This year's Film Africa festival starts this Thursday and carries on for 10 days of 70 African films, 35 leading filmmakers offering Q&As, free professional workshops, and 9 African music nights. I'm really excited for this rare (and intense given the short timespan) opportunity to see so many African films that I may otherwise never have heard of. Asilia has been working with the festival team once again, to produce the print and digital communications materials so I've been looking at the great selection of films for a while now, trying to shorten my must-see list (hard!). One thing I've noticed is the number of films this year that in some way deal with sex.
Just as I see the festival as a great opportunity to show audiences just how diverse and complicated our continent is, I think that all this 'talk' about sex is great for putting in the open issues that African communities often shy away from. Often with tragic consequences so, I'm all for it! Here are a few examples from the sex-positive line-up.
Tales of Sex
Amour, Sexe et Mobylette (Love, Sex and Mopeds)
Delving into the passions and sentiments of young and old in a small Burkinabe village, on the day before Valentine's Day.
Middle-aged father and husband, Francois, leads a seemingly simple and conservative existence in the small town of Bloemfontein, South Africa. Gradually and devastatingly, deception is peeled away to reveal the truth of Francois’ life, as he descends into a dangerous obsession with the handsome son of one of his friends.
Cane/Cain (second screening)
During the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa, an Indian storeowner rescues a Pakistani vendor and nurses him back to health. This sexually explicit film about intimacy between men aims to ‘challenge what it means to be Indian in South Africa’.
Call Me Kuchu
Filmed over several years, this multi award-winning documentary opens in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2010, with a local newspaper publishing photographs of people suspected of being gay, and urging readers to find and hang them. The filmmakers follow the small, brave group of people fighting for LGBTI rights in a country where the government is proposing an ‘anti-homosexuality bill’ – with the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men – and where American evangelicals are waging an anti-homosexual war.
Difficult Love (second screening)
An intimate insight into the difficult lives and loves of lesbians in contemporary South Africa, one of the most homophobic nations on earth despite gay rights being enshrined in its constitution. Muholi, one of Africa’s leading photographers, guides us through this film that takes the pulse of contemporary gay identities in South Africa
Fluorescent Sin (second screening)
At Nairobi’s iconic central station, a lithe, majestic drag queen sits on a bench, lightly crying, smoking a cigarette and descending into a breakdown through a poetic soliloquy. Challenging our ideas about beauty, sexuality, and Kenyan attitudes to ‘otherness’ in a film that suggests being caught between two places might in fact be no bad thing.
Life, Above All
Twelve-year old Chanda has a secret. When she is confronted by the fear and shame of a community unable to overcome its prejudices against HIV, Chanda shows us the power that loyalty and a courageous heart can achieve. This striking adaptation of the award-winning novel Chanda’s Secret was selected to premiere in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.
Lust (El Shooq)
Lust takes us into the lives of the inhabitants of a marginalised street in Alexandria, Egypt, before the revolution. Each character is isolated in their fierce yet fragile dreams, including Umm Shooq, who has deserted her wealthy family to marry the man she loves. She has settled into a life of poverty when an unexpected challenge forces her to make the most difficult decision of her life.
… And tales of the sexes
An Uncommon Woman
This sassy and hilarious film tells the story of successful businesswoman Mina, who catches her unemployed husband Dominique cheating on her with Aicha, the neighbour’s wife. Mina reacts in a completely unexpected way – one that catches Dominique completely off-guard. Building on the recent successes of Burkinabé television comedy and sporting great physical humour from its veteran actors, An Uncommon Woman takes a buoyant, entertaining approach to a serious subject. This tale of many twists is part of a long tradition of male African directors poking fun at their own sex and its pretensions to dominance.
Ayen's Cooking School for Men
A documentary following Ayen as she challenges gender conventions in the Sudanese refugee community in Australia. She notices that young men are going hungry simply because they don’t know how to make meals with what’s in the fridge so she decides to teach them how to cook!
Don't forget there are 70 films in total (as well as workshops and gigs) so check out the full line-up to find ones that resonate with your interests and curiosities.
Photos from top: Difficult Love, Fluorescent Sin, Ayen's Cooking School for Men
- The Faces of African Film: Film Africa 2011
- Screening Perception: Limiting Expectations for African Cinema
- Interview with Black Film Aficianado, Nadia Denton, author of The Black British Filmmaker's Guide to Success
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