AFRICA'S wealth of folklore is ripe for cinematic exploration and filmmaker Lloyd Winini is eager to harvest its fantasies.
Having recently screened 'Sacred Places' (2020) at Goethe-Institut Namibia's 'Cinemaverse', Winini is proud to see his film selected for the First Time Filmmaker Sessions and for Canada's Horror Lust Film Festival.
Shot in the University of Namibia tunnels just shy of last year's Covid-19 lockdowns, 'Sacred Places' begins right in the lost and hungry action as five friends try to escape the Chinhoyi caves where a mysterious entity tugs at their true nature.
A claustrophobic and creepy affair, 'Sacred Places' is supported by Goethe Stage as well the Namibia Film Commission and lands as a somewhat predictable and derivative single location short buoyed by a talented cast.
The film's ensemble includes Diana Masters, Sakeus Katonfoka, Adriano Visagie, JD January, Cathy Ngenda and Bupe Chiwala. Based on a play Winini wrote in 2016, 'Sacred Places' is inspired by the stories the film's writer and director grew up hearing when he was a child.
"At the time it was written, my friends and I had been exploring the impact that these stories had made on us as children and what they meant to us as a generation of young Africans," says Winini who is a full-time film, theatre and radio artist after studying electronic media and drama at the University of Namibia.
"All across Africa there are places that people call sacred. Whenever you enter a sacred place there are rules that you should obey that range from permission, respecting and thanking. Every time one of these rules are broken, the breaker of the rule is punished."
Building on an interest in African fantasy, the supernatural and magical themes as established in his award-winning play 'The Nuthouse' (2017), Winini believes a relative lack of creative works in these genres stems not from disinterest but from a mixture of fear and funding.
"People find African fantasy scary because we live in a Christian society. This society subconsciously pegged our beliefs and customs as something dirty and evil. So when there is any cultural expression, people get scared," he says.
"The stories are there but there is no funding. Black and African artists are only allowed to explore certain themes. Themes of struggle, HIV and sexuality and only in a confined way. Even though we can [create] outside the box, the people who provide the funding try and keep us in a box. So it's not the artists who shy away from these genres."
Though 'The Nuthouse' and 'Sacred Places' both deal with a perceived loss of sanity, Winini is adamant that his characters never actually lose their wits.
"My characters never lose their sanity. They just see things differently, or rather they have a connection to another dimension. A dimension that ordinary people can't see," says Winini.
"Darkness is our true reality. It represents the depression, stress and the anxiety that most of us go through on a daily basis."
Intent on pushing African fantasy beyond his current location, Winini's cinematic spirit is grounded in the core of his latest film.
"The philosophy of 'Sacred Places' is to respect and preserve our land and our culture," says Winini before considering the future.
"I want to do a few feature films and a few TV series. I don't just want to do media that will do well in the Namibian market," he says.
"I want to challenge on the international stage and hope, one day, to conquer it."
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