From the Artistic Director

Renaissance Spirit:  A Festival Against the Odds

This years festival is brought to you with the sheer dedication and hard work of a small team working against severe resource constraints, but managing to secure the goodwill and co-operation of   filmmakers who have submitted their films willingly to engage and entertain the Addis audience, young and old.   That generosity of spirit from all those whose films are showing, has made it possible for us to be able to present to you over 45 films from more than 19 countries, North, South, East and West of the continent: including 4 films from Ethiopian filmmakers.   Together the films in this programme provide stunning visual entertaining and informative images of Africa’s contemporary and historical journey of renewal in all spheres of its existence; celebrating primarily the cultural Renaissance that testifies to the continents continued and growing relevance to humanity.  Though all is not celebration:  some of the films using drama, documentary and satire also challenge us with the reminder that there is still much to be done to keep the spirit of Renaissance moving us forward as a people.

The festival provides an opportunity to showcase some of the latest films by African filmmakers in its competition sections and to introduce audiences also to older films and others that they may not have had the opportunity to see, out of competition, including a country focus this year inviting Addis audiences to look back at some of the films from the post-apartheid South African Film Industry, at a country which has had a very unique journey of renewal.

In keeping with the festival’s origins at the Blue Nile Film and Television Academy, concerned with supporting and training the next generation of African filmmakers, the festival is able to present this year a series of topical workshops to educate and to inspire them. The festival is also blessed to have the co-operation of the Sudanese filmmaker Taghred Elsanhouri on the jury who will also conduct the workshop around a selection of short films from North Sudan ‘Cultural Healing’ and South Sudan ‘Juba Youth’:  and Mohamed Said-Ouma from the Reunion and Comores who is also a Jury member, will conduct the workshop featuring short films from the network of festivals of African islands in the Indian Ocean (Reunion/ Madagascar/Comores/Mauritius) whose impact on the cinema of the continent is growing.

We are honoured to have a retrospective of the films of the award-winning Nigerian filmmaker Newton Aduaka who will also be conducting a workshop around his feature films which will be shown in a short retrospective of his work  in the festival.  His award-winning film Ezra; his first feature Rage and his latest feature film One Man Show will be shown this year.  The festival is particularly blessed to have the generous collaboration of Newton and 3 other African filmmakers as jury members this year.  The festival is also pleased to present two debut feature films in competition from Nigeria, and 3 short films from Nigerian filmmakers.

The festival could not take place this year without remembering one of the most historic events of 2014, so early in the year, the passing of Nelson Mandela – Madiba – The Great Man of Peace who has marked humanity.  Two documentaries made by South African filmmakers will be shown to pay tribute to Madiba.  Nelson Mandela:The Struggle Is My Life by the ANC member Lionel Ngakane who helped to raise the profile of the anti-apartheid struggle while in exile and working as a filmmaker in the UK; and the filmmaker Clifford Bestall who made the film Project Mandela, as part of the MNet series on African leaders.

In addition to the Madiba Tribute; the South African films in competition (one feature, one documentary and 3 short films); and the small repertory programme on South African cinema, we are pleased to have, the film last from one of South Africa’s prolific feature film directors Oliver Schmitz, Life Above All, which will have its Ethiopian premiere as the opening film of this year’s festival.

So you can see there is much to take in at this year’s festival.  Come and laugh, ponder, learn, reflect and be transported to worlds beyond your own.  We look forward to seeing you at the many screenings and festival events.  May the festival continue to entertain and inspire you this year and for many years to come.

June Givanni/March 2014