IIFF SOMALIA 2015!
As we take IIFF all over Africa, we are transcending cultural and religious barriers. Film is a language that is understood by all.
by Karen Mukwasi, Program Coordinator, International Images Film Festival for Women
Somalia is a country that has over the years been identified with violent conflict and insurgency. On arrival in its vibrant Mogadishu, its not the dilapidated buildings that have weathered war, that captured our attention but the effortless exudation of national and cultural pride by Somali people. They are proud to be survivors. On meeting Somali women the IIFF theme Women Alive, Women of Heart instantly came to mind. They are warm and full of optimism regardless of the difficult circumstances they have lived through in the past twenty eight years. For the IIFF team that visited Somalia for the outreach it was an enriching experience that allowed learning and imparting of ideas.
After almost a year of planning the dream of running the first ever IIFF outreach in Somalia blossomed into a gratifying reality.The mini fest was held at the Gorgoi Hotel in the heart of the picturesque coastal city of Mogadishu on the 14th of March. The mini festival was attended by members of the Somali Youth Association and students from various Mogadishu Universities.
Fatima Warsame Quaran, chairperson of the Somali Youth Council who is also the local coordinator for IIFF Somalia did not hesitate to concur with our proposed local mini fest theme, Women Telling Their Own stories was perfect for Somalia. After twenty eight years of conflict and civic unrest Somali women had gruelling accounts of social adversity and inspirational stories of triumph and gingerly took up the chance to tell them in their own voices. The perfect starting point to achieve this end was presented by IIFF, as it managed to bring compelling stories from the continent to Somalia.
Antonio Tibaldi’s A Hole in the Sky was deservedly the opening film as the story's setting is Somalia that the young keen cinema enthusiasts instantly identified with it and warmed up to the minifest. The question and answer session was spirited with one young lady making a remark on how proud she was that these filmmakers captured her culture and presented it to the world in such a vivid manner.
Though all of the mini film fiesta's content had been meticulously selected to enthrall the audience Daughters of the Niger delta, a film by Ilse Van Lamoen was one of the highly acclaimed showcase pieces of the day. The film is a bottom up production that allowed local women to document their experiences. Instead of portraying women as victims it highlights their strength and resilience in dire social confrontations. This film explicates continentally prevalent struggles African women have to content with and how important it is for the voices of African women to be heard and payed heed to by society. This inspired the audience to share their own lived experiences and how they emerged from them with resolve.
Other films shown on the day are Cry of The Turtle Dove directed by Sani Elhadj Magori. This film also resonated well with the audience as it touched on migration and various topical issues that captured the audience's attention. The discussion centered on how Somali nationals have been displaced by prolonged conflict and economic strife resultantly seeking refuge in other countries in hordes. The young people present shared a common dream that one day they will not have to leave their countries in pursuit of peace and better livelihood allowing them to contribute to the socio-economic progress of their country.
An extremely talented Somali Youth cultural group who performed cultural music throughout the day provided entertainment to the festival attendants charmed them with their original African sound and and well choreographed dance routines. The dances were fascinating and an exhibit of the rich Somali traditional culture which got members of the IIFF team a rare but fantastic chance of trying out the moves on the dance floor.
The Somalian Minifest experience was extremely rewarding and a reinforcement of all the work and partnerships that Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe has fostered through its flagship IIFF. The event took IIFF's effort of taking strong, continentally relevant narratives to African women and inspiring them to tell their own stories a notch forward. It was also an opportunity for IIFF to reach a gender balanced audience which is critical if we ever to achieve gender equality in Africa.
In most countries film is taken for granted, a short trip to the cinema will guarantee you a movie. In Somalia this has not been possible and they placed so much value in the initiative, as it provided young people with a window into the world. As a festival we endeavor to continue with these efforts and to one day transfer them into the hands of locals.
IIFF SOMALIA 2015
WFOZ is grateful to the support from the EU ACP Cultures program that has made this work possible. The local media in Mogadishu was overwhelmingly supportive as their cameras and microphones transformed our mini fest into a national event. We appreciate this support as it brought the attention of the of the lovely Somali nation to our work.