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07 April 2011

AfricAvenir: A Namibian Perspective on African Film

A Namibian perspective on African film screenings

AfricAvenir organises African Perspectives, a monthly African film series in Windhoek, Namibia that started in 2007. They’ve screened films like Oliver Schmitz’ Hijack Stories; Darrell Roodt’s Faith’s Corner; Wanuri Kahui’s From a Whisper; and Ousmane Sembene’s Moolade.

AfricAvenir’s Hans Christian Mahnke, who is the vice-chair of the board of The Filmmakers Association of Namibia, explains his drive to screen African film. “Africans have a very small share as producers and transmitters of their own images. Their participation is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating back to the 1960s. The initial position of Africa in the world of cinema was that of a consumer of film products made primarily in and by the West. Many of these films also used and continue to use Africa and Africans as resources to invent and disseminate images and discourses of Africa and Africans radically at odds with the histories and actual realities of Africa and Africans. In spite of its youth and the multifaceted challenges against which it is struggling, African cinema has grown steadily over a short period of time to become a significant part of a global cinema to which it brings many significant contributions. More specifically, it corrects the distortions and stereotypes propagated by dominant Western media, and is more in line with the realities, the experiences, the priorities and desires of their respective societies.”

He speaks about foreign films creating “cultural alienation and social disorientation” within Namibia. “The aim of African Perspectives is to counteract the dwindling socio-political examination of Africa and its increasing ahistorical and apolitical perception, and to provide new inputs for the work of educational bodies, non-governmental organisations, associations, cultural centres and foundations in Windhoek. More specifically, African Perspectives wants to overcome the marginalization of the audience and contribute to creating an audience and screening culture of African cinema.”

This hasn’t been easy. “Creating an screening culture in a country with one cinema (Ster Kinekor) in Windhoek and two cinemas in the coastal town of Swakopmund is difficult. Creating an African film screening culture is even more difficult, because people believe African films are films from Nollywood. Filmmakers like Ousmane Sembene are unheard of in Namibia.”

AfricAvenir is interested in partnering with similar initiatives in Southern African. For example, Tsitsi Dangarembga, the organiser of The International Images Women Film Festival in Harare, Zimbabwe, was AfricAvenir’s special guest in August 2010. “Besides South Africa, the other Southern African countries can’t create a national film industry big enough to be sustainable, if the neighbouring countries are not considered as markets. We sometimes think too small when it comes to national film industries. Namibia only has two million people so we need to link up with Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, etc.”

In November 2009, AfricAvenir launched The Namibian Movie Collection in cooperation with Joel Haikali from Joe-Vision Production and the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC). Placed at the Multimedia Library of the FNCC, The Namibian Movie Collection consists of more than 40 Namibian films. “The project is ongoing,” Christian says. “New films being produced in the country are constantly added to the collection.”

For the purpose of promotion, filmmakers agreed to grant non-commercial rights of their films to be part of the collection and the FNCC granted space in its Multimedia Library for public access. The catalog is on the AfricAvenir website, while the collection has also been reproduced and handed over to a public library in Berlin, Germany. “The Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sports, and Culture and the Namibian Embassy in Berlin have now also approached us in order to acquire the complete collection for promotional purposes for their respective institutions.”

Full article at The Call Sheet and Afric Avenir's web site here.

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