Activist advocates for regional film integration

This article by Richmore Tera Arts Correspondent was published by the Zimbabwean The Herald on Thursday, 24 November 2011 reporting on the International Images Film Festival in Zimbabwe.

VISITING Namibian film practitioner and African films activist Hans-Christian Mahnke has challenged African filmmakers and audiences to use local films as a vehicle for regional integration. Mahnke, who is currently in the country for the ongoing International Images Film Festival where he is one of the judges, said societies in the region and the continent at large would improve if the film industries of the various countries adopted a common stance.

"We are societies who have similar cultures and backgrounds, and hence if the region integrates our film markets and the cultural exchange will be enriched," Mahnke said.

Mahnke, who is the director and chairperson of the Africavenir board of Namibia, said this would be achieved if Africans had better access to watch their own African films.

"I think it is unfair for Africans not to watch their own movies while the very same films are busy touring other parts of the world.

"We need to create a screening culture within our region and continent, educate the audience that there is cinema culture in their area and at the end of the day local filmmakers will have a market to sell their films.

‘It is crucial that locals (Africans) watch their own stuff otherwise the dominance of Western films will never be counter-balanced," he said.

Mahnke urged filmmakers to push for quality films to reach African audience.
"I am a film activist and I believe in pushing for good quality films to be brought to the audience. I believe in African films for African audiences, films that are entertaining as well as being a tool for educating the masses," said the 33-year-old practitioner.

"In Namibia we run a show which is a film series called ‘African Perspectives' and it is basically there to showcase and celebrate great African cinema. The aim is to give access to the Namibian audience to see African movies because the whole process is the decolonisation of the screens to create an African renaissance whereby films can be used to liberate our minds and society," he said.

Mahnke, who was born in New York 33 years ago to German parents and whose wife is Namibian, said he was very honoured to be invited to Zimbabwe as one of the judges at the film festival.

"I am very honoured, I was invited to be part of the judges last year but unfortunately the festival here coincided with the Namibian Film Festival and Awards and it interfered with IIFF.

"But I am glad that this year I made it and answered to the call of the festival," he said.

Mahnke, who is also the vice-chairman of the Filmmakers Association of Namibia, commended Zimbabwe for its vibrant film industry.

"Zimbabwe is obviously bigger than Namibia in terms of its longer tradition of filmmaking, its output and film schools. I think it (Zimbabwe) has a longer experience with the film industry and I remember that some Namibians were trained in Harare in the 1990s.

"The Zimbabwean society is also bigger and has a great potential of making a bigger film industry.

"However, lack of funding is a challenge in both countries unlike some countries who have managed to pull it off and and are now enjoying the benefits of the industry," he said.

He also congratulated the International Images Film Festival upon attaining a decade in filmmaking and promotion as well as filmmaker and novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga for her contribution to the Zimbabwean film and literary sector.

Mahnke holds a Masters of Arts Degree in Political Science.

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