German Support For African Women Film Makers

By Own Correspondent – The Goethe Institute is a main sponsor of the Women of the Sun film festival, which is shining the spotlight on African women filmmakers for seven days in Johannesburg. Parallel to it was the two-day “African Women Filmmakers Forum” held on the institute’s premises (September 1- 4), which ended with an insightful open-session with the public.

The Women of the Sun film festival had its red carpet launch at Arts on Main in Johannesburg on September 2. From September 3-9, 25 films will be screened from 23 talented women filmmakers. The women represent 15 different African nations.

Representative of the Berlinale film festival, filmmaker and journalist Dorothee Wenner (© picture-alliance/dpa)

This is the first time a festival devoted strictly to African Women Filmmakers has taken place in South Africa. The selection of films on offer will showcase some of the best examples of the filmmaking craft, crossing a diverse range of genres and styles, from family drama to social justice documentaries to
experimental films.

With the support of the Goethe Institute, prominent German professor of media, culture and gender theory, Dr. Christina von Braun attended the opening of the festival. In addition, special representative for India and Sub-Saharan Africa for the famed Berlinale film festival, filmmaker and journalist Dorothee Wenner and Director of New York based distribution company, Women Make Movies, Debra Zimmerman were also present. Wenner is also a former Director of the Berlinale Talent Campus.

Guests at the festival include Jyoti Mistry with her film The Bull on the Roof (South Africa), from the Sudan Tagreed Elsanhouri “Mother Unknown and All About Darfur”, from Kenya Hawa Essuman’s and her film that is latest film festival sensation ‘Soul Boy’, produced by acclaimed German director Tom Tywker (Run Lola Run/Perfume).

“The time is ripe to change the widely held belief that filmmaking is a male domain,” says Eve Rantseli, Director of Women of the Sun. “Women in film have much to say and are saying it with unique vision and flair.”

With the objective to develop strategies for greater participation of women in the African film industry, the Goethe-Institut invited a group of successful African women filmmakers who contribute actively to change the working patterns in their field to a forum held September 1-4. Similarly, the platform   served to improve the intra-African exchanges and professional situation of women artists and women working in the cultural sector.

The participants’ biographies and their experiences, their goals and ideas were the starting point of the meeting, which also represented the beginning of joint activities. Among the speakers were the renowned  Fanta Regina Nacro director and producer, culture scholars and filmmakers Christina von Braun and Beti Ellerson, director of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema. The meeting was developed together with Dorothee Wenner.

On the final day of the meeting (September 4), the doors were thrown open to the public for a forum entitled “To Screen and Be Seen: Female Perspectives on Filmmaking in Africa”. The occasion was one to engage in an open discussion with the public about operating as a woman in the film industry.

Questions were addressed such as what are the challenges for women in this traditionally male-dominated field? What lessons can be learned from experienced women of the craft? What impact will an increased numbers of women behind the camera and in decision-making positions have on films yet to be made? How are African women filmmakers claiming their space and with what vision?