Joburg Film Fest - art therapy

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The Joburg film fest has come and gone, but the films have left a lasting impression. Six films (of 60), in particular, had a real impact on how I see the world. 

I enjoyed that the team was very deliberate in making the festival more accessible. Films were screened in 20 special venues across the city, most of which are of cultural and historical importance; Slovo court in Constitution Hill, Majestic Theatre in Fordsburg and Maponya mall in Soweto.

Ousmane Sembene’s 50 year old film Black girl was probably the highlight of the festival for me. Watching this film for the first time at the Constitution Hill just made sense.

“The movie explores dynamics of post colonial period through the story of Senegalese servant Diouana, who is brought to Antibes (France) by a French couple. The film progressively uncovers the particular dimensions of Diouana’s subordinate position. Her objectification both as a woman and as African is further dramatized, and her inability to speak for herself is the crux of her cultural subordination - the mark of French dominance over the African” 

The bigger issue, for me, is how incredibly relevant this movie still is in 2016; self actualization, agency and self determination of the African (or lack thereof). 

I also watched four other films; Clash by Mohamed Diab (Egypt), Lamb by Yarek Zedele (Ethiopia), The Unseen by Perivi Katjavivi (Namibia), Wulu by Daouda Coulibaly (Mali) and one documentary by Egyptian director Mahmood Soliman; we have never been kids. You can find a short synopsis of each, as described by the Film Fest team, at the end.

These films introduced or rather reintroduced a lot of demons, pain and confusion. 

I literally spent the few days post watching at home, alone….contemplating life, struggles, beauty, evil, hope and despair. No plans, no learnings, nothing….just pure sitting, absorbing and processing all those emotions. 

It is often said that art is psychic therapy. Therapy used as a personal method to exercise the shadow content of the psyche and introduce it to the conscious mind. This was definitely the case here. These films, or rather, what they represent, was a painful kind of therapy to bring forth the shadow content of the absurdity of life and how we make our way through it. 

Film synopsis.

Clash: It’s the summer of 2013 in Cairo, two years after the Egyptian revolution. In the wake of the coup of Islamist Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a police paddy wagon full of detained demonstrators roams through violent protests between Egypt’s pro-military supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood. Can the detainees, who have conflicting political and religious views, overcome their differences to stand a chance of survival?

Lamb: Ephraim is a nine-year-old Ethiopian boy. His father Abraham decides to leave their drought ridden homeland in search of work in Addis Ababa. However, he must leave his child and remaining livestock with the family of aunt Emama and her adult son, Solomon. Ephraim isn’t very good at farming, but he has a hidden talent; he is an excellent cook. One day, his uncle tells him that they have to sacrifice his sheep for the next religious feast but the young boy is ready to do everything to save his animal friend. 

The unseen: The unseen follows the story of three wandering souls as they navigate the emotional and physical realities of post-colonial Namibia. Marcus is a foreign actor tasked with portraying one of Namibia’s historical leaders. Seeking authenticity, he embarks on an earnest research mission to unveil the history of his character. Meanwhile, Anu is having trouble negotiating between his influences and identity; while a depressed Sara is uncertain of whether or not her environment provides anything worth living for. This is a collection of philosophical musings on what it means to be alive, intentionally blurring the lines between fiction and documentary with its conversational tone. 

Wulu: Ladji has been a bus driver for than 5 years but has failed to reach his goal of earning enough money to retire his sister from sex work. Tired of his dead-end job, the ambitious 20-year-old calls in a favor from a drug dealing acquittance, offering a delivery service. On his first run, while transporting cannabis and cocaine to and from Senegal in a truck that contains poultry, things don’t go as planned. Ladji however uses his smarts to save the day and makes an impression that gets him more rewarding but equally risky jobs in this fast paced drama.

We have never been kids: Nadia is trying to look after her four children, especially in the lead up to and aftermath of her divorce from their father. However, over time, the circumstances around her gradually change on all levels. The collapse around their lives reflects Egypt’s deterioration over the past few years.

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