IIFF 2017 National Outreach: Films, heated discussions and a cyclone
Held in February, the IIFF national outreach visited the Zimbabwean provinces of Bulawayo, Matebeleland North and South.
The outreach began at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo and continued with screenings at Stanley Hall Makokoba, Percy Ibbotson Remand and Home Hostel and Bulawayo Public Library, which were well received by audiences. Aisha, a Tanzanian film about gender-based violence, at the NGZ’s John Knight Cinema had over 60 people engaging in a spirited discussion on how African societies are still not well positioned culturally, to engage with victims of abuse. Audience members that spoke after the conclusion, noted that the unfolding events in the film were no different to how people in their communities would react in a similar situation. A heated discussion had to be discontinued following the short film Maman, which looks at polygamous relationships. Some men supported the actions of the male character as “cultural practices”.
Our next screening in high-density Luveve at Percy Ibbotson Remand and Home Hostel a rehabilitation center for troubled youths was the scene for a small audience made of teenage boys. The boys found the film screened Ilungelo, very entertaining albeit thought provoking. The young men partook in a thoroughly lively debate, which was facilitated by MWF Fortune Tazvivinga who coordinated the screenings. Views that were expressed by the boys included the way men in society take advantage of vulnerable girls and how poverty can pressure families to sell their girl children to parasitic older men who are meant to be the protectors of these families. The other screening in the city center at the Bulawayo Public Library also had a low attendance but lively discussions. The featured film: Elelwani in contrast to Ilungelo, showed a young woman who had to make a choice to choose cultural norms over her dream career. This film drew the ire of the large male audience with some arguing that women are responsible for their own misery.
Next days’ screenings at Amagugu International Heritage Centre (AHIC) in Matobo District in Matabeleland South were facilitated by founder of the centre historian Phatisa Nyathi. The outreach was affected by cyclone Dineo, but when the villagers were convinced that the cyclone rains were over, audiences increased and the film Ilungelo was appreciated with its story of empowering the girl child through education. It was also felt that the film highlighted relevant points such as understanding the cultures and values of African societies and not dismissing them as backward.
Next stop was Binga, for the last and most exciting leg of the national outreach. This was the 5th time that the festival came to the rustic border town, home of the Tonga people. Who were once again, excited about IIFF. Our local partner organisation Zubo made sure that all our screenings in the communities of Manjolo, Donga, Samende and Siachilaba were a success. All films had to be screened for the District Council, Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender & Community Development, Caritas and DDF. The local film Lyamweena Gonta produced in the Tonga language was particularly appreciated.
Suffice to say, the audiences loved the program! Rural Siachilaba Centre saw audiences of over 200 per screening from the whole community as well as very spirited discussions.
At the end of the outreach there was a unified call for IIFF to return… with haste.