African in Motion 2012: Short Film Competition
The fifth Africa in Motion Short Film Competition, which took place on 29 Oct, was a sensory expedition spanning eight countries, six UK premieres, five judges, two venues, and a wealth of filmmaking flair. Screened to audiences in Edinburgh’s Filmhouse and in Glasgow Film Theatre, the line-up competed for a £1000 prize, judged by Scottish Documentary Institute director Noe Mendelle, Nigerian filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa, film critic and director Mark Cousins, writer and editor Paul Dale, and David Archibald, lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Glasgow.
The cinematic journey began in Burkina Faso, with Lazare Sie Pale’s beautiful and ragged animation Le Parrain (The Godfather). Crafted from chunky claymation, licking candles and frayed hessian, it unravels the fable of a man called Samba’s attempts to find a faultless godfather for his son and the strange consequence of his idealism.
Jaco Minnaar's haunting South African film Dog followed. Two women meet by chance on a bleached coastal landscape, then the social chasm between them is quietly teased apart until the emergent scar seeps uglier than the film’s contrastingly breezy aesthetic. Also concerned with inequality, Who Killed Me opens in a rain-soaked Canadian gutter in which blue and red patrol lights ghost their reflection and Congolese immigrant Hassan lies dead. Tanzanian filmmaker Amil Shivji’s letter of complaint to political injustice interrogates several perspectives before delivering its damning verdict.
Two keen depictions of femininity were next. A young woman on leave from detention is the concern of Askia Traoré’s finely-drawn Nola. As she explores her temporary freedom with caution, the strangeness of the finite, everyday pleasures Nola indulges highlights the fragility of her status as a woman, as a daughter, and as a citizen. Set in Tunisia, Mkhobbi Fi Kobba (Turbulence) is a similarly intimate drama from director Leyla Bouzid. A teenage daughter returns from a night out bruise-speckled and reeking of alcohol. Her mother fights to save face for her, as patriarchal scorn creeps, redolent as the purple thyme clinging to the pristine walls of their neighbourhood.
The final three films shown were connected by their young male protagonists. Muchiri Njenga’s magnificently odd Kichwateli (TV-Head) introduces a boy from the future who rhythmically paces a Nairobi slum with a TV on his head, flaring topical messages at anyone who cares to look. The spasmodic, pulsing short works its glowing monochrome aesthetic to the metronome of a squelchy, thumping soundtrack. Lamia Alami’s Salam Ghourba (Farewell Exile) joins Moroccan mother Fatima as she makes the poignant decision to risk being trafficked to France with her young son, who is already running errands for his uncle, a hashish dealer.
Rungano Nyoni's Zambian entry Mwansa the Great, a charming and acutely imaginative work that filters a serious story through the lens of childhood whimsy, screened last. Decked out in lurid lipstick, gaudy costumes and boisterous spirits, a troupe of kids set out to retrieve some ‘magic mud’, led by Mwansa, who imagines himself a fearless warrior. Storming both the audience prize, and the judges’ vote, Mwansa the Great was a unanimous choice. Paul Dale declared it "stunnningly directed" and an "outright winner", while Noe Mendele noted its "outstanding acting". Those who missed the awards will have the opportunity to attend another screening of the winning film at the Africa in Motion closing ceremony.