By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published April 14, 2013
ZAMORA, a film from Zanzibar, beat 16 other African films to the Best Digital Fiction Feature Film category at the 23rd biennial Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) in March 2013. Made by Shamsi Bhanji, ZAMORA is the second feature film from East Africa Community to win a FESPCO award since the pan-African festival started in 1969. The first was GITO, L’INGRAT, a comedy made in 1992 by Leonce Ngabo from Burundi; it won the Oumarou Ganda Prize and Best Actor awards in 1993.
A 2012 production, ZAMORA is a poetic evolution of one man’s hidden desires and his quest to find true love. Spiced in the mystical and mythological world of Zanzibar, the story told in Kiswahili with English subtitles revolves around Zamora, a vain artist and womaniser on a voyage of self-discovery. His passion for the unknown, a reckless adventurous lifestyle and a sordid past, land him in nightmare.
Through three separate emotionally charged relationships with Zulfa, Saada and Zareena, Zamora almost becomes a victim of the confrontation between the good and the evil, the rich and the poor and love and lust.
“We give this award to a beautifully meditative film from Zanzibar,” reads the jury’s verdict.
“The award means a lot to me especially because this is my first feature film to be recognised at FESPACO. To receive the award in front of 30,000 people was just amazing,” Bhanji tells ArtMatters.Info. “The film won this award because it is unlike other African films. It is an art film with a poetic story telling form supported by a good script, promising acting and beautiful cinematography.”
Bhanji says he was impressed by the organization of the festival and the love for film in Burkina Faso. “The first few days, I was lost in translation being in the francophone part of Africa. But my overall impression is positive considering the fact that the organizers had to deal with a lot of films and people from all over the world. What impressed me most is that this is not just a film festival but a national celebration and the passion for film there is deep rooted.”
He observes that FESPCO has not received the attention it deserves as the leading film festival on the continent because it is still perceived as a francophone event. “I think FESPACO has not attained the status and glamour of the Oscars is because first of all it is in Africa and secondly the media coverage is geared towards Francophone countries.”
Bhanji’s interest in film making started at an early age, his father owned a 16mm film projector and he used to bring films home from 20th Century Fox Films in Nairobi. “He would sometimes let me run the projector and this gave me a strong relationship to film. Several years later when I was in Denmark in 1981 pursuing Media studies my professor (after watching a short film I made) encouraged me to pursue further studies in film making,” he said.
He took the professor’s advice and joined the International Film School in London, England and graduated in 1984. He has worked as an assistant director/editor in U.S.A, Brazil, Uganda and Kenya on various feature film projects.
Bhanji has produced and directed several short films that include THE BALL, BLIND DATE and METAMORPHOSA, among others.
The top prize–Étalon de Yennenga (Stallion of Yennenga)–went to French-Senegalese director Alain Gomis for TEY (Today) that examines the relationship between the living and the dead. Saul Williams, who stares in TEY, won the prize for best male lead actor.
The Silver Stallion went to the Algerian feature film, YEMA; it is directed by Djamila Sahraoui. It is about a mother fighting the sad fate of her family, evoking the Islamists’ effect on her country.
Senegalese Moussa Touré won the Bronze Stallion for LA PIROGUE (The Dugout).
The Best Short Film award went to LES SOULIERS DE L’AID by Anis Lasoued of Tunisia.
Tunisian director Nadia El Fani won the Best Documentary award for his film, MEME PAS PAS.
The Best Screenplay award went to Moroccan Nabil Ayouch for LES CHEVEUX DE DIEU.