinema).

The Zimbabwe International Film Festival opened its 9th anniversary recently in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare with a promising lineup of an eclectic mélange of films from more than 40 countries.

Film lovers feasted from August 26 to September 4 on more than 100 recent films, from the Indian Bollywood dish, to the Nigeria's Nollywood African movie staple, the strong film culture of Poland and to the slushy romances of Hollywood films. "In creating the seventh art, filmmakers have the power to create or animate an idea and make it into something that becomes real,� said Rumbi Katedza, the festival director. "Movies capture our hearts and imaginations, nourish our soul, challenge our intellect and document our stories."
Solid support from the corporate world coupled with support from the diplomatic community and other partners has enabled the ZIFF to stay afloat and showcase different films from various cultures bringing the beauty of diversity to Zimbabwe again. Already showing at various venues, among other films, Zozo from Sweden, a film about a character named Zozo who grows up in Beirut and leads a normal family life despite a raging civil war. Tragedy strikes one day and Zozo is torn from his family and is forced to survive on his own. His only hope is to get himself to his grandparents in Sweden, for him an unknown and strange new land. The film presents highly terrifying real and timely subject matter.

Moolaade (Protection) is another strikingly powerful film directed by veteran African film maker Ousmane Sembene in which he uses the contentious issue of female circumcision in Africa to aptly illustrate the eternal tug-of-war between progress and tradition. These two films are showing at the Vistarama in the capital.

Among the 100 films shown, there was Sara (2006), a film from Ethiopia directed by Helen Tadesse. It’s about the world of a fun-loving and precocious seven-year old girl which comes crashing down when her mother dies suddenly. Her stepfather commits himself to raising her and subsequently becomes her jailer. This powerful and shocking drama highlights seven years in the life of a young girl who is sexually abused by her step father and is unable to escape as her family and friends turn a blind eye. 

From South Africa, there was The Silent Fall (2006) a film about the ravaging Aids epidemic and the challenges it brings, Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon a story about refugees who flee wars from other countries to settle in city of gold, Johannesburg and Faith's Corner, a powerful story from the award winning team that produced Sarafina that looks at Faith and her two young sons who live in an abandoned BMW in a squalor settlement. From other parts of the world, there was My Name is Eugene (Switzerland), Mistress of Spices (UK), Girls from Ipanema (Australia), Queen Size Beauty (Benin), Lost Children (Germany), Shika (Kenya), Freedom for Money (Pakistan), A Common Thread (France), Mountains of Light (Cuba), Splendid Season (China), My Beautiful Smile (Senegal), God Sleeps in Rwanda (USA) and Women At the Table (Zimbabwe).

From Zimbabwe, there was Evil in Our Midst (2006) a searing indictment of child sexual abuse and the impunity of the wealthy and powerful. It explores the myth that surrounds sexually abusing virgin girls to cure HIV/AIDS. Short films from Zimbabwe also include Chipo Changu, a story about a traditional healer who claims he can cure Aids but who things go wrong for him when his daughter falls in love with one of his Aids patients. It stars Sam Mtukudzi, a son of Zimbabwe's most celebrated musical icons Oliver Mtukudzi. From the USA, there was Happy Birthday directed by Csaba Bereckzy, a short film about a tragic tale of a young girl's memories of abuse and Sarang Song directed by Tamika miller and Adisa Khepra about making tough choices between love and or the student protest movement of the 1970s.

It was encouraging that the festival also ran workshops of animation, acting, digital technology and the internet, copyright and other educational programs for film artists and others in the industry. "Our broader vision remains to creatively and innovatively link the annual film festival with the production of short films, the film forum interchanges and the educational programs," said Rachel Kupara, a trustee of ZIFF. The closing and awards ceremony, featured live performances and fireworks at the Westgate Shopping Mall Cinema Court in Harare.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’ Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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