East Africa’s biggest film, music and arts festival, Zanzibar International Film Festival, ended last week, with a Rwandan filmmaker emerging overall winner.
Marie-Clementine Dusabejambo, 28, emerged overall winner after her short film, A Place for Myself, scooped three awards on the award night. The film won the Sembene Ousmane Award for Best African Short Film, the ZIFF Award 2016 Best Short Film, and the Signis Award 2016 for East African Talent.
Also known as the Festival of the Dhow countries, the annual event seeks to promote film and other related cultural sectors and players with a view to spur regional socio-economic growth.
The nine-day festival, which ran from July 9-17, saw a week of film screenings and other special side events that brought together over 60 filmmakers from across the globe.
Following her win, Dusabejambo took to Facebook networking site to announce the good news. “What a special night!!! Thanks again and again to my crew and my partners @iyugi creative especially my Producer @fannyx02 you are the Best (tell mom this is for her "she is my rock!"). Asante sana Mungu for the early Xmas2016.”
Overall, East African films dominated the awards.
Watatu, a Kenyan film was also recognised with three accolades, including the coveted Golden Dhow for Best Feature Film, the Signis Prize, and also shared the European African Film Festival Award with another Kenya film Zawadi, that also won two awards.
A Place for Myself tells the story of a five-year old albino girl, Elikia, whose different skin colour drives her naïve classmates to make her feel that being ‘different’ is more a problem than a special trait. While the school, the neighborhood and the entire community treats her as an outcast, her mother encourages her throughout. Together, they fight back and raise their voice to find a place for themselves.
“It feels great! It's hard work finally paying off because the team that worked on the film really did a great job. It's huge for us, winning all the awards meant for short films in all the categories, especially the Ousmane Sembène award and the Golden Dhow award for the best short film.
“This means more open doors to us, internationally. You know, Sembène is the father of the African cinema, the film was given this award because it reflects his aspirations: African filmmakers telling African stories that awaken society,” Dusabejambo explained on her return to Kigali on Monday.
She further explained that showing her film and bagging three awards were not all that she took away from the festival.
“The festival is not about film screening alone. There are also numerous events around the festival and ZIFF gives exposure, not only to films and filmmakers, but it also gives that exposure to different forms of art: music, dance, painting, photography,” she told The New Times.
What touched me most is that there was a side-event aiming at raising awareness about autistic children, she added. “This taught me that cinema is all about celebrating diversity; life and all its colors.”
Dusabejambo traveled to Zanzibar with two other Rwandan filmmakers; Joel Karekezi, who showcased his feature film, Imbabazi; and Alexandre Sibomana, who was part of the festival’s organising team.
Did the award come with any monetary reward? “Of course, it was hard work that paid off. We got trophies and a cheque as a bonus,” was all that she said.
For winning the Sembene Ousmane Award for Best African Short Film, Dusabejambo received $ 2,000, which she says will go into the production of another film that she will present at next year’s ZIFF edition.