As the annual film festival returns for its 14th year, we explore some of this year's highlights
Scotland's major celebration of African cinema is back for its 14th edition, presenting audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh with a range of stories from the African continent and beyond. From documentaries right the way through to coming-of-age dramas, Africa in Motion has screened over 600 films since its inception in 2006, continuing to highlight the diversity and talent within African cinema with each year's programme.
The 2019 edition of the festival is no exception, with screenings, discussions, Q&As, pop-ups, workshops, exhibitions, live performances and much more taking place over the nine days. As far as the festival's acclaimed curation goes, Africa in Motion has been working to develop a unique approach in recent years, which has resulted in this year's programme featuring a team of 14 paid curators, all People of Colour (PoC), coming from Scotland, Morocco, Brazil, Cameroon and Rwanda, each contributing to the programme in various ways. The significance of this lies in its truly collaborative spirit, which means that the programme is able to cater to an array of audiences thanks in part to the varying perspectives and viewpoints of the curators themselves.
Talking About Trees
Highlights from this year's programme include brand new features, documentaries and shorts, plus a highly intriguing strand entitled Playful Decolonisation, which includes the UK's first expansive video games and VR film exhibition solely dedicated to work developed on the African continent. The video games will focus on three areas: narrative, gameplay and aesthetic, each looking at ways in which the games challenge Western conventions. The VR films that will be exhibited offer immersive modes of African storytelling and experience, via both science fiction and reality.
Elsewhere in the programme, you'll find screenings of films like Mercy of the Jungle (Joël Karekezi, Rwanda 2019), which was the winner of the top prize at Africa's biennale FESPACO's film festival this year; western-style feature Sew the Winter to My Skin (Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, South Africa 2018), which dramatises the true story of a notorious outlaw from apartheid era South Africa; and Desrances (Apolline Traoré, Burkina Faso 2019), starring renowned French-Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis in Traoré's dramatic thriller.
Earth Mother, Sky Father
In the documentary strand, Talking About Trees (Suhaib Gasmelbari, Sudan 2019) wistfully chronicles the demise of cinema in Sudan, while Lost Warrior (Nasib Farah & Søren Steen Jespersen, Denmark/Sweden 2018) follows the story of a young Somali man who grew up in Britain, was radicalised and joined al-Shabab. My Friend Fela (Joel Zito Araújo, Brazil 2019) explores the complex life of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti through conversations with his friend and official biographer, Carlos Moore.
This year's Africa in Motion programme will also place a special focus on Afrofuturism through films like Earth Mother, Sky Father: 2030 (Kordae Jatafa Henry, 2019) and Afrofuturist musical EUPhoria (Robert-Jonathan Koeyers, 2018), in which a mysterious force field appears around the African continent. Films reflecting the global African diaspora will be well represented too, with movies like Sprinter (Storm Saulter, Jamaica 2019) and Bakoso: Afrobeats of Cuba (Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, USA 2019) making appearances, alongside Within Our Gates (Oscar Micheaux, US 1920), a silent film with live musical accompaniment, made by the first African American director as a response to DW Griffith's racist The Birth of a Nation.
With plenty more to be announced as part of this year's festival, there's no doubt that Africa in Motion will continue to encourage aspiring filmmakers and work to impact underrepresentation and marginalisation in British film, while also introducing Scottish audiences to the brilliance of African cinema. Check out the full programme online now.
Scotland’s annual celebration of African cinema heads online with screenings of animated films, features, shorts and documentaries. The 2020 festival features five key strands: Diaspora, Industry, Mamas, Queer Africa and Women in Focus.