Tanzania: Plenty On Offer As ZIFF’s Journey Carries On

It has been a week of films at the 19th edition of the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) as filmmakers and ordinary folks' paths crossed.

On the opening day anticipation was high as the local population continued with an extended celebration of the Eid festivities.

Parks around the Stone Town area were full of activities as the journey into over 80 films kicked off on Saturday night.

Having kicked off on July 9 at the Ngome Kongwe Amphitheatre, film lovers were afforded an opportunity to watch some hilarious works of creativity at the festival including some films that have never been seen before.

The Ngome Kongwe area has indeed been a busy place as guests swarm the area from almost every corner of the world.

Some have come for the so-called high season and others just specifically for the film festival, something that further reaffirms ZIFF's reputation as one of the best festivals in Africa.

It has been a scene where the high and mighty have interacted with a most notable presence of Bollywood's Kunal Kapoor who is the chief guest.

Discussions that have ensued during the week on the state of film making across the continent have been really interesting.

The filmmaker believes that it was about time the arts department can follow where other forms of trade that India has enjoyed with Tanzania for several centuries.

According to him there has to be a deliberate effort to make the industry a commercial entity.

"The film industry is one of the largest entities in India but we had to struggle for the government to recognise us as an industry and not just some form of art," he says.

He says that for this to flourish there has to be the relevant infrastructure that supports and attracts filmmakers to a destination like Tanzania and Zanzibar in particular.

"When film makers travel across the world they are looking for attractiveness not only in terms of scenes but economically as well," says Kapoor.

According to him, a lot of countries offer tax rebates which are a major factor that decide when choosing where a film will be shot.

"I have been shooting in Romania and even when they don't offer me a tax cut Romania is still cheaper than shooting in India," he says.

He sees film as an important tool in marketing the country as not only a tourist destination but also as a filming centre.

His was just part of the discussion that was to follow with presentations from the Chinese film industry, the Valleta Film Festival and even the United Nations.

Bongo movies missing in action

But even as some of these touchy conversations with the film making fraternity revealed lots of details about how the nascent Tanzanian industry can navigate towards the future, something was rather amiss.

Tanzanian filmmakers save for those from the Diaspora like Ekwa Msangi were suspiciously absent something that seemed to awe the over 30 directors from elsewhere.

According to festival director it was rather a shame that there were not many Tanzanians at the festival.

"It is true that we don't have many Tanzanians coming for the festivals, this is a place where they are supposed to watch films and learn something and network," said Prof Mhando.

He says this festival offers a realistic opportunity for local filmmakers to meet new people because filmmaking is all about people.

" It is something that has continued to bother me for a very long time and sometimes I am at a loss of what to say. Most of them come at the dying hours of the festival which to me is a lost opportunity," says Prof Mhando.

He adds that by not attending the festival they are missing out on golden opportunities and platforms that the festival provides.

"At the end of the day it comes down to the basics of the profession because as you grapple with issues of budget, here they would learn how others have managed to raise huge funds to cover their budgets," he says.

He adds that this industry involves several departments and the best place to meet them and learn how to work with them is at such festivals.

"There is no industry that can exist in isolation because you have to work with people with different expertise," says the director who is in the twilight of his tenure at the helm of the festival.

Bongo movies will be showing today in a special category that showcases films that are made in Tanzania and later vie for the awards on the closing ceremony.

Performances

As the norm has been for several years now film was linked with music at the end of every screening at the Mambo Club.

Special themed nights such as the reggae night, Bongo Flava night, the divas' night and many more were on offer.

Though this has been part of the major attraction at the festival for a very long time, timing restrictions was a major put off for most revelers.

According to the authorities performances were supposed to close by 1am leaving revelers still itching for more entertainment.

Salma Hassan has been attending the festival for the past six years and she thinks the time restriction is denying them the opportunity to experience an event that only takes place once a year.

"It is true that is the law but there are times when certain situations require special treatments as well.

Businesses around the area too are yet to benefit from the festival as they believe they are not making the bumper sales like they did in the past.

Samson Manase operates a curio shop around the Old Fort but he says he is yet to see any difference.

The festival continues until Sunday with the award night taking place tomorrow night.

Source: The Citizen