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When Sembene Ousmane, the late grandfather of the African moving picture, described cinema as evening classes, he couldn’t have envisaged how many schools would emerge throughout Europe. Today, several European nations host more than one African film festival or major cultural event, reflecting Europe’s growing curiosity in an alternative, authentic view of Africa, while capturing Africa’s desire for self-expression.
Many of these festivals started as student or basement projects but have developed into major cultural galas. From Galway to Poznan, Cordoba to Wuerzburg, Africa is charming communities throughout Europe and strengthening its Diaspora. The African Courier brings you a list of 12 of the best African festivals in Europe.
1. FESTIVAL CINEMA AFRICANO
Spread across five cities in Italy’s fashion capital, the Festival Cinema Africano screens more than 100 African films. The Festival Centre also organises arts exhibitions, children’s events and live music.
The only African film festival in Central and Eastern Europe, AfryKamera was founded in 2006 to broaden the horizons of African cinema beyond the remains of the Berlin Wall. Due to enact its 7th edition this year, the festival starts in Warsaw but also organises screenings in Krakow, Poznan, Lodz, Torun and Konin.
3. GALWAY AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
(Galway, Ireland )
A latecomer to the scene (founded in 2008), the Galway African Film Festival has already shown intent as a last-minute bloomer, bringing big-name directors and producers to its first three festivals. Keep an eye out for future rumblings.
4. AFRO-PFINGSTEN FESTIVAL
Now more than 20 years old, Switzerland’s largest African and world music gathering sells out year after year. Quaint yet quintessential, this laid-back festival, which regularly screens African films, is popular with younger crowds.
5. FESTIVAL DE CINE AFRICANO
Perhaps enchanted by its mirror image of North Africa, the African Film Festival has gone from strength to strength in recent screenings, becoming a dynamic and leading player in bringing rarely seen African films to Southern Spanish shores. The festival was held from 2004 during the spring in Tarifa, but will now take place every autumn in Córdoba, “a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 2,000 years of history, cradle of civilizations and cultures”.
6. AFRICA FESTIVAL
Wuerzburg’s Africa Festival is the largest annual gathering of African music and culture in Europe (nearly two million people have attended the festival so far.
If you want to hear the red-earth-moving rhythms of Papa Wemba or Amadou & Mariam, then make your way to Wuerzburg in May. If you can’t make it, Arte(TV) usually broadcasts live concerts and highlights. Certainly worth a visit for the unbelievable line-up; add the film screenings, bazaar and the extensive children’s programmes, and Wuerzburg can legitimately claim to be Africa’s largest cultural gathering in Europe.
7. MUSIQUES METISSES
While not strictly focused on Africa, Musiques Metisses may, like Wuerzburg, lay claim to be the largest annual jamboree of African music in Europe. The list of last year’s performers reads like a who’s who of current African music pioneers: Tiken Jah Fakoly, Seun Kuti, Boubacar Traoré and many more. This African extravaganza in the Bordeaux region also offers the chance to catch up on African cinema and literature, with film screenings and readings from across the continent.
8. CARTHAGE FILM FESTIVAL
Something is wrong, I hear keen map-readers scream. It’s okay, I’m aware I’m cheating slightly on my geographical boundaries, but with the winds of change sweeping through North Africa, what better time to visit and witness the revolution catching up on itself at this biannual film fest, the largest in Africa.
Situated in the ancient city of Carthage and bathed by the Gulf of Tunis, some 50 films compete every two years for the golden Tanit d’or. Expect African and Middle Eastern cineastes to rise and descend from all corners for a fortnight of gala events and razmatazz.
9. AFRIKAEYE FILM FESTIVAL
The watershed cinema in Bristol hosts this three-day African film-event, bringing Sembene Ousmane’s ‘evening classes’ to South West England. AfrikaEye “aims to offer an insight into African culture both on and beyond the screen.”
10. CAMBRIDGE AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
Similar to Africa in Motion but older and further south in another university city, the Cambridge African Film Festival has been showcasing African films since 2002. Past guests include Ian Gabriel, while the range and depth of talks highlights this festival as one for the intellectual.
11. AFRICA IN THE PICTURE
(Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
The oldest African film festival in Europe, Africa in the Picture brings contemporary and classic African films to several Amsterdam cinemas in July. The festival then reopens a couple of months later for a second chance to view screenings (open-air!) in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.
12. AFRICA IN MOTION
Based at the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh, Africa in Motion is one of Europe’s leading exponents of African cinema. Recent themes have focused strongly on children and memory, while guests have included the guerrilla-filmmaker, Jean-Marie Teno.
The festivals tours the Scottish highlands each year, locking lads and lasses to the hottest and latest African films and music.
– The African Courier