African Directors Film in China with Li Xianting Film School and Rotterdam Festival

Portrait of Mozambique President Armando Guebuza in a Chinese restaurant (Photo: Ella Raidel, IFF Rotterdam)

The International Film Festival Rotterdam has announced an exciting new project where several African directors will make films in China. We find this a brilliant initiative to bridge two parts of the world that are developing complex new social and economic ties. Additionally, it’s wonderful that IFFR enlisted the Li Xianting Film School in Beijing, the first film school for independent filmmakers in China, to help initiate the African directors into the Chinese independent film scene. Among its faculty, the Li Xianting Film School features at least a couple of dGenerate directors such as Ying Liang and Yang Jin. This promises to be a wonderful opportunity of artistic and cross-cultural exchange.

The project has already kicked off with a blog by Rotterdam Festival programmer Gertjan Zuilhof, which will follow the project through its many stages. We’ll be keeping tabs on it to see how the participants are progressing.

The full press release from IFFR follows:

Inspired by the growing influence of China in some African countries, the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) asks seven filmmakers from South Africa, Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Angola to make films in China. The African directors’ films will premiere, along with a contextual film program, during the Rotterdam’s 40th edition. The program, titled ‘Raiding Africa’, includes a film workshop produced by the IFFR in collaboration with the Li Xianting Film School in Beijing and supported by Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund.

More after the break.

In 2009 the IFFR undertook an extensive research trip to countries in Eastern and Central Africa. The result was the IFFR 2010 ‘Forget Africa’ program consisting of the African films found during the research and of thirteen commissioned films by international filmmakers presenting their first view on Africa. The IFFR did meet many young and talented directors who had learnt film making in small initiatives or collectives. The reasons that they haven’t been picked up internationally were various, but most of them practical; no subtitling, no funding, no international network. The films the IFFR showed from these young filmmakers are now being picked up internationally.

The ‘Raiding Africa’ program aims to stimulate the exchange of cultures, to support the careers of the African directors included in last year’s ‘Forget Africa’, to create a situation in which the Africans are informed about Asian independent low budget filmmaking and to allow them to work internationally. The filmmakers taking part are:

- Omelga Mthiyane, South-Africa (Thank You Mama)
- Emile-Aime Chah Yibain ‘Ancestor’, Cameroon (The Way to the Cross)
- Ssenkaaba Samson ‘Xenson’, Uganda (Creation Lab)
- Caroline Kamya, Uganda
- Yves Montand Niyongabo, Rwanda (Maibobo)
- Amour Sauveur, Congo-Brazzaville (Coupable)
- Henrique Narciso ‘Dito’, Angola (A guerra do Ku-Duro)

For ‘Raiding Africa’, the IFFR and Li Xianting Film School in Beijing organize a film workshop this summer in Beijing. During the workshop the seven young African filmmakers are teamed up with experienced Asian Chinese-speaking filmmakers. The mentors taking part are Chinese filmmakers Ying Liang (Taking Father Home) and Sheng Zhimin (Night of an Era), Beijing Film Academy teacher Zhang Xianmin, Tiger Award winning Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong (Mundane History), Singaporean filmmaker Sherman Ong (Flooding in the Time of Drought) and China-based Dutch filmmaker David Verbeek (RU There).

Rotterdam programmer Gertjan Zuilhof, who curated ‘Forget Africa’ and is now working on ‘Raiding Africa’ together with assistant-programmer Inge de Leeuw states: “One of the big issues of our time is the domination of the Chinese in some African countries and their absence in daily life. So the idea is to ask African filmmakers to make a movie in China and to get to know more about the people that live behind gates in their continent. This new project turns ‘Forget Africa’ around and gives the filmmakers involved the chance to take a close look at the Chinese as well as to get experience in international low budget digital filmmaking.” The upcoming months, Zuilhof will file regular updates on ‘Raiding Africa’ on his blog on the IFFR website.

Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund is contributing financially to ‘Raiding Africa’. The project fits its current focus on African cinema. Given the limited possibilities for professional film training in many African countries, the Fund regards ‘Raiding Africa’ as a valuable opportunity and experience for this group of talented young African filmmakers.

‘Raiding Africa’ is developed and produced by the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Partner China:
Li Xianting Film School, Beijing

Supported by :
Hubert Bals Fund, Netherlands
Göteborg Film Fund, Norway
Festival Cinema Africano, Asia e America Latina, Italy
Durban International Film Festival, South Africa

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