The Redemption Festival By Jean-Marie Mollo Olinga
in 8th Zanzibar International Film Festival
Zanzibar, an island in the Indian ocean, covering a surface area of 1658 square kilometres with a population of 800.000 inhabitants, was occupied in 1509 by the Portuguese. It was very prosperous during the reign of Sultan Kharidjites of Oman who took over from the Portuguese. This however dropped with the suppression of slave trade in 1873. After passing through British protectorate in 1890, the island (then a Sultanate) got its independence in 1963. It became a Republic in 1964 and merged up with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Meanwhile Zanzibar still preserved its government.
Having been the regional crossroads for slave trade, the island still has the stigma and remnants of this which attracts so many tourists. Muslims and Christians, Arabs, Indians, Europeans, Americans and Africans, whites, blacks, yellows, half casts, all come in peaceful contact on the narrow lanes of this museum with an open sky. Is it thus by chance that the Old Fort is the epicentre of a festival which for the past eight years entertains with increasing success the flame of the seventh art?
What a crazy bet to organise a film festival in an environment where three quarters of the spectators are expatriates, and a city which does not have even a single film hall! What does it matter! ZIFF takes place in the open air by night and in the hall of the Africa House hotel by day, to the great pleasure of Asians, Europeans, Americans and Africans who are the main animators of the festival. The wish of the organisers is to promote films of their continent by projecting them as well as get in contact with those of elsewhere. The East African region needs it not only for the evolution of its own cinematography, but especially as the window, or better still the screen for its culture. This is why along side film projections symposiums and seminars are also associated with the manifestation, thus that of cinematography criticism animated by the local population.
This year, 80 films were in competition, of which 57 were full length films (features and documentaries), and 23 were short. The public massively attended and in this way contributed to this festival through which it is believed the seventh art was redeemed in this part of the world. In eight editions, a lot has been done though a lot still has to be done and the path to cover is still very long. Those wishing to go through have to prepare their saddle.