AUDIENCES DEMAND MORE SCREENINGS IN RURAL AREAS
Neither the eery silence of the wilderness, the sweltering heat of the Zambezi valley, pitch black darkness, nor the fear of elephants and marauding predators that prowl the area could deter rural Binga villagers from trekking distances of over seven kilometres from their homes to the screening venues. With every step their anticipation of watching a film mounted, the climax being their unreserved joy of finding the IIFF team ready to show the hugely anticipated films.
by Yvonne Jila, Director, International Images Film Festival for Women
This experience evoked a nostalgic feeling, taking me aback to the early 1990s in the village where I spent the early days of my life. What we witnessed in the remote settlements in Binga which lies on the South-Eastern shore of lake Kariba was reminiscent to my early memories of a film experience. My grandfather would take me to watch the bioscope at the nearest local school which was eight kilometres from our homestead in pursuit of the thrill that came with the rare treat.The screenings took place at night but the venue was always packed to the rafters yet no one really cared about the heat and cramps that came with jostling for a position with a clear view but the mezmerizing images on the large makeshift screen. For days to come the village would chat and bring back to life the memorable experience, mainly the characters and content of the film .
From February 17th to the 27th, the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) National Outreach was held in Bulawayo, Binga and Gwanda. This outreach was guided by the current IIFF theme WOMEN ALIVE: WOMEN OF HEART which celebrates courageous women in all spectres of life. The theme also incorporated the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence- 2014 theme, 'FROM PEACE IN THE HOME TO PEACE IN THE WORLD!' As a result, the selected films shone a light on the GBV- peace nexus. The selection of the films included TWO VILLAGES APART, Zimbabwe, LOVE AND LEMON, Sweden, STRENGTH IN FEAR, Rwanda, FIVE DAYS TO SHILOH, Zimbabwe and BOXING GIRLS OF KABUL, Canada/ USA.
The series opened in the Matabeleland South Capital Gwanda at the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Library at a high note as the venue was teeming with life. The screenings were largely attended by young nurses, teachers and students drawn from around the small town. Though all the films shown in Gwanda were well recieved, a highlight of the screenings was STRENGTH IN FEAR, a film which carries a timely message of society's discrimination against children born HIV positive. The film follows the life of young Isekere, a smart eleven year old school girl born with HIV. Her school mates held a belief that she must be a prostitute because of her status and on the other hand they called her a witch because of her intelligence.
As the film screened, the audience could not hide the emotions that the film had roused in them with some coming close to tears, which set the mood for the outpouring of strong views and comments in the discussion that ensued after the film. The audience gave a unanimous endorsement of the film as being expressely relevent to the current situations that confront society with respect to HIV issues. They therefore concluded that although the young character remains undeterred by her status, society should not be complacent on this issue given the commited efforts of the behavioral change programs. The programs should also target schools where this population exists and cannot be ignored.
On the other hand TWO VILLAGES APART was recommended as a must-see film by all Zimbabweans by film enthusists in all the areas that the IIFF outreach team toured. The main thrust of the film is national healing, peace and reconcilliation and the film tells the story of a cricketer who unites two villages through sport. Audiences identified with the film and highly recommended that the film be taken to all rural communities in the region. The people from these communities echoed their sentiments with most suggesting that the film brought back memories of the political tension that characterised some parts of the countrys history. Emphasis was put on that for peace in the home to exist, there is need to promote and establish lasting peace and healing in the community and nation at large as a priority.
The discussions followed a similar trend in Bulawayo and in Binga. In Bulawayo, we were at the American Corner where we spiced up the program with the documentary BOXING GIRLS OF KABUL. The documentary showcases women of heart who defy odds to train and represent their country as boxers in the Olympics. The audience which was mostly constituted by young local artists and students from the National University of Science and Technology enjoyed the documentary and plunged into a vibrant discussion after the screening. In Binga, James from TWO VILLAGES APART was nicknamed the 'peace maker' at almost all venues visited.
The overall outreach was a success and reached out to 3795 people. Dialogue centered around gender issues chief among them GBV, and peace and healing. The dicussions were very informative with both male and female attendants offering wide and diverse views and dimensions concerning the issues. Following the resounding success of this program, the outreach will resume during the 16 Days in partnership with ZUBO. The IIFF National outreach was sponsored by the ACP Cultures+ Program, supported by the EU-ACP, and also CAFOD and Movies That Matter.