15 July 2021

The 24th Edition of the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) with the theme ‘Sharing Our Heritage’ takes off in earnest on 21st July in the celebrated World Heritage Site of Stone Town, Zanzibar.  Over the 24 years of its existence the festival has become an occasion not only to celebrate cinematic excellence in Africa and on the Indian Ocean but also as a barometer of culture and artistic growth in East Africa.

It has become a place of expression for women, a platform for hope and an exchange of ideas, three focus areas that foster growth at ZIFF.

“Even at its beginning, ZIFF was seen as East Africa’s prism to focus the world’s attention on this historically important region of Africa, “said Professor Martin Mhando, the ZIFF Festival Director. The academic spoke of the films that ZIFF will project in 13 venues around the two islands of Unguja and Pemba in Zanzibar.

The film Binti, the opening film of the festival, is a contemporary view of womanhood, a searing introspection into the sometimes-painful world that any woman anywhere could find themselves in. The stories of the girl child, the mother, the married woman and the working woman are captured in Seko Shamte’s almost poetic journey of the woman in this film.

“It is these moments that make cinema such an important tool for world cultures, and ZIFF is here to encapsulate it”, said Aisha Mussa the young vibrant Festival Manager of ZIFF. ZIFF, through film, symbolizes the Me2 movement that so aptly shook the world in the last few years.

Other films in the festival also reveal more expressively the historically defining moments of the region. Films like Tazara Stories (USA), To Zanzibar, (France), Softie (Kenya), Rescue To Mission (Kenya), Days of Cannibalism (South Africa) are poignant descriptions of relationships between peoples of the world and Africa.

The focus of ‘the female gaze’ is again reflected in films like Naisula (Kenya), The Letter (Kenya), The Handyman (Australia), Al Sit (Sudan), Bottleneck (Sweden) and Catch Out (Uganda). These films from such diverse corners of the world speak to the shared history and expressions of womanhood.

It is this cultural exchange that finds sinews with the European presence in the festival. With an increasing number of films in the festival, 22 to be exact, the European exchange with Africa is aptly expressed in the festival.  In its 24 years ZIFF has always partnered with European cultural institutions and the European Union (EU) in so many of its undertakings.

From supporting training workshops, sponsoring ZIFF programmes to presenting co-production opportunities, Europe has had an immense influence in the growth of the festival beyond the cinematic exchange.

The Webinar Women in Film, that was held on 8th July, was the festival’s harbinger bringing together 8 women working in the film industries of Europe and Africa. It discussed the progress made in the world of cinema by women, as well as its challenges.

Women from Germany, France, Belgium and Italy joined women from the DRC, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa to reflect on the progress regarding the presence of women in the film industry value chain.

Events including the EU supported Women Panorama will be an opportunity to further cultural exchanges, where European and African films will be screened to village communities to initiate dialogue.

The Sembene Ousmane Award at the festival is a novel initiative that supports the viewing of ZIFF as an African film focus festival. Funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Entwicklung (GIZ) it offers a financial reward of EUR 3000 each to the top three films to encourage further film production on the continent.

“It is this kind of partnership that needs to be emulated –supporting the production, development and distribution of these three sectors of the film economy,” said Amin Suwedi the Assistant Festival Director.

Highlighting its role as an arts and culture organ, ZIFF never fails to bring audiences to the Old Fort to watch films for free but also to be entertained. This year the musical interlude brings the incorrigible Mbosso to Zanzibar to light up the festival on 24th July.

The festival also acknowledges the important role played by its sponsors without whom the programmes could not be realised. The EU has also supported the Film programme which engages filmmakers in dialogues and masterclasses, supporting in particular women in the sector. Bringing together powerful minds to discuss the place of women in the film industry in Belgium, Europe and Africa, as directors, actors and producers. While companies Rahisi and Comnet have supported the symbolically and culturally important Dhow race and Beach soccer programmes. Finally, to capture the audience ZIFF has organized a public forum where, under the spotlight of live media including Plus Tv, the subject of COVID 19 will be broached. This most current and impactful disease is often compared to malaria in its impact on Africa and it is that controversy that is brought out in the debate come talk show. Supporting the cultural sector has become all the more necessary now that these industries have been badly hit by the COVID-19 crisis, both in Africa and in Europe. “Culture is also a vital part of sustainable development and it is an essential component of the partnership between Africa and the EU.  Thanks to ZIFF and all our partners for this promising partnership for the promotion of culture,” said Mr Simon Vanden Broeke, EU Delegation Head of Governance and Economics Section.

The 24th festival of the Dhow countries will indeed be an occasion for the world to come to Zanzibar, the tourist paradise, but also the place of cultural exchanges where ZIFF highlights the role of cinema to Africa and the world.

#EUinTZ, #ZIFF, #PamojaTunaweza, #EUGreenDeal, #euintheworld, #SDGs

For more information please contact:
Pamela Kanora – EU Interim Press & Information Officer
E-mail: Pamela.KANORA@ext.eeas.europa.eu /0754 323 245

Delegation website: http://www.eeas.europa.eu/tanzania/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EuropeanUnionTanzania
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EUinTZ