By Daisy Nandeche Okoti
Published October 2, 2014
A Kenyan filmmaker whose work had just won an award in a festival in the Tanzanian town of Arusha was arrested outside the venue as he returned to his hotel.
Tanzanian Police not only arrested director Mark Maina Maingi, soundman Peter Wanjeri, production manager Charles Maina Mwangi, production designer Ariel Gakunga, and assistant director Joseph Wanyoike outside New Arusha Hotel but also kept them out of reach of anyone who wanted to talk to them.
Efforts by the regional East African Film Network (EAFN)’s Country Representatives for Kenya and Tanzania to have the Kenyans released fell on deaf ears as police accused the officials of ‘trying to teach us how to do our work.’ Apparently the objective of EAFN that was formed and launched in 2014 is to root for socio-economic development and regional integration of East Africa.
“Mark Maina Maingi had just won the #Arusha_African_Film_Festivals_Tigo_Africa_Prize at 8.00PM. As he walked out of New Arusha Hotel at 10.00PM, he and his four colleagues were arrested and spirited to #Arusha_Police_Station. Having failed to secure their release on our own, we sought help from the #Kenyan_Consulate. It is now after 1.48am. We have just returned from the Police Station where four of the five Kenyans are still being held on the charge of ‘#Kuingia_Nchini_Bila_Kibali’ (AR/RB/13030/014). What a great way to fast-track #East_African_regional_integration!” Ogova Ondego of EAFN had said in an update on Facebook.
Released some 12 hours later, Maingi said he had been locked up although his passport was valid and had entered Tanzania legally.
“They shouted at me to keep quiet when I tried to talk as they took me into custody,” Maingi said after the 12-hour ordeal.
Wanjeri, Gakunga and Wanyoike had travelled on valid temporary East African permits. Mwangi, who, like Maingi, had a valid Kenyan passport, was later released and didn’t spend the night in police custody.
And the arrest of filmmakers was hardly the only incident from Tanzanian authorities that would have disrupted the third edition of the annual Arusha African Film Festival. The Film Censorship Board had prevailed on the festival not to screen a film from Uganda saying it was ‘not suitable culturally’ because it had ‘nudity’ and ‘sex’ in some scenes.
The Board said, “There are so many ways to creatively depict a situation in filmmaking without expressly staging provocative and revealing images as it appears in The Route….and although there’s so much truth in the film, the African cultural boundaries were terribly violated and we cannot allow that film to be shown to the Tanzanian public.”
The film in question—THE ROUTE, a fictional work on human trafficking directed by Jayant Maru—had been slated to compete for the East African Community(EAC)/East African Film Network (EAFN)’s Best Feature Film Award; it neither competed nor was it shown at the eight-day festival. Though disappointed, the festival did not contest the decision of the censors. At least not as dramatically as would have happened in countries like South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.
Though the festival programmes, including a high profile Acting for Film workshop that drew participants from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, appeared to be running smoothly from the surface, not all was really well. The arrest of a foreign director as the festival was being wound up on September 27, 2014 only confirmed the latter.
The Best EAC/EAFN Award for the Best Feature Film was won by I MASHOKA, a Burundian film directed by Jean-Marie Ndihokubwayo and Pascal Capitolin. The EAC/EAFN Best Documentary Film Award went to HOLDING UP THE SKY that was presented as having been produced by Indigo Productions Kathmandu,Childreach Tanzania and World Food Programme Tanzania and directed by James Giamrone & Russ Pariseau.
SAMAKI MCHANGANI by Amil Shivji of Tanzania was declared the winner of the EAC/EAFN Best Short Film.
The winners of the Arusha African Film Festival’s Tigo Africa Awards included THE SUPERSTITION by Paresh (Patel) Gondaliya and Zziwa Aaron of Uganda (Best Feature Film); FLOWERS OF THE FRONTIER by Alfredo Torrescalles of Spain (Best Documentary); and CONSIGNED TO OBLIVION by Mark Maina Maingi of Kenya(Best Short Film).
The three Film Juries were chaired by Emmanuel Emasealu, Professor of Directing, Department of Theatre Arts and Film Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria (Fictional Films); Ogova Ondego, Managing Trustee and Creative Director, Lola Kenya Screen, Kenya (Documentaries) and Phad Mutumba, Founder and Festival Director, Nile’s Diaspora International Film Festival, Uganda (Short Films).
The films that were awarded demonstrated relevance to the changing needs and visions of the East African society with special reference to unity, peace and integration, themes that are of special interest to the East Africa community.
The closing of the Arusha African Film Festival also served as the graduation ceremony for the Acting for Film workshop that had brought participants from across East Africa to Arusha. They received certificates from EAC, EAFN and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) under whose aegis the training was undertaken by the Arusha African Film Festival. The certificates were awarded to the participants by Elizabeth Wanyoike of GIZ in a session that was marked by pomp and glam as the workshop participants, mainly celebrated actors in their respective countries, outdid themselves in a move to make a statement. The ceremony was also punctuated with reggae music by several invited bands that kept the spirit of the audience high during the night.
Festival Director Akpor Otebele and his Manager, Mary Birdi, did a splendid job in presenting their event despite the challenges posed by the external forces highlighted here.