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You Want To See More African Female Filmmakers?

The IIFF is the place to be

BY Agnes Amondi

Sep 07, 2022, 07:28 AM

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A UNESCO report shows that in countries like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Morocco, women occupy at least 30% or more roles in the film industry, in front and behind the camera. 

At the same time, it's hard to come by a conclusive study that details the specific roles these women take up and the impact of their contribution to the industry. Even so, the representation of women in the film remains to be an uphill battle.  

This holds true even in the largest film industry in Africa, Nollywood. Despite the growing numbers of women filmmakers and a clear demonstration of their ability - the highest-grossing film ‘Omo Ghetto: The Saga’ which generated over ₦600 million or $1.4 million, was produced by Funke Akindele - the issue persists.

Another thing to keep in mind is the clash between African films made by foreign individuals vis-à-vis African films made by Africans.

Lara Utian Preston, the CEO of the Ladima Foundation working for better female representation on the screen summed it up nicely when she spoke to the German publication Deutsche Welle.
“There’s a direct relationship between who’s behind the camera and what one sees on the screen. The lack of women behind the camera has led to sexist content and the consolidation of patriarchy. When African women tell their own stories, they offer a completely different perspective."
This is why platforms such as the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF), an annual event that’s been held in Zimbabwe since 2002, and the only of its kind in Southern Africa, is important and we explain why.

Collaboration with similar festivals

The IIFF might be the only event of its kind in Southern Africa but it's an international affair, one that attracts the participation of similar festivals around the world. One of them is the International Women's Film Festival Dortmund-Cologne which is a partner to this year’s edition. 

Why is this important? Well, it gives local filmmakers greater exposure and a chance to have their work assessed by a diverse jury. It is an opportunity that many filmmakers yearn for and such an event makes this possible. 

Also, such collaborations help unify the voices of women who share similar experiences cross-culturally and strengthen the push for better representation. 

Making the work of filmmakers visible

Making a film is one thing and getting it in front of the public is another. You might make a case for self-publishing on YouTube and other video-sharing platforms but most filmmakers want to have access to things like distributing houses that help take their work to a broader audience.  

Film festivals such as these help in bridging these gaps. The who and whose of the industry warm up to such events so you never know who is watching. Plus, the public gets a chance to watch stories that they don’t get on the mainstream platforms and in turn build an audience for their work. 

Creates spaces for women to network

The IIFF brings women from different countries with varied experiences to not only watch films but also pass on their knowledge. It’s a chance to talk about how things really get done. 

This is good for any filmmaker regardless of their experience level, but moreso upcoming ones who might not have a lot of resources at their disposal. 

It also speaks to the fact that successful women who perhaps didn’t have such opportunities are keen on leaving the place better than they found it. What’s more admirable than that?

Diversity of voices

As much as the IIFF is geared toward uplifting the voices of African women in film, it also invites films and filmmakers from around the world. We’ll watch films from Bangladesh, America, Brazil and Haiti among other places which all demonstrate the experiences of women from around the world and most importantly, the impact of working together and I’m sure that these women relish the opportunity to talk to their fellow women about their work.  

Beyond the festival

The work does not end after the function is over. IIFF offers more. It holds outreach programs conducted around different communities of Zimbabwe that facilitate discussions around women’s issues. Such forums are essential in raising awareness and even finding solutions to various issues in society.

Excited about the festival? Well, find out more about it here.