The IIFF national outreach was held in February 2017 in the culturally vibrant provinces of Matabeleland.
The outreach began in Bulawayo with great audience anticipation at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Bulawayo, Stanley Hall Makokoba, Percy Ibbotson Rehabilitation Center and Bulawayo Public Library. AISHA, a Tanzanian film about gender-based violence, at the NGZ’s John Knight Cinema had over 60 people who engaged in a spirited discussion on how our African societies still are culturally not in a position to fully engage with victims of abuse. The audience that spoke after the film noted that the unfolding events in the film were no different to how people in the communities where they are would react in a similar situation. Tempers were high following the short film MAMAN about polygamous relationships even. With some men supporting the actions of the male character as “cultural practices” the discussion wouldn’t end and had to be cut short.
Our next screenings in high-density Luveve at Percy Ibbotson centre were hampered by cyclone Dineo. This is a rehabilitation center for troubled youths and we had a limited number of mostly youthful adolescent boys. The boys found the film screened Ilungelo a very entertaining albeit thought provoking film and soon after the film a thoroughly lively debate took place facilitated by MWF Fortune Tazvivinga who co-ordinated the screenings. Views that were expressed by the boys included the way men in society take advantage of vulnerable girls and how poverty can arm twist families to selling off their girl children to parasitic older men who are meant to be the protectors of these families in society. The other screenings in the city center at the Bulawayo Public Library also had smaller audiences but with some lively discussions. The film watched was Elelwani and in contrast to the film screened earlier this one 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 largely male audience who then went on to bring out statements such as the way women are the ones who are responsible for each others 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. When the villagers were convinced that the cyclone rains were over, audiences increased and the film Ilungelo was appreciated with it’s story of empowering the girl child through education. It was also felt that the film highlighted such relevant points as understanding the cultures and values of African societies and not just 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 mostly Tonga speaking people. And they were ecstatic again 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. But first 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.
And the audiences loved the program ! Rural Siachilaba Centre saw audience 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.