By Kevin Kriedemann
Published October 26, 2012
The festival, dubbed Colours of the Nile International Film Festival (CNIFF) and introducing African cinema to African audiences, will screen 58 titles, all of which will be African, Eastern African or Ethiopian premieres.
Films in competition come from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia.
“We’re very proud of our lineup,” says CNIFF president Abraham Haile Biru, a two-time Best Cinematographer winner at FESPACO for Darrat (Dry Season) and Abouna (Our Father). “The titles show that a new wave of modern African cinema is coming of age; they present a new vision of the continent and its creativity.”
Biru is the founder and manager of Blue Nile Film and Television Academy, a pioneering training institute in Addis Ababa that is organising the festival with The Ethiopian Filmmakers Association.
“We’ve got an exciting line-up,” says artistic director Alla Verlotsky, a Ukrainian-born, USA-based scholar and distributor of international cinema. “These films are daring, sophisticated, truly artistic, deeply honest and internationally accessible.”
CNIFF has three competitive selections, dedicated to features, documentaries and short films by African directors and/or produced by African countries in the last two years. Eleven prizes will be awarded, including The Great Nile Award for Best Feature Film Director.
The members of the jury are New York City-based documentary filmmaker Henry Corra; French film director and screenwriter Karim Dridi; Ethiopian director Solomon Bekele Weya; and South African producer Letebele Masemola-Jones.
Alla says, “In the past African cinema gave us gems that belong not only to the African film treasury, but the film treasury of the world. One of the first restored projects of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation was Touki Bouki by the great Djibril Diop Mambéty. Today, a conversation on film culture is impossible without mentioning the symbolism of Souleymane Cissé’s Yeelen, the poetic realism of Sarah Moldoror’s Sambizanga, and the expressionism of Ousmane Sembene’s Moolaadé. But as our line-up shows, African cinema of today is on the way to establishing a new identity, embracing digital technologies and urban culture, often living in multiple geographical locations, existing in a global context and thinking with universal references.”
Alain Gomis is the 2012 filmmaker in focus, with his film Tey, a co-production between Senegal and France, as the opening night film. American slam poet Saul Williams stars as Satche, a man who knows he’ll die in the next 24 hours. After its world premiere in competition at Berlin, The Hollywood Reporter called Tey ‘an unusually serene, non-Western meditation on the inevitability of death ‘laced with surprising moments of lightness amid the melancholy tenderness.’
To commemorate 50 years of Algeria’s independence, CNIFF will host a special screening of A Trip to Algiers/Voyage a Alger, co-presented with Cinematheque Afrique.
CNIFF will also feature four non-competitive selections:
*The Best of the Fest selection will showcase critically acclaimed films dealing with Africa, like Kim Nguyen’s Berlin and Tribeca winner, Rebelle (War Witch); Mahamet-Saleh Haroun’s Cannes winner, A Screaming Man (Un homme qui crie); Mika Kaurismaki’s Miriam Makeba documentary, Mama Africa; Caroline Kamya’s multi-award-winning Imani; Akin Omotoso’s Nigerian/South Africa co-production about xenophobia, Man on Ground; and Wanuri Kahiu’s science fiction short, Pumzi.
*A showcase of Ethiopian cinema, curated by Abebe Beyene of The Ethiopian Filmmakers Association;
*A homage to Senegalese cinema, co-presented with Cinematheque Afrique;
*African documentaries from Al Jazeera English;
*Location Africa, a selection of African stories set in Africa, told by non-African directors.
The eight films in the feature film competition are:
Burn It Up Djassa/Le Djassa a Pris Feu (Ivory Coast)
Burn It Up Djassa, which screened in the Discovery section of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, is a journey into the ghettos of Abidjan just before the country’s civil war.
TIFF programmer Rasha Saiti called it ‘a raw, noir-tinged urban legend set to the cadence of slam poetry and the beat of street dance,’ adding that it ‘signals the arrival of an exciting new artistic movement from Africa’s Ivory Coast.’
Sadly debut director Lonesome Solo lost everything in the Ivorian civil war, which broke out just months afterfilming, and has been missing since earlier this year when he disappeared while travelling overland across West Africa to Europe.
Watch and embed the trailer at youtube.com/watch?v=3wLKphVX8YI.
Fragrance of a Lemon/Lomi Sheta (Ethiopia)
Grey Matter / Matière Grise (Rwanda)
Daddy Yousouf Ruhorahoza’s debut film is the first feature directed by a Rwandan filmmaker living in his homeland. A self-referential film about filmmaking, Grey Matter won Best Actor for Ramadhan Bizimana and a Special Jury Mention for Best New Narrative Director at Tribeca 2011 ‘for its audacious and experimental approach.’
As the Tribeca jury said, “This film speaks of recent horrors and genocide with great originality. We wanted to give a special commendation to this filmmaker for his courage and vision.”
Watch and embed the trailer at youtube.com/watch?v=kK1mSaSdFQo.
On the Edge/Sur la Planche (Morocco)
Winner of seven international awards, On The Edge is the story of two factory workers flirting with crime in Tangiers. It’s the debut film from Moroccan writer/director Leila Kilani.
The Guardian said the film “should appeal to audiences everywhere, with bags of energy, a team of explosive young actresses and a poetic hold-up, suffused by the Arab spring.”
Watch and embed the trailer at youtube.com/watch?v=2uvYfdfDfgs
Otelo Burning (South Africa)
Directed by Sara Blecher, Otelo Burning was the most nominated film at the 2012 Africa Movie Academy Awards, where it won Best Cinematography (Lance Gewer) and Best Child Actor (Tsephang Mohlomi).
Telling the story of a group of township teenagers who discover the joy of surfing, Otelo Burning was also named Best Film at The Cape Winelands Film Festival and won the Audience Award at CineramaBC in Brazil.
Watch and embed the trailer at youtube.com/watch?v=gek4b3x0TT