A Look At Seattle International Film Fest's New 'African Pictures' Program Selections For 2013

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 3, 2013 2:20 PM
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Still From 'The African Cypher'

It was announced last fall that SIFF (the Seattle International Film Festival) was the 2012 recipient of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences multi-year grant for its African Pictures program, which comprises of a total of $150,000 over a three-year period - funds that will go towards showcasing the burgeoning and diverse brands of cinema that are emerging across continental Africa. 

The grant would allow SIFF to really broaden and deepen its search across the continent, to find films that will later screen/premiere at the festival - including recent titles like Tey and Otelo Burning, both well-covered on this site.

SIFF's goal, starting at this year's edition of the festival (May 16 – June 09), is to present a minimum of ten African feature films annually, during the course of the three-year program, thanks to the efforts of SIFF Programmer Dustin Kaspar, who's been busy travelling in Africa, attending local film festivals - most recently, FESPACO in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in February. 

And the fruits of Kaspar's labor follows - 11 films to be screened at the festival this year, as part of its African Pictures program. 

The list includes several titles that you might be familiar with, as we've profiled some of them on this site, like: The African Cypher (South Africa), Coming Forth by Day (Egypt), Comrade President (Camarada Presidente) (Zimbabwe), Fanie Fourie’s Lobola (South Africa), and Last Flight To Abuja (Nigeria).

I'm looking forward to learning about those that I'm not already familiar with; it's always fun discovering new and exciting projects!

We are excited to launch African Pictures as a major program of the Seattle International Film Festival,” said SIFF Artistic and Co-Director Carl Spence. “With vital support from AMPAS along with other partners we look forward to the opportunity to shine a light on and bring awareness to provocative, relevant and entertaining stories being told across the continent of Africa through the medium of film.

And furtuer... “Beneath the Sahara, features like Nairobi Half Life announce the arrival of accomplished work with a uniquely African voice,” said SIFF Programmer Dustin Kaspar. “Reflecting the maturation of Nigeria's Nollywood cinema, the blossoming filmmaking communities in Uganda and Rwanda, and the strong creative craft of South Africa's industry, SIFF will bring a broad spectrum of African Pictures (and many of the filmmakers) to Seattle this May and June.

Check out the full African Pictures selections list below - with trailers included where available:

The African Cypher

North American Premiere | Dir Bryan Little | South Africa | 2012 | 89 min

Beginning as a survey of the extraordinary street dance styles across South Africa, director Bryan Little’s vibrant documentary drills deeper into the philosophy of the dancer’s self-expression and, especially, the souls of two extraordinary young performers.


Coming Forth by Day (Al-khoroung lel-nahar)

North American Premiere | Dir Hala Lotfy | Egypt/United Arab Emirates | 2012 | 96 min

An exciting new female auteur from the Arab world, Hala Lotfy makes her debut with Coming Forth by Day. The daily struggles of a mother and daughter are a far cry from the riots of Tahrir Square, but offer equally compelling insight into Egyptian society today.


Comrade President (Camarada Presidente)

North American Premiere | Dir Mosco Kamwendo | Zimbabwe | 2012 | 89 min

The life and suspicious death of Mozambique’s revolutionary leader, Samora Moises Machel is explored in this documentary, providing insight into the Mozambican fight for independence and subsequent political changes.


Fanie Fourie’s Lobola

Dir Henk Pretorius | South Africa | 2013 | 90 min

After he takes Dinky, a strong Zulu woman, to his Afrikaans family wedding, the two find an unexpectedly fun cross-cultural romance. But, if Fanie is going to marry Dinky the right way, he must negotiate with her family to pay Lobola (a South African dowry).


Finding Hillywood

World Premiere | Dir Leah Warshawski, Chris Towey | USA/Rwanda | 2013 | 57 min

Hillywood, the Rwandan Film Industry, is given the spotlight in this affectionate portrait featuring the filmmaking community, the blossoming film festival culture, and the joy of the people as they experience Rwandan cinema on the big screen.


Kampala Story

North American Premiere | Dir Mugisha, Kasper Bisgaard | Uganda | 2012 | 62 min

Apio, a 14-year-old Karamojong girl and her mother run their household on money wired from her father who works in the capital of UgandaWhen the money transfers stop, Apio must travel alone to the big city in search of her father.

Last Flight To Abuja

North American Premiere | Dir Obi Emelonye | Nigeria / United Kingdom | 2012 | 78 min

An ill-fated flight provides the setting for this suspenseful multi-character pot-boiler filled with romance, blackmail, and murder in Obi Emelonye’s Nollywood box-office smash.


The Pardon (Imbabazi)

Dir Joel Karekezi | Rwanda | 2013 | 73 min

Bridging narrative simplicity and emotional depth, first-time Rwandan filmmaker Joel Karekezi showcases friends who find themselves on opposing sides of the Rwandan genocide. Years later, they must navigate their horrific past toward an emotional future.


The Repentant (El Taaib)

Dir Merzak Allouache | Algeria/France | 2012 | 87 min

Nearly a decade into the country’s civil war, a young Algerian Jihadist takes advantage of a national amnesty to leave the mountains and rejoin civil society. But the past is not so easily set aside. A beautifully made, deeply felt drama from veteran director Merzak Allouache.


Sand Fishers

Dir Samouté Andrey Diarra | Mali/France | 2012 | 72 min

Having lost their jobs due to climate change and overfishing, a group of fishermen have been dubbed Sand Fishers, and now harvest wet compact sand and gravel from the bottom of waterways for use by the construction industry.

Spud 2

World Premiere | Dir Donovan Marsh | South Africa | 2013 | 90 min

Spud is still marching slowly toward puberty as a sophomore at a South African boarding school. While he’s no longer the youngest in school, that’s not going to save him from challenges of growing up. John Cleese returns in this spectacular sequel to the SIFF 2011 favorite.

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