Nikissi Serumaga – Repelling Ghosts: If it’s good enough for TIFF it’s good enough for you!

The African continent has, in general, had a long and troubled history with film-making. Post independence, if filmmakers were at all available, the money was not. If the money was available, it was coming from the wrong hands. And if you were lucky enough to create your opus magnum, it most certainly was banned or pushed out by monopoly in your country. It has continued in this way for easily half a century – until quite recently.

Shifting tides and changing winds have molded the typically didactic nature of African film into something more fantastical. “Magic Realism” is trending on the Afro-Cinema wavelengths – and it looks good. But maybe it shouldn’t be surprising seeing as much of our culture, religion, tribes and storytelling are rooted in this style of fable.

Thanks to the help of institutions like the Goethe Institute and the Focus Features: Africa First program (yes, that Focus Features) and most importantly the skill and focus of young, under-35 filmmakers, there has been a strong batch of short films in the African Metropolis Project and Focus Features: Africa First winners.

I liked it. And you probably will too. Toronto International Film Festival liked it enough to premier them on the opening night.

 

Kwaku AnanseKwaku Ananse

A combination of the tale of a man who is buried with all of his wisdom and the journey of his daughter coming back home to see it happen.

I have been eager to see this film for months – and I was rewarded for my patience. It is by far my favourite with my goosebumps and the hearty audience applause testifying to that. Akosua Adoma Owusu’s background in documentary and experimental film have served her well for her first short fiction. Because it’s so great, here’s a trailer:

 

UnogumbeUnogombe

A mesh of Opera and cinema, this is a modern-day retelling of Noye’s Fludde (the story of Noah’s Ark) set in Khayelitsha.

I was excited by the trailer but disappointed by the film; but then again it’s quite possible that I may be a plebeian who has too little interest in opera. Prejudice aside, it is a testament to the technical and creative strides that that short films on the continent have made, and this theatre troupe have made an original a bold move, well executed to boot.

 

African Metropolis: BereaBerea

Brought into the heart of an unlikeable old man, Moloi unfolds for us the weekly routine of a man who has nothing to live for but prayer, food and sex.

Overall a surprising and beautifully executed film. The dynamism of the characters and (thank goodness) departure from the typical South African “black vs. white” diatribe were welcome and much appreciated.

 

African Metropolis: HomecomingHomecoming

As Chuchu takes us into a number of different places within the mind of his protagonist, we are intrigued to see what new setting he will place his eternal fantasy: him wining the heart of his potential lover.

Clearly a first time filmmaker – whom we should look out for. Chuchu is also a former member of Kenya’s Just a Band; the multi-talented man has made a punchy, vibrant, funny and fun to watch film.

 

African Metropolis: To Repel GhostsTo repel Ghosts

Loosely based on true events, a young man travels to Abidjan to exhibit his art to a people he creates a mystical connection with.

I expected more. Still on fire from “Burn it up Djassa” (and actually well into the film), I was disappointed by its lazy, vague or blasé ending. So many complexities were raised and held the promise of being beautifully explored, or at least pondered, but this film never quite got to the crux that it promised.

 

 

To end the verbosity: watch the films, they are good and good for you. And after attending a panel discussion with Jim Chuchu and Vincent Moloi with their executive producer Steven Markovitz, they have put this collective consciousness of imagination, fable and futurism in context: (to paraphrase) A lot of Africans consider imagining to be a time-wasting act. But maybe we should be the ones who focus on it the most, who focus on imagining what could happen in the future [and to fill in the blanks of our missing histories] because our choices are incredibly important; where we get our money from, what we spend it on and what we do as active beings. If we make some bad decisions we could be in very tricky places.


Head shot thing 2Nikissi Serumaga is a final year film student studying in Toronto, living in South Africa and coming from Uganda and Mozambique. Though a documentarian at heart, she is interested in the trends and directions of present African cinema.

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