Nouakchott — Young filmmakers explore ways to effect social change without violence.
Movie directors and diplomats from Africa, Europe and the Arab world gathered in Mauritania last week for a unique event that showcased international cinema and inspired young filmmakers to pursue their dreams.
The 7th Nouakchott International Short Film Festival wrapped up Monday (October 29th) after screening dozens of entries from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Lebanon, France, Saudi Arabia and host nation Mauritania.
The week-long event also featured training workshops for nearly 200 young men and women in photography, editing, directing and screenwriting techniques. The training programmes were supervised by Mauritanian and foreign filmmakers.
"Had it not been for the efforts of cinema and its ability to attract young energies, ambitious young people would have found their way to despair, deviation and violence," Tunisian director Nassim al-Korbi told Magharebia.
Al-Korbi's film "Tiwilit Flowers", which won the international category prize, was "produced with Mauritanian, Tunisian, Moroccan and Saudi joint efforts", festival director Mohamed Ould Idoumou noted.
"I decided to make this a collaborative film, with actors, screenwriters and directors from different countries unified by one ambition and one future," al-Korbi said.
Maghreb countries, he said, "share the same cultural concerns", whereas "politics divide countries and peoples".
"We were determined to focus on the cultural unity between Maghreb countries in order to confront politics," said al-Korbi, who led a directing workshop for young filmmakers.
Participants said the unique event provided a venue for innovating and expressing constructive ideas, and distancing themselves from violent means of expression.
The ability of filmmakers to call attention to social issues and effect positive change was evident across the competition categories. Moroccan director Abdelatif Amjkak won the Grand Prix for "Vers une nouvelle vie", a film about illegal immigrant children.
Idoumou Ould Ghali is another of these young directors who use cinema to make a positive impact on society.
The 27-year-old winner of the Jury Prize, Ould Ghali ventured into once-taboo territory for his film "Mahmoud Messouma". It tells the true story of a 19th century love affair between a slave and his mistress.
"I made this film to shed light on marginalised people in Mauritanian society," Ould Ghali told Magharebia. "Those people played a major role in preserving culture and heritage, but society was a barrier to realising their dreams, because of their colour, race or culture"
The young director explained that while Mahmoud Messouma was a distinguished poet and man of letters, "circumstances and social habits prevented him from marrying the girl he loved".
"Through this short film, I wanted to pass on a message about the need for social harmony, to appreciate men based on their role in life rather than judge them for their colour or tribe," Ould Ghali said.
"Cinema as a form of art has enabled me to express this idea in a refined way, rather than use violence and extremism. Hence, I can say that cinema in general motivates young people to innovate in a civilised way, away from extremism," he said.
The Mauritanian Culture Ministry and the Maison des Cineastes (House of Filmmakers) in Nouakchott organised the festival.