Just back from Zanzibar THERE was not a vacant seat within the Old Fort in Stone Town, Zanzibar on Saturday night's 2017 Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) awards ceremony.
Within this multitude of various ages, nationalities and gender, the African presence was quite visibly the majority. Over 50 filmmakers from more than 12 countries, were joined by more than 100 SOKO FILAM delegates, as well as workshop facilitators and jury members, from around the world.
It was in such a surrounding that filmmakers received a number of awards for their productions, which were found worthy. The Golden Dhow for "Best Feature Film", which was presented by Showmax and carried a USD 3,000 prize money, went to a South African, Daryne Joshua, for his dramatic feature "Call me Thief".
In his absence his countryman, the producer, composer and pianist, Rashid Lanie, had to receive the award on his behalf. "Basically, the subject matter of this film is touching on a very raw nerve in South Africa and probably the world right now.
That is the drug problem, which is the surge of our societies right now," Lanie told the audience, while holding the small gold-coloured dhow statue in his hand. In fact, Lanie also had to receive another award for the same film from the Signis Jury, who chose it as the "Best African Film".
Out of the 28 awards received on Saturday night, within 10 categories, eight went to local films in the "Bongo Music" category. These were presented by Comnet and gave "Best Actress" to the newcomer Hawa Ally for her "impressive leading role" in the latest locally-based Kijiweni Production, "T-Junction" dramatic comedy feature.
Amil Shivji also picked-up the "Best Feature Film" award for this film. On the other hand, Ibrahim Osward took the "Best Actor" for "Hadithi za Kumekucha: Tuna". Best Editor went to Freddy Feruzi for his role in "Genge".
He also scoped-up the "Best Cinematographer" award for this film. "Best Screenplay/Writer" went to Ernest Napoleon and Daniel Manege, who wrote the script of "Kiumeni" and "Best Director", went to Nicholas Marwa for the same film.
Seko Shamte got the "Best Film in Sound" for "Homecoming". The festival's Chief Guest, US-based producer Dexter Davis, conducted a three-day workshop that culminated in a pitching competition for African filmmakers.
He announced a prize for the winning pitch of between USD 50 -200,000, to produce the feature film they had pitched for. The winner of the competition was Amy Lusekelo from the Mainland.
This year's new awards including the "Trace Mziki East African Music Video" and the "Adiaha Award" for "Best Female African Documentary Filmmaker". At the end of the awards ceremony, which were held courtesy of Zanlink, the Acting CEO and Festival Manager, Daniel Nyalusi, was called on stage to announce the dates and theme for next year's 21-edition of the festival.
This, he said would take place from July 7 to 15, under the theme of "Speak Up and Say It!" (Sema na Usikike). He then explained that there are times when silence speaks very loud but most of the time when a person does not speak, much more is lost than just sound.
"When we speak up it is because we feel that silence will not do. We speak up to stand for what we believe in and we speak up to stand for others," he suggested. Nyalusi concluded that people often speak up because they can no longer stand being silent when they see oppression taking place.
However, he acknowledged, speaking up "requires courage, consistence and taking position". This is why the ZIFF team maintains that through film people can speak up and let all those who see the production or hear about it know that they "can never be silenced".