A close look at Mashariki African film festival

Dr James Vuningoma, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Academy of Languages and Culture, officiated at the festival opening ceremony./ Eddie Nsabimana

The Mashariki African Film Festival is back with its 5th edition, as screenings for selected films continue to take place.

Themed ‘Cinema to enlighten Humanity’, the week-long film festival, which officially opened on March 24, at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village,  is showing no signs of slowing down as it continues to attract a big number of participants from across the world while a number of films being submitted for screening during the festival also continues to increase edition after edition.

Participants during the opening ceremony on Sunday. /Eddie Nsabimana

For instance, this year’s edition has attracted filmmakers from across Africa with 54 African countries represented at the festival, in addition to invited filmmakers and experts in the industry from the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and Canada, among others.

Interestingly, the attendance at the festival,  including film enthusiasts like ambassadors, diplomats and other officials from different UN agencies, is also on the rise at each of the venues for the screenings and this has given Tresor Senga, the festival director and founder, a lot of confidence that the festival is in the right direction.

Mashariki African film festival director and founder, Tresir Senga (2nd left), on the red carpet with some of the international filmmakers during the opening ceremony on Sunday.

“In the past days, music has been a dominating section of entertainment over the years but it is great that people are turning their focus on cinema given the big number of people who are attending the screening at our festival. The turn-up is growing edition after edition and this gives us hope that the local film industry has a bright future,” Senga told The New Times.

Different activities are scheduled  to take place at the festival, including a Master class, virtual reality and workshops, during which local filmmakers will be sharing experiences with experienced filmmakers from across Africa and beyond, on the development of the film industry.

Senga said he is looking forward to see local filmmakers learn from the workshop best practices in film making, especially in film directing and production at a low budget.

Rwandan film director Eric Kabera was in attendance.

“Producing a good film does not need a filmmaker to invest millions and millions but creativity. 

I have that experience that you can produce a film at a low budget and it can compete and win prizes at different festivals anywhere,”said Senga.

“This is a golden opportunity for local filmmakers to learn from their counterparts, especially those from countries which are advanced in film making, so that they can use such experiences to do better in their future projects,” he added.

Of the 1,783 films submitted, only 95, including 10 locals, were selected for screening during the festival. Most of the films scheduled to be screened are those that were produced and directed by African filmmakers and have previously won awards at different festivals.

Screenings are ongoing at Century Cinema, at Kigali City Tower, CINESTAR Nyamirambo and Impact Hub Kiyovu. Entrance is free.

The best films will be rewarded on Sunday at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village.

They will be competing in five categories, namely; African (feature, documentary and short film), East African (feature, documentary and short), Rwandan (best short film and best cinematographer), and Iz’iwacu (Best actor, best actress and best movie).

The festival will close with a red carpet session involving filmmakers, both local and international before filmmakers with the best films screened during the festival are recognised.