What is authentic filmmaking

FilmAfrica!

background

Joint filmmaking as a cultural development cooperation


It must have seemed like a dream to Samson Odhiambo: The boy from the Kibera slum in Nairobi was selected as the leading actor in the film Soul Boy (Germany, Kenya 2010) by the Ghanaian-Kenyan director Hawa Essuman. The project, sponsored by director Tom Tykwer, has now been touring film festivals around the world for months and has received a lot of positive feedback as well as awards such as the Dioraphte Audience Award of the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands or three Kalasha Film Awards in native Kenya. "Such a national and international presence of a Kenyan film in the Swahili language and without any Western component is unprecedented," explains Tykwer in an interview.

Giving shape to the imagination

Laila Dayan Opollo on the set
The project began in 2008 with a workshop held by the independent film production company One Fine Day Films. With this start-up, Tom Tykwer expanded the repertoire of the art education project of his life partner Marie Steinmann One Fine Day e.V., a sister organization of the British non-governmental organization (NGO) Anno's Africa, to include filmmaking. The aim is the same: young people who come from slums like Kibera and have little prospects for the future are given the opportunity to give shape to their imaginations in workshops, to discover specific talents and to develop creative skills.

FilmAfrica! - Professionals and young talents exchange ideas

Marie Steinmann and Tom Tykwer on the set
The success of the Soul Boy pilot project led to the expansion of the initiative: together with the Kenyan film production company Ginger Ink, the Deutsche Welle Academy (DW), the North Rhine-Westphalia Film Foundation, the Goethe Institute and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) One Fine Day Films raised the training program FilmAfrica! from baptism. The project is largely funded by the BMZ and aims to promote development cooperation not only in economic and technological terms, but also in cultural terms. In the context of FilmAfrica! Young East African filmmakers, who are trained in all cinematic trades such as directing, scripting, editing, camera, production design or costume, produce a feature film every year. A small team of international film professionals supports them with their know-how. Because Africa offers enough material for great stories, but there is a lack of film experts who can impart their knowledge to the next generation.

Convey an authentic image of Africa

The synergies of this cultural exchange explicitly and primarily benefit the African filmmakers. "The individual, artistically independent voices should be encouraged and the ambitious film should be given a chance inside and outside the continent. This enables the perception of Africa and its specific topics to be communicated in an appropriate and modern way," says Tom Tykwer. But long-term perspectives for African filmmakers are also expanded as a result. According to Tykwer, many Soul Boy employees were able to gain a foothold due to their experience in the film industry. But he himself also benefited from working on Soul Boy, as a completely different kind of story unfolded before his eyes and was realized in an unfamiliar way.

Strengthening the national film industry

Not only the professionalization of individuals and the development of their own film language are the focus of the training measures of FilmAfrica!; The expansion and strengthening of the national film industry and support in placing one's own productions on the international market are also major concerns. The focus on authentic auteur films in which young Africans tell their own stories could actually mean a turning point for film work on the African continent. There is no shortage of young people interested in film, the enthusiasm for films is great. However, there is a lack of training opportunities and films from Africa are completely underrepresented. Television formats such as soap operas or so-called Nollywood films, the African counterpart to the Indian Bollywood productions, dominate the domestic media market. Financially strong European and American film productions such as Der ewige Gärtner (The Constant Gardener, Fernando Meirelles, Great Britain 2005) or Blood Diamond (Edward Zwick, USA, Germany 2006) are certainly dedicated to topics that are relevant to the African continent. But they were produced for the western market, they are films about Africa, not from Africa. Soul Boy, on the other hand, was realized by people from the region and sees itself as a window to African worlds. The important role the story of the making of the film plays can also be seen in the fact that the credits show footage of the filming. The next two years, according to Tykwer, will be the financing of FilmAfrica! secured. The second generation of FilmAfrica!-Apprentices is already in the starting blocks. After workshops in late summer 2010 with around 60 participants, the shooting of the follow-up project Nairobi Half Life (David Tosh Gitonga) was recently completed. Hopefully the project will catch on.

Author: Stefanie Zobl, 25.11.2010


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