Sunday, 16 July 2017

ZIFF’17 paving way for TZ film industry

By +Caroline Anande Uliwa @CarolAnande-Instagram @CarolAnande-Facebook @CarolAnande-Twitter

Against the backdrop of these words “I really admire artists because I love music, of any genre. In my youth I danced ‘Rumba’ plenty. During these yesteryears at ‘DDC Magomeni Kondoa' I had a special seat. If you went and sat there they would tell you, ‘that seat is reserved when he arrives you’ll have to leave’…”- Dr Jakaya M. Kikwete from his speech at the opening of this year’s Zanzibar International Film Festival, that is celebrating two decades since its inception.

We saw the unveiling of Zanzibar’s film festival-ZIFF on the 8th of July, where former President of the United Rep of Tanzania graced the opening ceremony as guest of honour. He was honoured with the lifetime achievement award from this festival, for his passionate contributions to the arts & for pushing the festival’s visibility for the past 20 years.
(click link for more photos of the festival)

His speech which went on for a good 30 minutes, that towards the end he kindly chided himself ‘perhaps because it’s been a while since I was speaking to Tanzanians in front of a podium…’. Went on to congratulate the organisers including former festival’s CEO Martin Mhando, founding board members of ZIFF like Fatma Alloo & Hassan Mitawi. For establishing a platform that is recognised internationally, erecting firm infrastructure in the film industry in Africa.

Former President of Tanzania among Dr J. M. Kikwete
giving a speech as GOH at ZIFF
opening ceremony this year-Photo by ZIFF photographer
Mentioning that this is no small feat, he urged local film stakeholders to up their skillset, like taking advantage of the opportunities presented in this year’s ZIFF film school program. Which saw applications from several young film makers all over the continent, still despite the entry being free very few Tanzanian filmmakers applied. “I watch a lot of Bongo Movies…and you reach a point you can’t even hear the words. If we want our local movies to compete reaching international platforms like Cannes or even Ouagadougou in their Pan-African Film Festival, ultimately getting to Hollywood. If ZIFF is giving these opportunities to local filmmakers why aren’t we using them?”

To understand why our mainstream movie industry has many shortcomings a look at history is warranted. As ZIFF’s Board Chairman Hon Mahmoud T. Kombo (Current Health Minister of Zanzibar) highlights. “Yes, indeed by 1997 all the cinemas in Tanzania had collapsed thanks to the IMF conditions and tunnel thinking, where a peoples’ culture was held in short-thrift. Culture wasn’t considered part of development and no tear was shed when 53 cinemas in the country along with many hundreds around Africa were closed in the 80’s and 90’s…”
Photo by ZIFF photographer, audiences at the Old Forte Ampi theatre,
one of the screening venues of the festival

With this hacking from the knees of a whole industry casualties are to be expected. Yet the industry as of 2010 was contributing more than 300 billion TSHS to Tanzania’s annual GDP. Where a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) global entertainment and media outlook 2016-2020 report noted that: “in 36 out of the 54 countries covered by PwC’s outlook, entertainment and media spending is growing more rapidly than GDP, often by a factor of more than 50 percent.” PwC is present in Tanzania, former president Dr Kikwete noted how he’s always been impressed by the resilience of youth in the industry, who have found employment by the thousands in this sector.
Among the pillars of ZIFF festival from left Festival
 Director Fabrizio Colombo, former festival CEO Prof Martin
Mhando and current festival CEO Daniel Nyalusi at ZIFF'17
opening ceremony

ZIFF this year continued to propel the local movie industry, by debuting its festival with a Tanzanian film 'T-Junction' of Kijiweni Productions, Directed & written by Amil Shivji. The film on the award night of this festival (15th July) went onto scoop, ‘the Best European African Film Festival Award’ of 1000 Euros. As well as having its lead actress Hawa Ally, receive ‘Best Actress’ in the Bongo Movie Award section of the ceremony.

Among the notable screenings of Tanzanian film at the festival this year was the documentary ‘Sinema Ujamaa’ directed by Symphorian Belleghe from Tanzania.  Here one can trace the gap since the 60’s to the late 80’s of Tanzanian film before ‘Bongo Movies’ when cinema houses were prominent in the country.

Members of 'Mtendeje' performing 'Maulid ya Home'
at the opening ceremony of ZIFF this year inside
the ampi theatre at Old Fort in Zanzibar
Littered with archival footage and reenactments of classics from the time including ‘Fimbo ya Mnyonge’ and ‘Harusi ya Mariam’. Sinema Ujamaa reunites a group of early film makers to an intergenerational dialogue with young ‘Bongo Movie’ film makers. That ignites patriotic sentiments from audiences in noting our responsibility to hold the industry erect.

Also the dramatised documentary ’Son of Sinbad: A call of Zanzibar’, was another local film that was featured at the festival which had its world premier on this platform. The documentary didn’t use any professional actors in its dramatised clips. “So we were looking for people on the streets, who were willing to take part. Most of them had never been in front of the camera…” Friedrich Kluetshc the director of this documentary, which explores the maritime history of Zanzibar with connection to Oman since the 1840’s to the present.

From right Members of the Board of ZIFF Chande Omar,
Fatma Alloo and Hassan Mitawi as well former
CEO of ZIFF Prof Martin Mhando, current
CEO Daniel Nyalusi and Festival Director Fabrizio Colombo
Among the producers Said Odeithi commented how Mafoudh et Mafouth a native of Zanzibar playing the role of Sultan Said Sayyed, was an example of hidden talent that this documentary unearthed. Having seen the documentary I can vouch that one wouldn’t think the man has never acted before.

ZIFF this year through its Film School Program saw this years chief guest, US-based producer Davis Dexter, conduct a three-day workshop that culminated in a pitching competition for African filmmakers. Where Tanzania’s own Amby Lusekelo won the bid which will culminate in a film grant between 50,000 to 200,000 US Dollars.

Indeed the festival this year has gone aways in lighting the torch for the local industry including the opening of Soko Filam, that brought over 50 filmakers from over 12 countries to our shores of Zanzibar. Who were joined by mroe than 100 Soko Filam delegates, a wonderful opportunity in placing our country on the map in the African film industry.

We saw the Bi Kidude, chairperson award from ZIFF go to a Tanzanian production-White Potion by Ash Mswaki, together with the COMNET Bongo Movie Awards continuing to boost our own industry. Here Best Actor went to Ibrahim Osward in Hadithi za Kumekucha, Best Editor to Freddy Feruzi in Genge, Best Cinematographer to Freddy Feruzi in Genge, Best Screenplay/Writer to Ernest Napoleon & Daniel Manege, Best Film in Sound to Homecoming by Seko Shamte and Best Director to Nicholas Marwa in Kiumeni, with T-Junction as mentioned earlier scooping Best Feature Film and the Best Actress for Hawa Ally.

Board Chairman of ZIFF (in white)
Hon Mahmoud T. Kombo presenting the
Lifetime Achievement Award to former
President of Tanzania Dr Jakaya Kikwete
at the opening ceremony of ZIFF this year
The theme for next year’s ZIFF festival was announced as ‘Speak Up and Say It!, ‘Sema Usikike’ which will occur on the 7th to the 15th of July. Special thanks to the sponsors of this festival which include Danido, ComNet, ZanLink, Danish Film Institute, DoubleTree by Hilton, British Council. Maru Maru Hotel, Azam Marine Division, Showmax Trace Mziki, US Embassy Dar es Salaam, Kenya Film Classification Board, Milele Zanzibar Foundation, Ethiopian Airlines, Emerson Foundation, GIZ. Goethe Institute. Sauti za Busara Festival, ACRA, Italian Embassy Dar es Salaam, Embassy of Israel, Park Hyatt Zanzibar, Clouds Plus TV, African Movie Channel, Maharaba Swahili Music Festival, Wanene Productions and ZBC.

For the full list of ZIFF winners this year click

First published in the east african newspaper

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