The islands of Zanzibar (home to the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)) are famous for their exquisite beaches, splendid resorts and spices that enhance the cuisines around the world. SAPHIA NGALAPI introduces the 12th ZIFF.
Since 1998, ZIFF has drawn on the Dhow “the sail vessel used in the Indian Ocean” as a metaphor for the cultural interchange that characterizes not only everyday life in Zanzibar but also the island’s historical relationship with Asia, Europe, the Arab world and mainland Africa. Historically, it was the dhow that united these disparate places and cultures; today it is cultural relations and artistic exchange bodied in the films, music and other artistic material that is shown.
The Festival centre is located in the beautiful Stone Town area of Zanzibar at an atmospheric Amphitheatre located inside an old fort. This amphitheatre, considered by industry insiders to be among the preeminent open air venues on earth, is just a few metres from the glittering green sea, with dhows setting out for a fishing trip, not far from the evening portable kitchens with their tempting aromas of octopus, shrimp, kebabs and chapati.
ZIFF is among the largest arts and culture festivals in Africa. It serves films, music, literature, and visual arts. The festival has programmes that stimulate the creative connection between our inner being and outer world, bringing people closer to network, celebrate, laugh and share experience.
During the festival, as soon as darkness falls, stories and moving pictures appear as if by magic against the night sky, close to the dark and lively alleys of the historic UNESCO-declared world heritage site of Stone Town.
The festival venues are Mambo Club, House of Wonders, Old Customs House, Palace Museum, Aecrotanal, various villages in Unguja, Chake Chake and Wete Cinema in Pemba
The festival is organised around programmes called panoramas: Main Panorama, Women’s Panorama, Children’s Panorama and Village Panorama. A panorama features any combination of film and other artistic expression forms such as music, performing arts, literature and visual arts. A panorama also uses music, visual arts, workshops, seminars, conferences and other related activities to explore specific issues and action plans for addressing them.
With the recognition that the media can play a great role to promote sustainable utilisation of resource and environmental protection, the 12th ZIFF will be held on the theme, “Enduring links: media, people and environment.”
ZIFF is set to showcase four feature films directed by African women. They include SUWI by Catherine Kaseketi from Zambia, AMANI by Caroline Kamya from Uganda, and THE MOTHER by Taghreed El Taghreed from Sudan. All the four will premiere and compete for the prestigious ZIFF Golden Dhow Award.
Malawi’s SEASONS OF LIFE, that is considered by many as a well produced film that makes the viewer watch it over and over again, is scheduled to screen at ZIFF.
Other productions from Africa include IZULU LAMI (South Africa), KAU LA POHO (Lesotho), JERUSALEMA (South Africa), MAA SAAR SAH (Cameroon), MANSARE (Senegal), UNSEEN, UNSUNG, UNFORGOTTEN (Kenya) and A CRACK IN THE WALL (Namibia).
In the musical realm, there will be a “Reggae Sunsplash” theme, with bands from the African continent combining with those from Australia and the Netherlands in a tribute to the late Jamaican reggae artist, Bob Marley.
Alpha Blondy, the famous reggae artist from Ivory Coast, is among the musicians who will perform live at Mambo club, the main stage of the music festival.
Gwarimba Band (a group playing traditional music from Zimbabwe) will be among the artists who will showcase their work, music style and talent during the festival.
American Danny Glover, whose film will set the pace of the festival, is also expected to grace the event. As the festival’s chief guest, Glover is expected to attend a number of activities related to children and film including the UNICEF child education camp run by ZIFF, and the Children Film Panorama run by the Danish Film Institute, among many other activities.
During the festival two major films by Glover will be shown including NAMIBIA: THE STRUGGLE FOR LIBERATION, and GOSPEL HILL in which he starres.
In total, 24 African film directors and eight festival directors from world film festivals are expected to come together in Stone Town for this year’s ZIFF.
Musicians and writers from different Africa, Asia and Europe are among the many other persons expected to take part in this year’s festival.
The local economy grows during the festival with tourists and visitors from mainland Tanzania flocking in to the benefit of hoteliers, tour operators, transporters, painters and petty traders who sell fruits on the streets. ZIFF sets booths for exhibition where traders exhibit and sell their services and goods. Women get priority where they showcase and sell their products.
This year there is are several film awards including Ousmane Sembene, UNICEF, Signis, FIPRESCI, Verona, and the ZIFF Golden Dhow to be presented to the best films.