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Durban Fest, AfriDocs Throws Spotlight on Local Nonfiction Pics

Documentary filmmaker Don Edkins is at the helm of the Durban Festival’s Finance Forum, mentoring a selection of 10 documentary projects from South Africa, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and Mozambique.

Subjects range from the history of 1970s funk in Durban (“Afterglow” by Amber Lalloo) to violent crime in Cape Town (“Alison” by Amy Nelson and Uga Carlini), gender issues affected by the uprisings in Egypt (“Egyptian Jeanne d’Arc” by Iman Kamela and Talal al-Muhaaan), contemporary dance in Rwanda (“In Search of African Duende: the Uganda Flamenco Project” by Caroline Kamya), and torture and memory in Mozambique (“Kula: a Memory in Three Acts” by Inadelso Cossa).

The projects were selected early in 2014. Over the past two months, Edkins has worked with the filmmakers to develop ideas to a point at which they can be pitched to film funds, broadcasters and producers attending the film market.

“There is a huge need to support African filmmakers in professional production and distribution. That is the only way we are going to grow the market and grow the talent,” says Edkins, whose films include “Why Democracy?” (2007) and “Why Poverty?” (2012). “Too many films on African subjects have been made by filmmakers from other parts of the world. And we need to change that. We need to be able to have the stories made by African filmmakers and get those stories out.”

To meet the challenge Edkins has taken a bold step, launching Afridocs, the first weekly primetime skein channel dedicated to documentaries to air in sub-Saharan Africa.

Every Tuesday night on Channel ED (DStv channel 190) and GOtv (channel 65), AfriDocs broadcasts top African documentaries to 49 countries by satellite, and terrestrially to an additional 100 cities in 8 countries.

AfriDocs’ launch coincides with the Durban festival. A total of 25 documentaries from 13 countries across Africa will be shown, including seven that form part of the official festival program.

There will also be an outside broadcast from the festival each day consisting of interviews with African filmmakers and film critics.

“Finally, African audiences are going to be able to see what people haven’t been able to see before,” Edkins said.

Edkins confesses his negative feelings about foreign filmmakers, non-Africans, jetting in from the outside to make stories with limited appeal to Africans themselves.

“I think the stories coming out of Africa are the ones that African audiences want to see,” Edkins says.  Africans want to see their filmmakers making interventions. They are not looking for depressing stories. But they are looking to unravel the difficulties and the complexities of the continent.

“A Nigerian writer came up with the phrase ‘Africa is not one story,’ and it’s very relevant.”

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