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AFFNZ readies for bow

The inaugural African Film Festival New Zealand (AFFNZ) will run early next month in Auckland.

Hear Me Move

Hear Me Move

There’s an impressive line-up of industry folk behind the Trust that’s behind the festival, including Annie Goldson, Witi Ihimaera, Oscar Kightley, Joe Moodabe, Ian Mune and Sam Neill. Founded by Malian Boubacar Coulibaly, the AFFNZ plans to deliver an engaging mixture of titles in its first outing, supplemented with talks and discussions involving industry professionals.

2015 is a good year to launch an Africa-themed film event, with the continent presently enjoying a good amount of international attention from the content creation community. Much of that attention is down to Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu, a double winner at Cannes, seven times winner at France’s recent César awards and Oscar nominated. Sissako returns to Cannes this year to head up the Cinéfondation and Shorts juries.

While much of the international production in Africa has focused on telling others’ tales against an exotic backdrop, South Africa’s industry in particular is currently capitalising on that with employment and upskilling of crews happening through international series such as Starz’s Black Sails, the efforts of Neill Blomkamp to mirror Peter Jackson’s preference for keeping production work at home as much as possible (including District 9 and his just-released Chappie), and the work of companies such as animation house Triggerfish, whose Zambezia and Khumba have both travelled well internationally.

Indeed, South Africa makes the largest contribution of titles to the AFFNZ with three of the festival’s 10-title line-up made in whole or part there.

Opening the festival is Andrew Mudge’s family drama The Forgotten Kingdom (“A moving, magical tale of identity” according to The Hollywood Reporter review). Beginning in Johannesburg, the bulk of the story unfolds in Lesotho. The film has enjoyed a solid festival run since its premiere in 2013.

The Forgotten Kingdom trailer

Hear Me Move is a South African dance film in the vein of the Step Up franchise, which is also being mined here by Tammy Davis’ in-post Born to Dance. The third South African title, Felix, ticks the family-friendly box with a universal rite of passage tale of a teen aspiring to follow his dream in the face of parental opposition.

Two of the AFFNZ titles have had particularly strong international film festival runs in recent years.

The Narrow Frame of Midnight

The Narrow Frame of Midnight

Tala Hadid’s Moroccan The Narrow Frame Of Midnight impressed last year, playing a clutch of A list festivals including Toronto. Moussa Touré’s Senegalese La Pirogue played in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard selection three years back, telling a story of one of the more dangerous routes Africans use to emigrate to Europe.

La Pirogue trailer

From around the rest of the continent the festival will also present: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Grisgris from Chad; David Tosh Gitonga’s Kenyan drama Nairobi Half Life; Shemu Joyah’s Malawian drama Last Fishing Boat; and Joanna Lipper’s Nigerian doco The Supreme Price.

Pascale Obolo’s 2011 documentary Calypso Rose is the only title mostly made out of Africa, telling the tale of Cameroon-born West Indian calypso queen McCartha Linda Sandy-Lewis, aka the eponymous Ms Rose.

Nairobi Half Life

Nairobi Half Life

The African Film Festival New Zealand runs 9 – 15 April at Rialto, Auckland. Films screen in a variety of languages, subtitled in English where required. Tickets are now on sale from Rialto Cinemas.

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