Black ire at S. Africa fest

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The second Southern African Intl. Film Festival in Cape Town hit a sour note on Thursday when black filmmakers from across the continent claimed the event was geared mainly for whites and that their own needs weren’t being met.

“We are being used as window dressing to promote white ideology,” veteran Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima told an impromptu meeting of about 100 disgruntled Africans at a Cape Town tavern. Most of the product being promoted at the five-day market, he claimed, was that of white filmmakers “who are already dripping with power.”

He labeled some of the movies being screened at the market — made by white South Africans — as “racist” and “an insult to black people.”

“Blacks feel excluded from the market,” Gerima said to enthusiastic applause from his audience. “The organizers have a neo-colonial attitude.”

Still, even the critics agreed that the Cape Town film market, which this year has attracted 1,500 delegates from 43 countries, was essential for the revitalization of cinema in Africa. “We need it to be able to sell our images to the rest of the world,” Zimbabwean filmmaker Isaac Mabhikwa said.

Market chief executive officer John Stodel said he regretted the black filmmakers didn’t invite him to participate in their discussion.

Among international companies represented at the market are Paramount, Columbia Tri-Star, the BBC, Britain’ Channel Four, CBC, Discovery Channel, as well as numerous broadcasters and distributors from across Africa.

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