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Rotterdam’s 39th edition to focus on African cinema

The International Film Festival Rotterdam announces a first major focus of its 39th edition: ‘Where is Africa?’ This most extensive program devoted to independent African filmmaking at any Western film festival in recent years includes new short and feature length films, live performances, historical films, storyteller's cinema, debates and a series of commissioned films by non-African filmmakers. The 39th IFFR takes places from 27 January up to 7 February 2010.

The focus on African cinema, part of the festival’s main section ‘Signals’, will concentrate on the filmmaking culture in sub-Saharan and Central parts of Africa. Festival programmer Gertjan Zuilhof, who took the initiative, about the project: "There is no real reason to do it now other than that we maybe should have done it much earlier. It is obvious that Africa is not represented at international film festivals or if so only by one or two token films. The idea was to go to the least represented countries and meet the local filmmakers. Partly, contemporary filmmaking in these countries is influenced by video and hip hop cultures. A number of artists have developed themselves into filmmakers after making music videos for their musician friends. However the films in ‘Where is Africa?’ will be most diverse in style and approach, from documentary to baroque fiction."

‘Where is Africa?’ includes of a series of events, presentations, performances, debates and screenings brought together by Alice Smits en Lee Ellickson, co-directors of the Amakula Kampala International Film Festival in Uganda. This part of the Africa focus will present short and feature length films, storyteller’s cinema (innovative live performances that combine storytelling and film), musical re-interpretations of classical African movies, works by maestro’s and pioneers of African cinema, rarely seen films from archives and events by artists who use film or video in their works or performances.

A special part of the focus will be ‘Forget Africa’. The IFFR asked twelve non-African filmmakers to get involved and, travelling through an African country of their choice, use their first impressions to each make a film. ‘Forget Africa’ will include the world premieres of commissioned films by Philipino filmmaker Khavn De la Cruz (Cameroon), Malaysian filmmaker Tan Chui Mui (South Africa), US-filmmakers Kimi Takesue (Uganda) and Deborah Stratman (Malawi), Indian-American filmmaker Pia Sawhney (Rwanda), German filmmaker Uli Schueppel and Singaporean artist Sherman Ong (Tanzania), Beijing based Philippine filmmaker Joanna Arong Vasquez and Thai artist and filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong (Zambia), Indonesian filmmaker Edwin (Kenya), US-filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson (Angola) and Austrian artist Ella Raidel (Mozambique).
Forget Africa is supported by the IFFR's Hubert Bals Fund. Other partners who back Forget Africa are the Göteborg International Film Festival and its Fund, several funds within the countries of the non-African filmmakers involved and the Goethe Institutes in Africa. On the Rotterdam festival's website, Gertjan Zuilhof blogs about his travels and meetings with filmmakers.

The IFFR will announce more focus programs as well as the lineup of its competitions, other main sections (Bright Future and Spectrum), CineMart and Hubert Bals Fund selections during the upcoming months. In 2009, the Rotterdam film festival counted 341,000 admissions and was attended by 2,500 international guests.

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