It is incomprehensible that the Audiovisual Fund doubts the relevance of the Africa Film Festival for Flemish film culture

It is incomprehensible that the Audiovisual Fund doubts the relevance of the Africa Film Festival for Flemish film culture
It is incomprehensible that the Audiovisual Fund doubts the relevance of the Africa Film Festival for Flemish film culture
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It’s my birthday this week and this year it feels different because I’m saying goodbye to my life in my thirties. I resolve not to dwell too much on my personal dreams and professional ambitions that I have not (yet) been able to realize. I’m also not going to grieve too much about the setbacks on my life path. One of the things that makes me proud today is the evolution of my worldview, and especially my thinking about Africa.

In the 1990s I grew up in Flanders, where a stereotypical image of the African continent severely limited my view. It was so bad that as a teenager I felt a fear of that Africa that was presented by Europeans as a place of only poverty and war. I take the East African country of Rwanda as an example, where the genocide broke out exactly thirty years ago. At the beginning of April 1994 I turned ten years old. I remember the gruesome TV images of the massacres. The black lifeless bodies on the street. The machetes. The power of the reporting made me associate Rwanda only with genocide, and with the simple story that one ‘African tribe’ wanted to exterminate another ‘African tribe’. As if the international community, and specifically Belgium as a former colonizer, bears no responsibility.

That simplistic image has been adjusted over the past twenty years thanks to the Africa Film Festival. The festival has already focused on Rwandan society, the war, the consequences for Rwandans and the reconstruction of a torn country in dozens of screenings.

I got to know the festival when I was studying in Leuven. A new world opened up for me. Finally I saw stories told by Africans themselves on the (big) screen. Every year, directors, actors and actresses from the African continent and the diaspora descend on Leuven. They are given a large stage to share their passion and obstacles, while the Belgian mainstream film industry pays little or no attention to them. To my surprise, I recently learned that the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF) is ending its subsidies to the Africa Film Festival. Ending this financial support threatens to bring the curtain down.

It is incomprehensible that the VAF doubts the relevance of the festival for Flemish film culture. For almost thirty years, the Africa Film Festival has made room for quality (European) African films and various talented Afro voices such as Baloji and Nadège Bibo-Tansia. The festival opposes the often stereotypical European view of Africa, its inhabitants and its diaspora.

As with all long-term initiatives, there is a need for rejuvenation and innovation. But that is precisely a reason to keep investing. I think about how the festival has enriched my worldview and I hope that many other Flemish people can continue to experience this too. That’s why I’m not asking family, friends and acquaintances for birthday gifts this week, but rather a donation for ‘Support African Voices’, the crowdfunding campaign for the next edition of the Africa Film Festival (April 19-30).

The article is in Dutch

Tags: incomprehensible Audiovisual Fund doubts relevance Africa Film Festival Flemish film culture

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