23 february 2017, Stockholm, Sweden
CinemAfrica's 19th festival in Stockholm has started and with this years theme CONNECTION, brings together several films this year. CinemAfrica is a non-profit organization with interest in spreading African and diaspora cinema , it aims to increase the number of African films shown in Sweden.
This year, the organization selected 60 films which will be shown in different cinemas around Stockholm. The selection consists of both short films and feature films, all produced by African directors or directors in the diasporas. The organizers told us that there is a separate jury who are responsible for selecting the films.
The festival started in 1998 here in Stockholm and as for now it is the largest Africa film festival in the Nordic countries. The festival is also engaged in educating school children in Sweden through selected screenings of films shown to them for free through cooperation.
Notable this year are the five films selected to compete for the CinemAfrica film award 2017
A stray by Musa Syeed, Somalia/USA
Kati kati by Mbithi Masya, Kenya
Kalushi: The story of Solomon Mahlangu by Mandlakayise Walter Dube, South Africa
I Still Hide to Smoke by Rayhana, Algeria
Foreign Body by Raja Amari, Tunisia
We spoke to one of the jury members about the selection; Onyeka Nwelue is a writer, filmmaker and professor. He said they were all beautiful films, the producers were amazing and he was interested in finding out how they reasoned before making their films.
The opening ceremony of the festival took place at the movie theater Park in the heart of Stockholm city. Attending this ceremony were filmmakers, directors, Diplomatic Heads of Mission and those who were interested in films made by Africans and the diasporas. The MC for the evening, Ayesha Quraishi welcomed the audience followed by an amazing choir group, the Tensta Gospel Choir.
One of the most noted movies this year, also competing for the film award, Kalushi: The story of Solomon Mahlangu opened the screens after which questions were directed to the producer and the main actor of the film.
During the evening, we spoke to some of the festival organizers.
The first person we spoke to was Dina Afkhampour who is the festival Manager.
-The aim of the festival is to bring attention to Africans and to African culture in Sweden and that it’s amazing to see the opening ceremony jammed full with about 700 people. There is a great desire for African voices and African stories around the world.
We also spoke to Josette Bushell-Mango, the Chairwoman who told us that the festival is happening because African films are in high demand both in the African continent and Sweden. She told us that this year was extraordinary and they have gotten an amazing response from the entire public with increase in membership to their organization. Her expectation at the end of the festival is that people will come out empowered, more politicized and that the people of Africa and Africans in the diasporas should be proud about their creativity, power and strength.
Samuel Girma, CinemAfrica’s Marketing and Ad manager told us that they have seen a tremendous growth in the festival since 19 years and that there is still a growing demand for African culture in Sweden, the request for films made by Africans and Africans in the diasporas is huge.
Samuel has a love for documentaries and short films made by young afro-Swedes, anyone interested in the same or many other types should check out the program for this year on CinemAfrica’s website. Themes have been set up in the program, like the theme Young, Gifted and Afro-Swedish which highlights several short films made by young afro-swedes.