EXCELLENT FILMS AND BETTER AMBIENCE

Mary Wright writing in The Express in July described the 2004 Zanzibar Film Festival (ZIFF) in glowing terms. Extracts:
How to define or explain the charm of this island, in particular of Stone Town? On your left: ancient white-painted palaces whence the sultans used to rule, and mosques and old forts fringed with palm trees; on your right: speeding minibuses, bicycles, motorbikes and landcruisers; beyond them the quayside where fishermen are sitting or distributing their catch against the background of the blue ocean…… One feels the influence of an ancient civilisation, its calm and confidence’..….Over four and a half days I saw 21 films, including five short ones, two interrupted by mosquitoes and one cut off by power failure. All were of high quality in their production and all had something to say…The film which won the silver award; “Gardiens de la Memoire”, about the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, although it consisted mainly of interviews with survivors, was striking not only because of the subject but also because of the trauma of the individual speakers. Another excellent film containing many interviews was “Memories of Rain”. It concerns the lives of two people who had been underground members of the ANC in South Africa….The only other filmmaker I met over these festival days was a lady from Kenya, Sonal Tyagi, who’d made the film “The Ivory Orphans”. Such a beautiful subject and quite amazing, the process of persuading orphaned baby elephants to adapt and form a bond first with their human keepers, then, when it was time, with a group of elephants in Tsavo Game Reserve and get themselves accepted by these. Again, the short film about the lioness who adopted an oryx calf (inspiring local Christians to believe that God was about to return) was both beautiful and tragic (“Heart of a Lioness”, Kenya).
Across the road from the film screenings were the open-air musical events, making a joyful noise indeed. Hordes of folk, not just youngsters and certainly not just tourists, made their way to sit beside the sea and hear these rampaging, wild musicians… People drifted back late at night along the footpath by the quay; not least of the pleasures of Stone Town is that apparently one is perfectly safe walking about no matter what hour of day or night.
I just have to talk about two outstanding entries whose memory remains with me: the Iranian film “Women’s Prison” and the Senegalese one “Madame Brouette”. To take the latter, gayer one first, this was a riot of colour and action; all sorts of mayhem and corruption but also friendship, solidarity, love. It had already won many prizes and its sequences were superbly put together. As for the Iranian film, the projection room was packed for it and it’s difficult to explain the fascination of this story which took place over 17 years.
As a total experience this seventh ZIFF festival was marvellous, I just can’t wait to go again. The setting is primordial. An ideal home for the international flavour of the Ziff festival.

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