By Florence Gichoya
The Lusaka film festival was the best I have ever attended so far. This could be because the organizers made a very good movies selection which focused on issues affecting African countries that have experienced conflict and human rights abuse.
They were thought provocative films that challenged the status quo. They addressed topics many Africans and their leaders are not ready to discuss.
It was however interesting to learn that all the screened movies had producers and directors who were not Africans. However they did a good job in telling the African story nevertheless.
There were featured countries that stood out for me, for instance Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia and Central Africa Republic.
What ails DRC?
There was the film Blood in the mobile (2010) which is a documentary on how Mobile phones companies are getting minerals from conflict areas for cellphone making. The film director Frank Piasecki Poulsen traveled to DRC in Bisie area located in North Kivu province where there is illegal mining of Cassiterite which is used in making mobile phones. Bisie is a conflict area and the mines are guarded by rebels. The miners also include children and many die in when the illegal mines collapse.
After the director affirmed that it’s true he confronted his cellphone company Nokia if it was using casserite mined from conflict areas. The mobile giant refused to give a statement. In fact as the movie concluded we learnt that there is no mobile phone that is ascertained if it is free of conflict related minerals. I wanted to throw away my cell phone after watching the film.
It is appalling to learn that the conflict in DRC and other problems arising due to political instability are very complex. There are some countries and multinationals who participate in fueling conflict so that the country remains ungovernable making it possible for looting the vast minerals. The other films on DRC were Enjoy Poverty and Murder in Kinshasa, they were on the historical injustices and human rights violations that the people of DRC go through.
Iron Ladies of Liberia
In 2011 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Gbowee from Liberia won the Nobel peace prize in 2011, the prize was also shared with Tawakul Karman from Yemen. As the first woman president in Africa, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was familiar to the Africans but many were not aware of the great role played by Leymah Gbowee in mobilizing Liberian women from different ethnic and religious backgrounds to pressure the men to stop the civil war that had plagued the country for many years.
The film Pray the Devil Back to Hell illustrates the role of women participation in peace building. There was also the film Iron Ladies of Liberia which documented President Sirleaf’s 1st year in power and the challenges that she faced in rebuilding the country where all systems had collapsed. My highlight of the movie was, after her inauguration in 2006 the Liberia Police did not have guns! But a lot has changed since then.
I was dismayed after watching The Ambassador which was set in Central Africa Republic (CAR). It tells the story of a Danish Journalist Mads Brügger who goes undercover to expose the corruption in the continent. He buys diplomatic passport and documents from Liberia and goes ahead to represent the country in CAR as its consul. He pretends to establish a matchsticks factory while trying to smuggle diamonds. It’s clear in the movie that he’s endangering his life, he also has a sense of humour as he refers to bribe as “envelopes of happiness”.
At the film festival 24 films were screened. The film festival was organized by Charity Maruta the regional director of Video Fair Company. Charity said that this is the first film festival in Zambia. Its main objective is for the edutainment purposes. “For some reasons we think the west will save us which is not the case, we wanted to provoke people and show the status quo hasn’t changed at all” she said.
After the good turnout and positive feedback from the audience The Video Fair company plans to have an annual festival every year.