Africa in Motion: 2017 Preview
Africa in Motion (AiM) returns for its twelfth year to once again shine a torch on great cinema, both old and new, from African filmmakers
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert said that movies are like machines that generate empathy: they let us see the world from another’s perspective, offering us a glimpse into the other lives playing out all around us, helping us to understand them. Since 2006, the Africa in Motion film festival has dedicated itself to fighting back against the marginalisation of African cinema in our cultural conversations. Screening over 400 films for an audience amounting to some 40,000, it has allowed stories to be told that would otherwise have gone unheard.
Each festival features several thematic strands, each curating a series of films that hone in on a particular aspect of African cinema’s vast and varied landscape. Keeping things close to home, one of 2017’s focuses will be Reviving Scotland’s Black History. A stroll around Glasgow, once known as the 'Second City of the Empire', will lead you down street after street named for merchants who built fortunes on the backs of slaves. It will also lead you to the city’s university, where James McCune Smith became the first African American to attain a medical degree, and from which the first academic attacks on the slave trade emerged.
This deeply conflicted element of Glaswegian and Scottish history is one which we often allow to sit in the shadows. To bring it into the light, AiM assembled four aspiring filmmakers from different backgrounds and tasked them with programming a series of events to tackle the nation’s complex racial history. The result is a rich and varied programme, from an in-depth scrutiny of the slave trade itself in The Transatlantic Slave Trade Acknowledged (1 Nov, St John’s Church, Edinburgh) to the livelier Kinning Park Cabaret (28 Oct, Kinning Park Complex, Glasgow), which will host a night of poetry and music drawn from across the African diaspora, with both events culminating in a screening of modern day Haitian fable, The Crying Conch.
This year’s festival will further focus on giving voice to the voiceless in films like West African road trip Frontières (5 Nov, Filmhouse, Edinburgh), as well as Afro-Latin (In)Visibility, which will look at the cultural politics of Nicaragua, Cuba and Colombia in films such as Robin J Hayes’ award-winning documentary Black and Cuba (1 Nov, The Rum Shack, Glasgow).
When discussions arise about cinema’s pantheon, the great auteurs who changed and defined the medium, African names seldom make the list. In an attempt to remedy this, Africa in Motion 2017 will focus heavily on Africa’s Lost Classics, asserting firmly that African film must be acknowledged not only for the cultures and histories that it connects us to but also for the innovation and artistry with which it does so. Put aside race and nation and these are films that demand consideration on artistic merit alone.
Featuring many movies which have been censored, banned and never shown before in the UK, this segment will allow film buffs across the country to take in African classics like Soleil Ȏ (29 Oct, Glasgow Film Theatre), Med Hondo’s tale of a Mauritanian man whose dream of finally living the good life in Paris is poisoned by the deeply imbedded racism of the big city. Or Chadi Abdel Salam’s The Night of Counting the Years (1 Nov, The Dominion, Edinburgh), recently restored and regarded as one of the greatest Egyptian films of all time.
Many of the events at the 12th edition of Africa in Motion are free, and all of it is worth your time.
Africa in Motion runs 27 Oct-5 Nov in various venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh. For full programme details, head to africa-in-motion.org.uk