Africa In Motion 2008

Feature by Alastair Roy | 01 Oct 2008

The Africa in Motion festival comes to Edinburgh for its third year, showcasing film from around the continent, free from BBC news reports and ranting pop stars.

Over 40 films from 22 countries capture the kaleidoscope of forms, themes and styles that make up African cinema. Here are some of the expected highlights…


There are retrospectives of the work of Malian director Souleymane Cissé and Burkinabe director Gaston Kaboré, with both in attendance after screenings of their films to chat with audiences.

Kaboré's Zan Boko explores the threat posed to a farming settlement as a growing industrial city expands around it. To free up space for rich residents, the government forces the poor from their land, paving over traditions and ancestral heritage along the way. A journalist attempts to escape state censorship and tell one farmer's story of injustice through urbanisation, as Kaboré paints a wider picture of how money threatens to dissolve a nation's vital ties with the earth and social bonds with each other.

Set in 13th century Mali, Yeelen tells the story of a son fleeing his murderous father and his "poisonous magic". A sorcerer himself, Nianakoro helps warring tribes and battles sexual desire along the way. Beautifully shot, surreal and downright strange, Yeelen captures an African mysticism of old, while throwing light on enduring issues like family responsibility and the misuse of power.


Part of an afternoon of African documentary screenings at Edinburgh College of Art, African Underground: Democracy in Dakar follows the build up to Senegal's 2007 presidential election, where the nation's young hip hop artists have found a collective political voice. At first mimicking America's hip hop stars, the documentary reveals how the Senegalese artists found a music that expresses their Muslim beliefs and disillusionment with their country. As thousands of Senegalese flee for Europe on rickety fishing boats to escape poverty and government corruption, these empowered musicians battle censorship at home to affect political change. Democracy in Dakar is a fascinating insight into a modern African country, told through interviews and freestyles to a hip hop soundtrack.

At the Filmhouse, Nigerian-born, London-based filmmaker and writer Zina Saro-Wiwa will present her documentary This is My Africa. A nice inroad to the festival, as it covers some of the films on show, the documentary explores a group of famous London residents' experiences and memories of life in Africa - its sights, smells, tastes and culture. Actors Colin Firth and Chiwetel Ejiofor speak of their love of Nigerian author Ben Okri's The Famished Road, and news presenter Jon Snow tells of his enduring memory of Africa after rainfall.


New to the festival are African animation shorts. Screened in two sessions (one for children and one for adults) cut-out, claymation, stop-motion and computer animation from around the continent are showcased. Highlights include The Blackheart Gang's The Tale of How. A giant octopus monster with a tree growing in its head devours the dodo birds who live there. A little mouse - Eddy the Engineer - rises up to save the day. A series of prints around which the 2D and 3D pastiche animation unfolds, The Tale of How is a beautiful, surreal, Terry Gilliam-esque adventure narrated with operatic song.


The AiM After Hours series offer late-night screenings over Halloween weekend of African horrors and experimental work. On show are Richard Stanley’s documentary following Haitian voodoo practice, The White Darkness, and Teco Benson’s pre-Nollywood shocker Highway to the Grave (those who turn up in fancy dress get £1.50 off their ticket price). Nollywood proper is represented by Bleeding Rose (winner of Best Nigerian Feature Film at the 2007 Lagos International Film Festival) with director Chucks Mordi present after screenings to discuss Africa’s love of the low-budget Nigerian video-film industry.

Africa in Motion runs from 23 Oct - 2 Nov 2008.