The Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF 2018) is screening “Narratives from Africa” September 1st through September 8th.

Partnering with corporations, embassies and independent filmmakers, Afro-centric films are the sole focus of ZIFF’s 20th anniversary.

Nakail Matema, the festival director, believes that this year’s theme will allow African films to fully embrace African culture.

Matema stated:

“We are exclusively focusing on stories on the African experience from the continent and beyond because it is high time for us to celebrate and harness our own culture, heritage and history as Africa’s place begins to take center stage on the global stage.”

For decades, Africa has been depicted in films through a Western lens, exclusively from the viewpoint of Western filmmakers.

Africa and Africans have been portrayed as exoticized people, such as in early adaptations of Tarzan or King Solomon’s Mines.

Up until 1955, it was illegal for Black Africans from French colonies to produce films.

In recent history, the continent has faced financial struggles which prohibit many filmmakers’ artistic expression. As a result, cinematographers often seek funding from European agencies, making Europe the owner of most of Africa’s intellectual property.

Matema said:

“In order to embrace ourselves as Africans and develop the arts in Zimbabwe, we are specifically opening the festival with a local film for the first time in over a decade. Also in conformity with the African theme, various embassies are again going to host Afro -centric films.”

ZIFF 2018 will begin with Zimbabwean comedy Cook Off, a film produced by Joe Njagu and directed by Tomas Brickhill.

The movie has been screened in multiple regional and international film festivals, most recently in the Durban International Film Festival.

Cook Off is a romantic comedy which chronicles a single mother’s journey to becoming a national sensation. Anesu, the protagonist, finds herself on  Zimbabwe’s top reality TV cooking show competing with professional chefs.

This film is immensely important.

Its significance lies not only in the film and its message, but what it means for local and African cinema.

Because cinematic and artistic expression has been suppressed on the African continent for so long, art coming out of the region often reflects the Western view of the current socio-political atmosphere. Africa is often shown to be plagued with disease and poverty and war, so romantic-comedies usually seem out of place.

There is, however, something special to be said art for art’s sake. That, too, has meaning. Africa still deserves romance and comedy despite its ailments.

Robert Mugabe’s long rule, creative expression was often silenced.

Tomas Lutuli Brickhill, the writer and director of Cook Off, explained why he wanted to be a part of the film:

“As the economy collapsed in Zimbabwe, local filmmakers got hooked on donor funds and made pieces about “issues”, but without their heart in the story. We wanted to change all that and return to universal stories with

commercial appeal that could restart the Zimbabwean film industry.”

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons