KINSHASA SYMPHONY, a documentary on the only symphony orchestra in sub-Saharan Africa(Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste)premieres at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival on February 17, 2010. It will be repeated on February 18, 2010. Also making its world premiere in Berlin is Ugandan Caroline Kamya’s debut fictional film, IMANI (Hope), on February 11, 2010. Kamya’s film will also screen on February 12, 13, 14 and 21, 2010.
KINSHASA SYMPHONY co-director Claus Wischmann says of Berlinale’s selection of their film, “We couldn’t have dreamed of a better starting point.” He believes that later on this film that has been co-produced with WDR and RBB under the patronage of the German Commission for UNESCO will also have a broader audience in cinemas and eventually on television. From May/June 2010 onwards it will be shown in cinemas all over Germany.
While Kamya’s film is on the survival tactics of people in the war-impoverished northern Uganda juxtaposed against their counterparts in the materially-rich but often hopeless Pearl of Africa capital city, Kampala, the Wischmann and Martin Baer co-directed KINSHASA SYMPHONY, shot on location in Kinshasa, the third largest city in Africa in 2009, is a film about Congo-Kinshasa, the people of Kinshasa and music. “Kinshasa Symphony,” the filmmakers say, ‘shows how people living in one of the most chaotic cities in the world have managed to forge one of the most complex systems of human cooperation ever invented: a symphony orchestra.” And they perform Handel, Verdi, Beethoven!
The 15-year Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, after which the film is named, is said to be “the only symphony orchestra for thousands of miles, the only classical ensemble of this size in sub-Saharan Africa…the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste has survived two violent coups d’état and an ongoing war that has claimed the lives of several million people. Everyone in the orchestra has vivid memories of that carnage. The danger of new unrest is omnipresent. Against it they pit their concentration on the music, the will to join with others to achieve something special, the hope for a better future.”
According to Wischmann and Baer, KINSHASA SYMPHONY “shows Kinshasa in all its diversity: speed, colour, vitality and energy. The sound of this city and its orchestra is conveyed by a sonic design that blends the music with the atmosphere of Kinshasa.”
The filmmakers continue: “The orchestra’s collective music-making, the rehearsals and the concerts they lead up to show our protagonists in the company of over two hundred other ‘Kinois’. The results are magnificent and inspiring images of the courage and determination with which Congolese civic society sets out to free itself from a vicious circle of colonial oppression, tyranny, poverty and war that has had them in its grip for decades.”
IMANI and KINSHASA SYMPHONY may be films of two different genres and styles, but they have one thing in common: the human quest for hope and meaning in our often topsy-turvy world.
Also of interest is the birth of an international film initiative in Malawi, the state founded by Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and that is not well known on the filmmaking front. The initiative, Malawi International Film Festival (MIFF), came into being in October 2009 with the aim of promoting the art and science of filmmaking in the southern African nation that is only getting on the world map of film through the efforts of Charles Shemu Joyah whose SEASONS OF A LIFE film has been collecting awards at film festivals.
Directed and produced by Joyah in 2009, the 102-minute SEASONS OF A LIFE–that proclaim the divinity of motherhood-starres Flora Suya, Bennie Msuku, Tapiwa Gwaza, and Neria Chikhosi.
The film revolves around a deceptively simple subject. A childless couple adopts a child from an orphanage and employs an orphan to look after the child. Later, the man of the house makes the child minder pregnant and asks her to have an abortion. The girl runs away to her aunt’s place. The man follows her and promises to support her as long as she does not disclose that he is the father. And things appear to be in control till the girl completes school…
At the founding of MIFF, Joyah says he helped train some young filmmakers in the hope of producing films for the festival.
“The government has not been interested in filmmaking, but now after the success of SEASONS OF A LIFE the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has now started showing some interest,” Joyah says, adding that Malawians are hopeful that this new-foun interest will continue growing and that the government will assist MIFF and other film initiatives.
Describing the filmmaking situation in Malawi as ‘quite pathetic’, Joyah says, “We also hope that they will establish a film commission that will help both local and international filmmakers who opt to work in Malawi.”
“My film was the third serious film ever attempted by a Malawian. The first one was in the late 1970s but it was never distributed. The second one came around the same time as mine but was aimed at the local market and done on the Nigerian home video formula. Since SEASONS OF A LIFE came out there has been no other film that has been produced. One or two people are trying to produce some films but the quality is very poor due to lack of technical know-how.”
Meanwhile, JOANNE HAYES reports, Durban FilmMart, an international film co-production market co-hosted by the Durban Film Office (DFO) and Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), shall take place in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in July 2010.
“This first African co-production market has the potential to act as a key driver in raising the visibility of film content from Africa,” says Toni Monty, acting CEO of the DFO. “We envisage that it will provide African film-makers with the opportunity to pitch film projects to leading financiers and meet and network with internationally reputed directors and producers in order to form alliances for future collaborations”
Projects with an African citizen attached to one of the three creative roles of writer, director or producer are eligible to participate in the inaugural Durban FilmMart. These include fiction features, animation features and documentaries suitable for international co-production and distribution.
“We expect the FilmMart to be a place for film financiers to locate fundable African projects and encourage project collaboration between African filmmakers from different African countries and through this forum redress the current scarcity of film production on this continent. In fact, it is hoped that the Durban FilmMart will become a valuable feeder stage for established co-production markets across the globe,” says Peter Rorvik, director of the Centre for Creative Arts that presents DIFF.
The Durban FilmMart promises to be a further catalyst for growth in the region by becoming one of the key events of the South African and African film industry and a focal point to interface with global parties and stimulate interest and activity in the city and the province.