Tuesday, May 23, 2006

african filmfest in ghana - until may 27

See the release below on a film festival ongoing in Accra until Saturday 27 May...


"Real Life" (a Twi translation is pending) inaugurates an annual film festival dedicated to documentary films based on the histories, peoples, heroes, cities and locations of African and diasporic African communities. The event will bring together filmmakers, scholars, students and film enthusiasts to one of the greatest historic Pan-African cities in the world—Accra, Ghana. It will be the continent’s major initiative and forum for the production, cataloging and exhibition of documentary film records of African and African-diasporic subjects in global history.

In addition to exhibiting documentaries by filmmakers from Africa and beyond, the festival will include a program of student films comprising entries from Ghana’s National Film and Television Institute as well as those from other students world-wide that portray Pan-African images.

This festival will invite filmmakers from all over the world, as well as exhibitors engaged in the industries of producing and distributing films. Workshops by filmmakers and exhibitions by companies in the film business will complement the screenings. The program will also include an exhibition of photographic interpretations of Pan-African subjects by leading photographers.

The events are open to the general public and seek to inspire young filmmakers and documentarians to address the arts, politics, and social issues of relevance to the Pan-African world. It hopes to promote awareness of and engagement with these concerns among African audiences at all levels – from schoolchildren through adults in all walks of life.

The festival is part of the newly inaugurated West African Documentary Forum – a production, post-production, archiving and scholarly organization dedicated to producing and documenting knowledge on contemporary African and African diasporic issues through films.

Why Ghana, Why Accra?
As the name of this annual upcoming annual gathering suggests, the initiators of the project would like to circumscribe their action within a regional West African framework, and more specifically that of the member-states of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). The ultimate ambition though is to extend the reach of the forum to all member-states of the African Union.

Ghana, an Anglophone country, is strategically located on the West African coast and shares all its borders with French-speaking countries. This privileged position makes the country a central player able to foster intellectual and cultural dialogue and exchange. Indeed Ghana has a long intellectual tradition in the region and is historically known as the beacon of Pan-Africanism. One of its neighbors, Burkina Faso, has been hosting the Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) for almost forty years. Although FESPACO is the most important filmic event on the African continent, its all-encompassing dimension prevents it from focusing on specific aspects of the continent’s filmic production. The proposed documentary film forum to be held in Accra will fill in this major gap through its emphasis on the documentary film form.

Accra is the capital city of a politically stable country with strong economic potential. It hosts numerous international public institutions as well as a vibrant NGO community that contributes to its development. The proliferation of debates in the written press and on radio is evidence that the plurality and free expression of opinions are guaranteed.

The televisual map of the city is shared by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, a national, public television channel and TV Africa, a private channel owned by Kwaw Ansah, one of the main african filmmakers. The presence of South African communication companies offering bouquets of channels and programs from around the world to their subscribers is also of note.

The choice of Ghana is also justified by the fact the country has a long-standing documentary tradition in Africa. Indeed, even prior to independence, the colonial administration used documentary as part of its propaganda machinery in its civic, health and school "education." Since independence, documentary production has grown steadily and continues to be used in its nation building initiatives.

Ghana was also the first country South of the Sahara to create a film and television school-the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI). The school is an intrinsic element of the West African Documentary Film Forum Indeed, the initiators of the project consider the school a key organizational component of the Forum as well as one of the best locations for screenings and meetings with its 300 seat capacity.

Why Documentary?
It is common knowledge that the majority of the population in Africa cannot read and write. Illiteracy is still rampant despite tremendous efforts on the part of governments. In such a context, documentary film is an effective means of democratizing access to knowledge. Through documentary, ancient and contemporary history could be taught to the populations in Africa, in their own languages and by their own compatriots. Documentary could help explain complex news programs and items to audiences who might not understand them at first by virtue of their inability to read and write. It enables access to "literacy through visual media". It could also serve as a medium for visual literacy in our media saturated world. Finally, it could be a means of self-expression, self-actualization and self-realization. Documentary could also be a vehicle of discovery and exploration, of learning through fun and entertainment. As such it could be attractive to the youth, which will be a central focus of the Forum.

Through these various actions of the Forum, the practice of informed citizenship by populations may be reinforced and may contribute to the improvement of democracy. Indeed the more populations have the intellectual ability to effectively exercise their citizenship, the more they will hold their governments accountable to issues of good governance, justice and transparency.

The Forum seeks to contribute to bringing back film, video and digital screenings to theater audiences who had turned toward television in a period where film production is decreasing due to scarce finances, and where film distribution and exhibition are in peril, due to the closure of movie theaters.

Although television remains the main space for documentary exhibition, recent developments in the United States and several European countries have seen documentary increasingly coming back into theaters after the success of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d’Or in 2004. The West African Documentary Forum hopes to contribute to a similar success of the form in Africa.

The unparalleled accessibility of digital technologies is also one of factors favoring documentary filmmaking. Whereas the costs of celluloid productions are ever increasing, the development of the digital technology makes documentary more accessible to greater numbers of people. Through miniaturization, digital technology is a major enabling factor for the development of documentary aesthetics whose main features include mobility and discretion. The tremendous decrease in production costs also contributes to this development.

Activities of the Forum
Beyond the organization of a festival which aims at giving greater visibility to African documentaries while offering the Ghanaian public a wide range of films from around the world, the Forum will engage in a number of different activities including:

  • Debates on central issues related to documentary will be organized during each edition of the Forum and will be an essential part of the program.
  • Conferences/Seminars featuring scholars and filmmakers on specific themes such as "Documentary and Globalization in Africa", "Documentary and Politics in Africa", "Documentary and Genocide", "Documentary and Exile/Immigration/Diaspora", "Documentary and Trauma/Slavery/ Colonialism, Civil War", "Gender and Documentary in Africa", "Documentary and AIDS in Africa" will enable scholarly explorations of the nature, features and potential of documentary expression in Africa. Through these scholarly endeavors, the Forum will seek to encourage the emergence of new voices and new schools of documentary filmmaking and scholarship in Africa, which will have worldwide resonance.
  • NAFTI will be put to contribution to organize training sessions. These sessions will be open to professionals who will be given an opportunity to upgrade their knowledge of new technologies, which change at a breakneck speed and are the backbone of documentary film production and exhibition.
  • The publishing of a newsletter which will link documentary filmmakers from West Africa, with those of the rest of the continent and indeed of the rest of the world. In addition to being a clearinghouse of resources for filmmakers, pre-production, production and postproduction news, this newsletter will also offer an open forum for debates and analyses of the role of documentary in building a conscious citizenry for the improvement of democracy on the African continent.
  • The creation of a media library which will archive all the films presented at the Forum as well as books, news clippings, photographs, etc. providing information on documentary.
  • The release on DVD and VHS of masterpieces discovered and distinguished at the West African Documentary Forum film festival.
  • Assist with the preservation and restoration of classics of African documentaries.
  • Publish books and proceedings of conferences on documentary in Africa.

2006 FESTIVAL: Accra, Ghana, May 21th - 27th

This inaugural festival will overlap with the annual meeting of the African Literature Association (ALA). This international literary gathering will bring about 500 to 600 hundred scholars to Accra, with a majority coming from North America. The launching of Real Life Documentary festival is timed to benefit from the ALA meeting, which will undoubtedly help to spread the buzz around the world. The festival will adopt the same themes as the ALA conference:

Pan-Africanism in the 21st Century:
Generations in Creative Dialogue.

The films to be exhibited are in such categories as: Africa, The African Diaspora, The World Cinema, and Student Films. We hope to develop sponsored prizes for various aspects of the exhibited films.

A governing committee comprising filmmakers, scholars and other cultural producers will determine the scope of the program. A Director, a Producer/Associate Director, a Co-Producer, three Associate Producers, Program Assistants and a team of technicians will administer the program.

Currently, Awam Amkpa (Nigeria/USA) will direct the festival. Lydie Diakhate (Senegal/France) will be the Producer and Associate Artistic Director; Korkor Amartefeo (Ghana) will be a Co-producer. Suneeta Olympio (Ghana, Togo, USA), Regine Dupuy (Haiti, USA) and Africanus Aveh (Ghana) will be Associate Producers. The following organizational chart illustrates the administration of the festival:

Advisory Committee
  1. Awam Amkpa, Nigerian Professor of Theater and Film. The author of a book on postocolonial theater and cinema, Mr. Amkpa is also the academic director of NYU Accra.
  2. Jahman Anikulapo (Nigeria), journalist (The Guardian on Sunday, Lagos), film critic.
  3. Kwaw Ansah, Ghananian film producer and director and founder of the private television station "TV Africa" Mr. Ansah is the best known film director in Anglophone Africa with such films as Love Brewed in an African Pot and Heritage Africa, which won the Grand Prize at the Pan African Film Festival of Ouagadougou in 1989.
  4. Africanus Aveh (Ghana), University of Ghana-Lagon; filmmaker.
  5. Mbye Cham (Gambia), film scholar and author (Howard University).
  6. Jean-Paul Colleyn, Belgium Anthropologist and Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has directed over thirty documentaries and published numerous articles and books including Le regard documentaire [The Documentary Gaze].
  7. Lydie DiakhatÈ, Franco-Senegalese independent film producer and journalist.
  8. Ben Diogaye Beye, Senegalese film producer and director, journalist, critic and short story writer. A pioneer of Senegelese cinema, he has collaborated with Ousmane SembËne and Djibril Diop Mambety and directed several shorts and two feature films including the famous Sey Seyeti [A Man, Women], and Un amour d’enfant [Childhood Love].
  9. Danny Glover (USA), actor, producer, (LOUVERTURE FILMS).
  10. June Giovanni (Guyana/UK), film curator and historian (London).
  11. John Akomfrah, Producer and Director, British Film Institute and BBC
  12. Leslie Lokko, (Ghana) architecte and novelist.
  13. Mabel Hadock (USA), film programmer/curator; ex-officio NBPC.
  14. Jacquie Jones (USA), Executive Director, the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC).
  15. Martin Loh, Director of National Film and Television Institute, Accra, Ghana.
  16. Cheikh Oumar Sissoko (Mali), cineaste.
  17. Esie Sutherland, Ghanaian poet and former Minister of Culture, she is currently Professor of English at the University of Ghana, Legon.
  18. Clyde Taylor (USA), film scholar and author


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