April 30, 2010 | By Alyssa Lindsay |
At first thought, it’s an unlikely connection: one’s mind generally does not go immediately to films or the film industry when the word Africa is mentioned – unless perhaps it’s to recollect what you saw in ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’ or ‘The Air Up There’. Now, not to take anything away from those films, but in my humble opinion, there are a lot more interesting film projects coming out of and about Africa at the moment.
The African film industry is stronger than ever. ‘Nollywood’, the nick name given to the Nigerian film industry, has become the world’s third largest (behind Hollywood and Bollywood). Check out Franco Sacchi’s Ted Talk on Nollywoodto get an idea of what the industry is all about and why it’s bringing about transformative change.
Having watched my fair share of Nigerian movies during my four month stay in Ghana, I must say that they took some getting used to. Just as Bollywood has a distinctly different feel then Hollywood, so does its African cousin. I remember being initially amazed by the way vast crowds of people were drawn in by these seemingly simple films, then, similarly amazed the first time I found myself being taken away by the story in one. After a few months I couldn’t understand why no one back in Canada had even heard of these films.
Luckily though, African films aren’t just staying in Africa anymore. The Hot Docs Festival that kicks off this weekend in Toronto includes no shortage of films with African connections on the menu. Four of the 25 films selected for the Hot Docs Toronto Documentary Forum (TDF) have African links. These four films, Africa10, Sembene!, We Own TV, and Connected, will be pitched to industry insiders from around the world as well as accredited observers. The TDF is internationally considered as the most effective international documentary markets in North America.
For your every day film viewers like you and me, Hot Docs offers the following films with African flavours, playing from April 29-May 9. Tickets are still available to the public for most of these films.
With all this film focus on and in Africa it’s not that hard to believe that movies are playing an important and ever increasing role in African culture. I’ll never forget my surprise and subsequent delight, when one evening sitting in the rural village of Naglogu in Northern Ghana, my host asked if I wanted to go to the picture show that evening. Without electricity in the village, I really had absolutely no idea what to expect, but the kids seemed excited, so I said sure. That night I sat out under the stars, with about 100 of my closest villagers and watched scratchy video on a 27” TV screen, powered by a small electric generator. First part of a Nigerian film, then when it broke down, we switched to an “American” film (that indeed had white people in it, but was in a language I’d never heard before) and finally wrapped the evening up with a local Ghanaian movie, filmed in the streets of nearby Tamale. I didn’t understand anything that was being said, and with the exception of the last film, neither did those around me, but it didn’t really seem to matter. Through film we were able to laugh, and enjoy and share in the stories together.
Now that experience may be hard to replicate exactly here in Canada, but there are several great opportunities to share in African film, this website being one of them. I encourage you to take in one of the Hot Docs films, or find a Nollywood movie, and share what you think!