|Article by Ogova Ondego
Published March 23, 2008
A new prize in honour of Ousmane Sembene, the Senegalese filmmaker who passed away in 2007, will be awarded for the first time at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)’s Festival of the Dhow Countries in Zanzibar, in July 2008. Presented by ZIFF in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH and the Southern Africa Communications for Development (SACOD), OGOVA ONDEGO reports, the aim of the Ousmane Sembène Films for Development Award(that comes with a US$5000 cash prize)is to celebrate the African story and honour African filmmakers in line with the late Sembene’s conviction that cinema was a means of “exposing the problems confronting my people.”
Designed to help the future filmmaking career of the winner, the filmmakers eligible for this award have to be citizens of an African country or be permanent residents of an African country. However, ZIFF admits international films created through co-productions with at least one major African partner to the competition.
Though a noble initiative, it is feared that filmmakers may be tempted to continue making non-imaginative, less creative and boring films variously known as’NGO-funded’, ‘NGO agenda-driven’ and ‘NGO films’ that have earned documentaries a bad reputation in many African nations and infuriated critics.
Perhaps this could explain why ZIFF director, Dr Martin Mhando, hastens to add, “filmmakers will have the opportunity to share ideas about how topics such as HIV/AIDS can be successfully addressed in films at a workshop held during the film festival.”
ZIFF, GTZ and SACOD hope “that there will be special showings of the winning film at other African and European film festivals.”
Indeed, Dr Mhando says, “Partnerships with African and European television channels, which would like to show the winning film, are also being considered.”
The film submission deadline to ZIFF (July 11-20, 2008) is April 15, 2008.
The focus of the film selection in 2008, Dr Mhando says, will be on HIV/AIDS, with topics such as gender, the environment and ecology, education and poverty following in the years to come.
Thomas Kirsch-Woik, the GTZ expert on HIV/AIDS, says, “HIV/AIDS poses a threat to people and societies throughout the world, particularly in the large majority of African countries. Future development in the countries of Africa depends to a large extent on whether the societies particularly hard hit by HIV manage to cope with this pandemic. That’s why we’re focusing on HIV/AIDS in the first year of the prize.”
And Thorsten Wassermeyer, the initiator of the GTZ film prize, adds, people all over the world are fascinated by films as they “are more than just entertainment, always teaching us something about our society and ourselves. If filmmakers manage to address topics such as HIV/AIDS and hence use their work to contribute to a person’s or a country’s development, that would be a great achievement.”
“As the only peer review mechanism of its kind in Africa,” says SACOD director, Tambudzai Madzimure, “the SACOD Forum presents a rare opportunity to celebrate development films. SACOD’s association with the Ousmane Sembene Films for Development Award is therefore our way of celebrating the African story and the men and women who are committed to telling this all too important story”.