Africa in Motion Case Study

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Africa in Motion is an Edinburgh-based annual African film festival, managed and run as a not-for-profit organisation. The festival is directed by Lizelle Bisschoff and Stefanie Van de Peer, both researchers in African cinema, and is organised by a dedicated team of about 10 part-time staff and volunteers.

We operate mainly at Filmhouse Cinema on Lothian Road, the Edinburgh College of Art and the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

The festival has grown consistently and steadily over the past five years, to become the biggest African film festival in the UK. The festival is currently in its 5th year, and since the inaugural season in 2006 we have brought the best of African cinema to Scottish audiences.

Diversity has always been at the heart of Africa in Motion, and the festival includes dozens of films from as many African countries, genres, and time periods as possible. We also organise complimentary events such as discussions after screenings, directors masterclasses, music performances, exhibitions and workshops for children.

In 2009 we toured for the first time in rural Scotland through taking a selection of films from the main festival on the road, funded by Regional Screen Scotland.

AiM-drummers-outside-Filmhouse

What are your organisation’s aims:

The main aims of the festival have been, since its inception, to introduce Scottish audiences to the brilliance of African cinema and to overcome the under-representation and marginalisation of African film in British film-going culture.

We believe that the best way to learn about Africa is to listen to African voices and to view representations created by African themselves, as these often counter the stereotypical representations we see from Africa in mainstream media in the West. But our main reason for screening the films is because we believe they are great films which should be seen the world over.

How are you funded:

  • Scottish Screen is the festival’s main funding body.
  • Regional Screen Scotland funds our rural Scotland tour.

We also get smaller sponsorships and funding from academic and voluntary organisations, such as:

  • the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh
  • Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at University of Edinburgh
  • the School of Languages, Cultures and Religions at the University of Stirling
  • and the Scottish Documentary Institute.

Film Programme:

In 2009, the main festival in Edinburgh ran for 11 days and consisted of screenings of almost 60 films from all over the African continent, including shorts, features, documentaries, animation and experimental films.

From this programme we selected about 10 feature films and documentaries, and two short film packages to offer to touring venues in Scotland.

This selection was intended to be representative of the whole programme, with films from North, West, East, and Southern Africa included,  as well as a mix of genres, themes and styles, and films intended for adult as well as young audiences. The venues themselves selected the films they thought were most appropriate for their audiences.AiM-Map

Successful cinema activity and why?

In terms of the Rural Scotland Tour, we found that our most successful screenings and events were at venues where established organisations such as museums, schools and film clubs enthusiastically took part in selecting the films and promoting the screenings. We had a particularly good reception to our screenings on the Isle of Skye and in Shetland.

And how you dealt with the most Challenging?

We found that it is particularly tricky to have screenings while other cultural activities are taking place at the same time in the same region. As rural Scottish audiences are relatively small, potential audience members feel divided if, for example, two arts festivals are taking place in their town simultaneously.

Any Tips to pass on?

It is best to work with local existing film clubs, as you can rely on their usual audience base and ways to promote events. It is also really interesting and rewarding to work with schools, and show films that might fit in with certain aspects of the school curriculum, as we find our young audiences particularly enthusiastic and appreciative of African films.

The travelling festival was a great initiative but logistically quite challenging to organise. A tour does not have to be one continuous event, but could be spread out, for example over a number of weekends over two months. We find that attendance at weekday screenings are not always as good as over weekends. To spread a tour out over a couple of months would be time consuming but may be more beneficial in order to reach the right audiences.

Ensure that your tour/event/screenings do not overlap with other cultural events going on at the time!

Where can we find out what films you’re showing:

On our website: www.africa-in-motion.org.uk

Where can we go for further information:

On our website: www.africa-in-motion.org.uk

There is also a short documentary on our Rural Scotland Tour on our online tv channel: www.africa-in-motion.tv

General Contact Details:

Lizelle Bisschoff (founder and director): Lizelle@africa-in-motion.org.uk

Stefanie Van de Peer (co-director): Stefanie@africa-in-motion.org.uk

And your favourite film/director is

Lizelle: One of my favourite African directors must be the late Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety. His film Hyenas (1992) is one of my favourite films of all time, African or otherwise! Mambety is often called a maverick filmmaker, he was far ahead of his time, and made experimental and stylistically audacious films with incisive political commentary.

Stefanie: My favourite films all come from Tunisia at the moment! I love the cinematography, the focus on Tunisian women and their strengths and weaknesses, and the stories themselves combine a great love for the mythical with reality. Especially Raja Amari and Selma Baccar are great cineastes.

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