What to expect in this year’s Mashariki Film Festival

This year, the festival received a record 1,700 film entries, a far cry from the first and second editions that drew less than 100 film entries each.
Guests at the 3rd edition of Mashariki African Film Festival in Kigali. Courtesy photos.

This year marks five years since the Mashariki African Film Festival was launched.

The 2019 edition of the week-long festival will take place from March 24-31, at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (KCEV).

The theme for this year is; Cinema To Enlighten Humanity, in line with the 25th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Trezor Nsenga, president of Mashariki African Film Festival, gives his opening remarks for the 3rd edition of the festival in Kigali.

Film students during a master class session by Senegalese movie expert Touré Moussa (in an African print long sleeve shirt). The training was part of the  3rd edition of Mashariki African Film Festival. 

In competition are five film categories; African Category, East African Category, National Category, Iziwacu Films, and the Out Of Competition category, which is open to all filmmakers worldwide.

According to a statement from organisers, eligible film entries must be directed by an African filmmaker, with a storyline that relates to the continent. The films must not have been completed before 2017, and should either be in English, or have English/French subtitles.

Submissions for this year’s festival closed on December 24, 2018 after a two-week window. Selected films will be officially unveiled on January 31.

“During the week we will have panel discussions under this theme (Cinema to enlighten humanity). We will be reflecting on where we came from as a country, from 1994 up to today, with a special focus on the film industry,” said Tresor Senga, the festival founder.

Institut Français’s Francine Mayer speaks at the event.

He added: “We will give priority to films that address the subject of humanity, but even other films have been selected for the festival.”

Senga further explained that the festival seeks to achieve much more than just bringing African films to an African audience.

“The festival encompasses many things, from film screenings, to rewarding Rwandan and African filmmakers and empowering them through workshops and master classes offered by local and international professionals and mentors. The festival also promotes, advocates for, and collaborates with other cultural events in different member states of the East African Community.”

The festival recently acquired new and bigger premises below Ecole Belge, from where a new film school will be operating.

“Mashariki has many new programmes this year, and one of them is a training centre for budding filmmakers that is opening soon. We are thinking of monthly trainings, where we will be training film students. We had only one activity –the festival, and after the festival we would go silent. This time we want an ongoing programme. For the training centre we’re already calling for applications from interested persons. We plan to start at the end of February, and it will run up to the festival. It will help the students to produce their own films. We will offer them the facilities to shoot and produce their own films with the support of both local and international mentors.”

Actor turned pastor Kennedy Mazimpaka during the awards ceremony.

This year, the festival received a record 1,700 film entries, a far cry from the first and second editions that drew less than 100 film entries each. 

“At first it wasn’t easy to approach partners and sponsors because they were worried about sustainability of the festival. They needed assurances that the event would continue in coming years after sponsoring the first edition. For the first three editions we faced very critical challenges, but from the 4th edition sponsors started to see the importance of the festival and its positive impact on Rwandan society,” said Senga.

Winners of the 3rd edition pose for the group photos.

Competition categories:

African Category

Best African Feature Fiction

Best African Short

Best African Documentary

East African Category:

Best East African Short

Best East African Documentary

National Category:

Best Rwandan Short Fiction

Best Promising Cinematographer

Iziwacu Films (Rwandan):

Best Feature Film

Best Actor

Best Actress

Best Original Screenplay

Out of Competition (open to filmmakers worldwide):

Short (Fiction and Documentaries), 52 minutes or less

Feature length (fictions and documentaries), 52 minutes or plus.