Cambridge African Film Festival

ALEX MARTIN found the Cambridge African Film Festival “enlightening and enjoyable’ and thoroughly recommends you pop along.

CAFF Cambridge African Film Festival Claire Denis district 9 Hasaki Ya Suda Idrissa Ouedraogo Kurosawa La Pirogue Mammi Nairobi Half Life Ousmane Sembène Souleymane Cissé The Battle for Algiers The Three Black Samurai

Having opened on the 10th of November with Kenya’s first ever Oscar entry, Nairobi Half Life, the Cambridge African Film Festival (CAFF) is now more than a decade old and is firmly established as the UK’s première showcase for films from the African continent.

It’s being held at the Arts Picturehouse and is one of those events that grace those lucky enough to be living in Cambridge as it really is an international collective committed to showcasing some truly excellent cinema.

CAFF’s programme is put together by people who obviously have a deep love for film and the pride with which they contemplate ordinary punters having a good time is infectious. The interest with which the audience arrives is palpable and there is always, in my experience, a fine atmosphere about the screenings which is delightfully nuanced by the mix of film lovers and African émigrés attending.

The breadth of its features is commendable too. La Pirogue, which screened Un Certain Regard at Cannes and will screen at CAFF on Wednesday, is the story of Senegalese immigrants braving the Atlantic in a little fishing vessel to Spain, alongside which is the 25-minute short Hasaki Ya Suda, which translates as The Three Black Samurai, a futuristic homage to Kurosawa that looks absolutely gorgeous:

CAFF’s goal is to showcase the huge and diverse range of stories coming out of Africa and debunk the more stereotypical portrayals that persist of it in mainstream cinema. That these stereotypes themselves provide the biggest impediment to producing film in the continent is obvious when one sees genuinely African views of Africa. It is never anything other than enlightening and enjoyable.

David Gitonga’s Nairobi Half Life depicts the divide between the petty criminals and poor of Kenya’s capital city and its middle-class theatrical set. Alongside this CAFF have screened Mammi, a Nollywood hit, and the festival certainly features some of the more interiorly popular African films of late.

Personally, I’m delighted at the opportunity that CAFF affords us. Having probably seen thousands of films during my life I know that very few will have been African. Or will have been African in the way that someone like Claire Denis isn’t, or in the way a whole load of films, from The Battle for Algiers to District 9, aren’t really African. I’ve heard of Souleymane Cissé, Idrissa Ouedraogo and Ousmane Sembène, but I can’t say my ideas about what they’ve done are anything other than vague. I certainly haven’t seen any of their films. CAFF offers something other than the post-colonial view of Africa. This is not European cinema abroad. It is authentic and honest, and I was not expecting that. I actually found everything I saw fascinatingly modern. There’s still quite a bit to go and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to see more of it.

Featuring question and answer sessions with directors and the opportunity to see films you otherwise couldn’t, the Cambridge African Film Festival is on until November 17th at the Arts Picturehouse. Tickets are available now.