The ninth edition of Mashariki African Film Festival is underway in Kigali, where good films are lined up to be showcased on the festival’s big screens throughout the week. The festival kicked off Saturday, November 25, at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (KCEV) and attracted key players in the film industry in the country and international guests from different countries. ALSO READ: Local filmmakers to benefit from Mashariki's new platform EONII, a science fiction film shot in Dar es Salam- Tanzania, was the first movie screened during the opening ceremony that was attended by various dignitaries including current State Minister at the Ministry of Youth Sandrine Umutoni. Giving her remarks at the opening ceremony, Minister Mutoni emphasized the cultural bridge's role in uniting audiences worldwide, strengthening connections among filmmakers, the African diaspora, and international media producers. This bridge, she said, serves as a platform to showcase our intricate history, stories, and experiences, while simultaneously challenging harmful stereotypes that have influenced global policies. ALSO READ: Outstanding filmmakers awarded as Mashariki African Film Festival closes The Minister further expressed gratitude for Mashariki’s cinematography programs that are targeting the youth and fostering both empowerment and inclusive artistic development. “These initiatives are instrumental in nurturing the next generation of storytellers, instilling confidence in their voices and the importance of amplifying their stories,” she noted. Minister Umutoni extended an invitation to bloggers and cultural managers to deliberately create opportunities for youth, women, and girls within this often-intimidating industry. ALSO READ: Rwandan film scoops award in Egypt According to the Executive Director of the annual 'Mashariki Film Festival' Lionnel Kayitare, the ninth edition is unique with special additions and among them is Marshaket,' the first film market in Rwanda, which aims to connect local writers, filmmakers and other stakeholders in the sector with investors who will support their art and distribute locally produced films on major platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. A total of 72 films were selected for screening at this year’s festival. They were selected in three main categories namely long feature, best documentary, and best short film. More films by national and international filmmakers will be screened during the festival at Century Cinema throughout the week and the best will be awarded. The festival will also hold workshops and masterclasses by African and international and filmmakers to share experiences on their best practices in film critique and cinema business.