“You are able to go over borders with the film festivals, and you give the opportunity to exchange, to share, to tell the world about how you’re living and understand how others are living too,” Smadja says. “So, it’s a cultural exchange — whether you’re in South Africa, in Algeria, in Ghana, or in Kenya, wherever you are.”
In 2020, MFF launched its Africa edition, open only to filmmakers living on the continent. The top submissions were announced this past March. CNN spoke to some of the winners to understand their journey into filmmaking, and what’s next for them in Africa’s growing film industry.
As a child growing up in Senegal, West Africa, Marcel Moussa Diouf spent a lot of time watching films.
The 23-year-old says he was inspired to learn filmmaking after stumbling on “The Hateful Eight,” a 2015 thriller directed by American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. And even though he could not afford to go to film school, Diouf tells CNN that he learned about making movies on his own.
“The internet has taught me everything I know. In 2015, I went on YouTube to learn how to make films,” he says. “I was initially using my phone to practice, but I later got a laptop from my sister. And with this computer, I organized everything I learned into chapters by taking notes.”
Shot on an iPhone 8, the film shows Liberte (“Freedom”), a sick woman on a hospital bed surrounded by teenagers addicted to their phones. The teenagers, all surfing social media, are drawing blood from Liberte. The more apps they use, the more blood is drawn from her to their mobile phones.
Diouf says “I am Freedom” is a metaphor for social media addiction common among young people. “This is supposed to be a positive thing, but the teenagers around (Liberte) become blind. They are no longer interacting with each other,” he adds. In the end, “it kills Liberte instead of freeing her.”
“When I got the call from the festival, I was so happy,” he says. “I went back home to tell my family and everyone who had participated in the film. It was really in that moment that I realized what €10,000 could mean for my career.”
Kenyan-Indian Neha Manoj Shah has always been interested in the arts. As a teenager, she loved to draw, sketch and paint. But it was a filmmaking course at university that changed everything.
“I just had a huge light bulb moment with filmmaking,” Shah says. “Like the angels were singing and I had found my calling.”
When she graduated in 2007, it was difficult for her to get into filmmaking full time, she says. She spent her post-graduation years working in advertising and as a photographer until 2015 when she got a job with a German production company.
“It was my first job in a proper professional setting. They needed people for the production design department, so I applied. It was an amazing learning curve for me,” she explains.
“I chose to make ‘Face Mask on Sale’ because the pandemic made me feel stuck,” Shah says. “I was talking to someone and it hit me that women are having the toughest time this pandemic. I worried about mums and pregnant women and how they’re coping, so I decided to make a film out of that.”
The filmmaker worked with a pregnant actor and a cinematographer in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. Many women, she says, found the film relatable.
Like Diouf, Shah is using the grant to create a new film and has just wrapped up the script.
For Walid Falleh, filmmaking is a very personal experience that began with a desire to document what was happening around him.
“I established a cemetery where they (migrants) can be buried with all dignity and respect. I named it ‘the cemetery of strangers,'” Marzuk says in the film.
The film won €2,000 ($2,400) at MFF Africa in March. Falleh says stories around immigration are meaningful to him.
“I grew up with this topic because my city, Zarzis, is suffering from the problem of immigration,” he says. “At first, I wasn’t sure my films would make a difference, but I have realized that documenting things as they happen can help inform people to make a change.”
#Mobile #Film #Festival #bringing #filmmakers #Africa