Africa in Motion 2014 film festival round-up
Featuring Robots of Brixton, Afronauts, Beri and Amare, Picture Perfect Heist and Four Corners
This year, the annual Africa in Motion festival sees the continent exploring new and otherworldly territories. The 2014 selection reveals fresh ambition and imaginative directions, Eddie Harrison discovers
Science-fiction is usually the preserve of Hollywood; new African film-makers take the visual cues of Soweto-shot sci-fi hit District 9 back to their roots. Kibwe Tavares' Robots of Brixton (●●●) mixes footage of real-life riots from 1981 with accomplished computer-generated-action, as pot-smoking robots wake up to how their neighbourhood is changing. Frances Bodomo's Afronauts (●●●) is a fictionalised account of Zambia's Space programme and their efforts to beat the US to the moon in 1969; exploring science-fiction in a metaphorical way, Afronauts is aided by a striking lo-fi production design. And Andy Siege's Beti and Amare (●●) is a low-budget feature about Beti, a young woman in 1930s Ethiopia whose assault by three bandits is interrupted by the arrival of an interstellar traveller. The effects may be crude, but Hiwot Asres is an arresting presence as Beti, and there's an off-kilter poetry to writer/director Siege's vision.
Such other-worldly concerns aside, AiM's 2014 selection provides a snapshot of emerging talents: Alan Shelly's deft Picture Perfect Heist (●●●●) is a freshly performed comic short making good use of Tarantino-lite dialogue as three amateur crooks plan an incompetent art-theft from their parked car. More substantial work comes in the form of Four Corners (●●●●), South Africa's entry for the 2014 Oscar race, an epic two-hour multi-strand drama depicting the struggles between ruthless gang-members in and out of prison. Ian Gabriel's film has provoked comparisons with City of God and Amores Perros; it's certainly vivid, bloody and very cinematic.
Lastly, Finding Hillywood (●●●●) is an hour-long documentary by Eric Kabera, who was inspired to become a film-maker by his experience working on The Last King of Scotland, and to engage directly with Rwandan audiences by organising programmes of road-show screenings. Kabera's cheerfully laconic attitude to his arduous labours is constantly amusing and there's a vivid picture of young Rwandans, picking up their cameras and capturing the issues of their nation with infectious enthusiasm; suddenly reaching for the stars seems like an attainable goal.