KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
RUNGANO Nyoni’s exciting film I Am Not a Witch, which got rave reviews at the Cannes International Film Festival in May, will be the opening film at the seventh Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) to run from Sunday to Wednesday in Lagos, Nigeria next week.
And award-winning Zambian writer Ellen Banda-Aaku’s debut documentary “Aunty Rebecca” is among several short films shortlisted for the festival.
It is another high point for Ellen.
Her first book Wandi’s Little Voice won the 2004 Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa (United Kingdom) while her first novel Patchwork won the Penguin Prize for African Writing and was shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Book prize.
“Aunty Rebecca” is a about a volunteer social counsellor who is almost single-handedly working to educate communities about cervical cancer and HIV and the link between the two diseases. By following Aunty Rebecca around the Cancer Hospital as she counsels, the documentary highlights the challenges faced in trying to bring the prevalence incidences down.
But focus will obviously be on “I Am Not a Witch”, which will open the festival alongside “Waiting for Hassana” by Ifunanya ‘Funa’ Maduka of Nigerian/United States descent.
At the Cannes, it featured in the Director’s Fortnight.
“Perhaps more beautiful and strange than wholly satisfying, it’s nonetheless easy to see why Rungano Nyoni’s debut film arrives in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of Cannes trailing ribbons of new-discovery buzz,” Variety reported at Cannes.
“A defiantly uncategorisable mix of superstition, satire and social anthropology, it tells the story of a small Zambian girl who is denounced as a witch and exiled to a witch camp, where she is alternately exploited and embraced.
“Singular as that story might be, what makes ‘I Am Not a Witch’ unique, however, is Nyoni’s abundant, maybe even overabundant directorial confidence. It’s rare and exhilarating that a new filmmaker arrives on the scene so sure of herself and so willing to take bold, counter-intuitive chances.”
On Sunday, Mark Kermode, The Observer (UK) film critic wrote that Nyoni’s debut feature, the story of a girl in Zambia accused of witchcraft, is comic, tragic – and captivatingly beautiful.
“As for Nyoni, her ability to blend cruel humour, pointed satire and empathetic anger to produce something touched by tragic transcendence is astonishing,” Kermode wrote.
“In interviews, she has described watching Michael Haneke movies as ‘my film school’ (perhaps those white ribbons are a homage?).
“Yet she has also talked enthusiastically about her love of the witchy 1996 teen fantasy The Craft. With such wide-ranging influences, who knows what this remarkable film-maker will do next? Having been spellbound by her audacious first feature, I can’t wait to find out.”
The Africa International Film festival was founded in 2010 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria by Chioma Ude, an ardent film lover and entrepreneur.
Her passion for the industry grew more intense after her involvement in the production of the 2007 Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) UK Roadshow.
Ude then went on to produce the 2008 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) during which she instituted the philanthropic arm of the awards by conceiving the AMAA Charity Benefit. This novel initiative was designed to be an annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform for industry practitioners and stakeholders to give back to society.
Later, in 2009, Chioma was the local producer of the ION International Film Festival (IONIFF), a global touring festival originating from Hollywood, whose aim is to promote global awareness and peace through arts, culture and films. The event was held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in Nigeria.