Rwandan filmmakers will be looking to past national glory for inspiration as they compete for honours at the on-going Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF).
The 21st edition of the prestigious annual festival kicked off on Saturday, July 7, and will run till July 15, at various locations in and out of the touristy town of Stone Town in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
The theme for this year is: “Speak Up and Make it Heard.” Flying Rwanda’s flag at the festival this year are six local films, which are competing against over 4,000 other film entries in different film categories from across the globe.
They are; “The Island” by Yuhi Amuli), “Icyasha” by Clementine Dusabejambo, “Carver” by Alexander Sibomana, “Imfura” by Samuel Karemangingo, “Sukut” by Moise Ganze, and “Seburikoko” by Kennedy Mazimpaka.
Of these, four are competing in the short films category; “Imfura”, “The Island”, “Icyasha”, and “Carver”. Seburikoko, a weekly TV series that airs on RBA TV is competing in the web series category, while Sukut, by Moise Ganza is in the film school category.
Whether a Rwandan film stands a chance at the festival will be known on July 15.
But Rwanda is not new to winning glory at ZIFF.
In 2016, history was made when local filmmaker Dusabejambo Clementine emerged best overall winner at that year’s edition. Dusabejambo’s win came courtesy of her short film, “A Place For Myself”, which garnered a record three accolades on the award night.
“A Place For Myself” 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.
The film’s multiple win was aided in part by its universality of theme; as it addresses the plight of persons with albinism in Rwanda.
This year, Dusabejambo is back at the festival with “Icyasha”, which follows a 12-year-old boy and football lover, who tries desperately to join the neighborhood boy’s team. However his effeminate character is soon his undoing, as it gets him frequently bullied and denigrated.
“He finds himself confronted by a world where he has to prove and claim his masculinity. It is a story that simultaneously discusses the pain and beauty of childhood,” explains the filmmaker.
This year saw a marked increase in the amount of documentaries submitted, with over 800 being entered for consideration, according to organizers. Similarly, over 400 feature films and 2,400 short films were submitted.
Film entries came from over 140 countries, with the US and India leading the number of submissions.
However, Rwanda still fared poorly against her East African counterparts, with only six entries against Uganda’s 55, Kenya’s 54, and Tanzania’s 31 film entries.
Entries were also received from all over the world with submissions coming from over 140 countries, with the USA and India leading the number of submissions. East African filmmakers have also shown amazing interest in ZIFF with Ugandan filmmakers submitting 55 films, 54 from Kenya, and from Tanzania 31 films were entered.
The creator of Seburikoko, and one of the filmmakers presenting the country at the ZIFF, Wilson Misago expressed pleasure in the growth and acceptance of the Rwandan movies.
“It is rewarding to see how much our movie industry is growing,” Misago said, adding: “I’m delighted that Seburikoko, the first Rwandan TV series, has been nominated at this international film competition. This shows that Rwandan filmmakers are doing a great job, and its encouraging.”