Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: owner-african-cinema-conference@XC.Org (
About: African Cinema Comes to S. Africa

Mon, 16 Sep 1996 13:21:32 -0400

Originally from: <owner-african-cinema-conference@XC.Org>
Originally dated: Mon, 16 Sep 1996 13:21:32 -0400

X-Posted with the permission of IPS/MISANET
Date: Wed, 28 Aug 1996
From: Peter Limb, University of Western Australia

CINEMA-SOUTH AFRICA: African Cinema Finally Comes to Town
By Gumisai Mutume

JOHANNESBURG, Aug (IPS) - Only a tiny audience has braved the
biting Johannesburg winter to take a peek into something South
African viewers have been starved of for decades - the world of
African film.

It's Wednesday. The pubs around the central business district
are brimming. So are the traditional cinema houses that show
predominantly American movies. But here, the mood is different,
more subdued.

The venue is Kippie's night club, located in the cultural
precinct of Johannesburg. And today, instead of the traditional
jazz music scene, an African feature film is on the bill, for

'This is what we feel should be of interest to people,''
says club owner Thaven Naidoo. ''South Africa has been cut off
from the rest of the continent for too long. People have
constantly been seeing distorted images of Africa created by
white film makers. We are trying to recreate an identity.''

Over the decades apartheid had shielded South Africans from
Africa in all social spheres, from economics and sport through
to the arts. But the arrival of a new government in 1994 has
brought with it an increasing urge to get on board.

Under the auspices of the Film Resource Unit (FRU), a
Johannesburg-based organisation, efforts like this one have been
taking off to bring Africa back home.

Since Aug 7, Wednesday nights at Kippie's have been reserved
for 'Images of Africa' - a vibrant series of feature films and
documentaries followed by public discussions with the film
makers and people in the industry.

Today's film is 'Jit', directed by Zimbabwean Michael
Raeburn. It is a simple story about a young man, U.K. (Dominic
Makuvachuma) who, chasing his dreams, comes into the city and
ends up trying to win the girl of his dreams.

The movie features the music of Zimbabwean pop-star Oliver
Mtukudzi, who also co-stars, and Chimurenga - Zimbabwean
liberation music popularised by Thomas Mapfumo.

But it is more than the film that is important today. It is
the idea, the sharing with brothers and sisters from the
continent and the social responsibility that 'Images of Africa'
is trying to promote.

''We aim to distribute and promote socially responsible
films,'' says co-ordinator Peace Tlotleng. ''Films that are
socially relevant dealing with health issues, the environment,
AIDS, women, music and culture.''

To co-incide with the country's National Women's Day,
celebrated on Aug 9, films which have female lead actresses and
documentaries dealing with gender issues will dominate
screenings this month, Tlotleng says.

Images of Africa took off with 'Rue Princesse' a movie
produced in Cote d'Ivoire about a group of sex-workers and how
they build a special kind of solidarity to protect themselves
against the powerful men who exploit them.

Other films lined up will peer into the lives of Mozambicans,
Zaireans, Senegalese, Nigerians, Burkinabes and other Africans.
They include the works of such renowned film makers as Senegal's
Djibril Diop Mambety.

''Our continent, the birthplace of humanity and civilisation,
has some of the world's great film makers - people with vision
who can deliver a new kind of film making into the 21st
century,'' notes critic Janet Smith in the 'Star Tonight' an
entertainment supplement in one of South Africa's newspapers.

''But South Africans, deprived for years of African films for
political reasons, are so alienated from this reel culture that
we barely know what lies above us,'' she adds. ''Perhaps we will
develop a taste for this world just beyond our borders.''

And things do not just stop with Images of Africa. Cinema
chain Ster-Moribo has for the first time accepted to show at
least one African movie a month starting with Mambety's

Tlotleng says FRU has also signed a distribution contract
with the South African Broadcasting Corporation which, also for
the first time, has undertaken to show African feature films to
spice its bland, Eurocentic programming.

Under another initiative known as the Mobile Video
Educational Project, FRU rides out into rural South Africa to
take the message that Africa, too, produces good entertainment.

But, says Haseena Rawat, a senior civil servant present at
today's show, FRU should not only focus on African films,
''Latin American and Asian films too, movies from other
countries of the South should be promoted.''

Still, she says 'Images of Africa' is a progressive
initiative as it corrects the bad image of Africa South
Africans have.

''There is a lot of antagonism against African immigrants
right now. This could help reconcile people here with Africa ...
to build bridges.''

[c] 1996, Inter Press Seervice Third World News Agency
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