An African Eye at IDFA 2018
“Artistic freedom is the antidote to lies and deceit. Celebrate and partner with new talent. they help us see hope in a more open hearted manor.” These were the words that IDFA’s new Artistic Director Orwa Nyrabia opened the festival with. It was a powerful and inspiring week for our team who was there for the European Premiere of SURVIVORS and as a part of the fist ever West African delegation to the festival. The delegation was made up of SURVIVORS Director Arthur Pratt (Sierra Leone), and four WeOwnTV Filmmaker Fellows.
At the 31st addition of IDFA there was at once a wonderful sense of community and of a world united and through this connection also a deeper recognition that many of the most critical issues facing communities around the world have shared causes; climate related emergency, xenophobia and the rise of totalitarianism. At the festival this year there are 72 countries represented in the overall selection. Our team helped add to this list with three historically underrepresented countries; Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. SURVIVORS in fact was the first film ever directed by a Sierra Leonean to be screened at the festival. Needless to say, the overwhelming feeling amongst our group was pride and gratitude to be given this opportunity and platform to share our work.
SURVIVORS premiered on to a sold out audience and the film was met at each screening with great praise for the production teams bravery and creative vision. Each screening was followed by connected and fascinating Q&A’s that drew out many festival goers who had spent time in the region. The film was also nominated for the prestigious Amsterdam Human Rights Award.
Arthur was invited by DocSociety to present on our outreach work in West Africa. He detailed the West African Screening series we are planning and our oral histories database project WeSurvive. He closed his remarks with a challenge to the room that drew a standing ovation:
”If you want to make movies about us - don’t send in your cameras. Hire us to tell our own stories.”
Our participation at IDFAcademy was a highlight for all. Four WeOwnTV Filmmaker Fellows were invited to participate in the four day program of presentations and meetings with industry professionals. Lawrence Agbetsise (Ghana) was attending with his film The Problem, which explores male identity and the concept of success in modern Africa. John Solo’s (Sierra Leone) Life After the Army presents the current plight facing his country’s ex-serviceman. Archie ‘Valentino’ Thomas’ (Liberia) Inside West Point paints a complex portrait of one of Monrovia’s largest slums. Tyson Conteh’s (Sierra Leone) An’Bondo Beykey, which means “Stop Female Genital Mutilation,” takes a very personal look at this heated social issue in Sierra Leone through the story of a close friend of the filmmaker’s who died from this practice.
The WeOwnTV Filmmaker Fellowship is a film fund and professional development program supporting the production of independent documentaries directed by West African filmmakers. The program provides filmmakers with funding for their project, filmmaking (creative labs) labs, one-on-one mentoring, professional development workshops and networking opportunities.
At the festival we made many new friends and of course reunited with comrades of old. We met the team from First Hand Films who now rep international sales for SURVIVORS. Many of our funders were also at the festival to celebrate the success of SURVIVORS and our new round of fellows. We raised our glasses with Beadie and Jess from DocSociety and Tony, Sparkle and Rebecca from the Bertha Foundation; Isabel and the entire IDFA Bertha team who helped us immensely to navigate the VISA process and of course provided inspiration and guidance during IDFAcademy; there was a wonderful GoodPitch Kenya reunion (Docubox’s Mudamba Mudamba pictured with Banker White and Arthur Pratt at left) the legendary Steven Markowitz, and at a party hosted by TFI’s Jose Rodriguez the night before we all returned home.