A film festival set in the Kalahari
Updated: May 2
A film festival set in the Kalahari? Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself there, precisely in the rural village of Andriesvale in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. What an amazing experience this turned out to be.
It wasn’t your conventional festival set in the limelight of Montreal, Geneva or Boston, this was a film festival set in a place which is home to the indigenous Khomani San people who until recently were thought to have vanished.
Political Tragedy has screened in 16 different film festivals since April 2018 and while most of these event have the same “look and feel” about them, I was very impressed with the 2019 edition of the African Human Rights Film Festival. The team programmed a small amount of high quality films, and every single one of them was great. I was honoured to have “Congo — A Political Tragedy” included among such a strong selection of films.
Where do I even begin? AHRFF 2019 was truly special, a remarkable festival in every single capacity. Set in a beautiful venue, included a wonderful selection of films, very unique and diverse, and a super friendly vibe. Every single film I saw was excellent and represented the theme of having the voice-less be heard! Most impressive was the enthusiasm and creative energy surrounding the event. Not just from the organizing team of Francis Hweshe, Davison Mudzingwa, Themba Vilakazi and Neo Ramosa, who went above and beyond to accommodate me, but also from the volunteers, filmmakers and audience members alike. It was contagious and inspiring. I’ve attended many film festivals, and I’ve never been to a festival that was organized by a whole community. It was a privilege to screen there!
As an independent filmmaker, sometimes you struggle for years to get your film done. Then it gets a limited screenings and nothing else happens after that. That’s why festivals like AHRFF are so special. They restore our pride as filmmakers and smacks us back on our feet again. The instant feedback that you get from the audience refreshes your creative energy and makes you wish to get back home and start working on a new project. This festival really serves as a model on how to create a strong rapport with the community.
I was picked up by the organizers and taken on an adventure, which included getting stuck in the desert on my first night, to staying with the filmmakers at Erin Traditional Farm. The ranch was INSANE, situated in the Erin Game Ranch, south of the Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
My first taste of the festival was a workshop set up for high school students led by Neo Ramosa and I was glad to assist when asked. I honestly have to admit that it was such a humbling experience. That moment when you find yourself in front of high school kids and you have the opportunity to share your experience and knowledge with them, very rewarding indeed!
I have to give a shout out to the directors of Sew the Winter to My Skin. I’ve never seen such emotions from an audience as I witnessed with this film. This film showed me why it’s important for the us to write our own stories. A must watch and my favourite film of the festival.
It was nice to see the locals appreciating Political Tragedy and be able to share this story with the San people. The Q&A was engaging and humbling. It’s always nice to have people come up to you and say that they had no idea about King Leopold’s atrocities or that they didn’t know about the Congolese independence struggle. It’s extra nice to take that opportunity to remind people why it’s important to write our own stories, why it’s important to be the voice for the voiceless and most importantly it reminds you why you have to continue doing what you’re doing.