Rotterdam: At the recently concluded 42nd annual International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), a couple of African movies emerged as some of the best - giving hope to the continent's cinema on a global platform.
IFFR is a world-acclaimed film fest famed for among other things, discovering fresh talent, promoting independent cinema and offering a range of film retrospectives during the 12-day event. Every year, IFFR receives thousands of film entries from across the world. About 300 are then picked and screened. Africa usually has the least number of entrants, and to make matters worse, they are usually of poor quality. But this year has been different.
First, there was a tremendous boost in the number of African movies that made it into the festival. Usually, only five African films are selected, but this year saw a whopping 22. East Africa was represented by two Kenyan features, Something Necessary and the highly acclaimed Nairobi Half Life. Directed by debutant filmmaker Judy Kibinge, Something Necessary is a true life tale of the 2007 post elections violence that left 12,000 Kenyans dead and 300,000 displaced.
The movie, whose distribution was funded by IFFR, chronicles the reconciliation process between a victim and a culprit. Nairobi Half Life, on the other hand, needs no introduction. The gangster film has since its debut at the Durban International Film Festival last July continued to feature at international fests and win multiple awards. It even made history as the first Kenyan nomination for the Oscars.
Both films, along with a couple of other African counterparts, had a great reception in Rotterdam. The only shortcoming was that none of them screened in any competition category, missing out on hefty prize monies. Whether a movie screens in the competition category or not depends on a number of factors ranging from its director's choice to its premiere status.
World premieres and movies made by novice filmmakers stand a high chance of making it into IFFR's competitive categories. Nairobi Half Life was the best performing African film, ranked tenth overall by over 300, 000 members of the audience. Many festival goers were in fact disappointed that it didn't screen out in the competition category.
"I personally feel my bosses made a mistake not to include Nairobi Half Life in the main competition category. I tried very hard to get it in but my efforts were futile. I am sure they are now regretting," said Gertjan Zuilhof, IFFR's programmer for African films.