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Femme helmers unite in African fest

Women of the Sun event gathers pan-continental filmmakers

Twenty-three female African filmmakers will gather in South Africa this week for the Women of the Sun Film Festival, which organizers hope will raise the exposure of femme helmers on the continent.

Fest, which kicked off Sept. 2 and runs through Sept. 9, marks the first time that female filmmakers from across the continent are gathered under the same roof to showcase their works and confront some of the challenges facing them.

“There’s not much that people know about women making movies (in Africa),” said fest director Eve Rantseli, adding that the festival was created “to prove that … women are making films, and in many circumstances are participating at a high level within filmmaking.”

Rantseli said that organizers were initially met with skepticism in the South African film community. “In South Africa, (film) is perceived as a white male domain,” she said. Many “wondered if there would be enough content by women filmmakers” for a festival.

The program dispels those doubts.

Included in the fest are films by South Africa’s Jyoti Mistry, Sudan’s Tagreed Elsanhouri, Burkina Faso’s Fanta Nacro, Algeria’s Djamila Sahraoui, Zimbabwe’s Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Angola’s first female feature filmmaker, Maria Joao Ganga. Kenya’s Hawa Essuman opens the festival with festival hit “Soul Boy,” produced by German director Tom Tywker.

Along with screenings, Rantseli said she hoped the festival would “start opening up ways of working together” for women filmmakers. She highlighted the importance of African filmmakers partnering with one another for co-productions, and learning to utilize available distribution networks.

Already the festival has secured a deal with South African pubcaster SABC to license some of the films screened this week.

For Rantseli, though, the long-term vision is to “inspire (women) to make more films. … That’s what will keep the festival going.”

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