There's no shortage of festivals in the world and with an increasing array of diverse programs and sidebars to choose from, covering an enormous breadth of cinema, it is a little surprising that the bod of work of an entire continent is still largely unsung on the global film stage.
Well the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) aims to put an end to that. Yesterday, SIFF announced that it has been awarded a significant grant from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in support of a three-year program designed to highlight the "diverse and burgeoning hotbed of filmmaking activity emerging across the continent of Africa." It's high time that a major festival devoted some real attention to this neglected area of international cinema so this comes as very welcome news.
Read on for SIFF's full press release:
Seattle, WA, November 20, 2012 - SIFF is excited to announce that it is the 2012 recipient of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences multiyear grant for its "African Pictures" program to be presented during the annual Seattle International Film Festival. SIFF will receive a total of $150,000 over a three-year period to showcase the diverse and burgeoning hotbed of filmmaking activity emerging across the continent of Africa. This grant will give SIFF an unprecedented opportunity as a major international film festival to showcase a substantive program of indigenous films from Africa.
"Thanks to the Academy's significant support of our "African Pictures" program", says SIFF Artistic Director Carl Spence," SIFF will be able to dig deep across the African continent and greatly expand on our previous efforts in the region that we have been working on for several years." Past African films that have received their North American Premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival include: TEY (Senegal, 2012); OTELO BURNING (South Africa, 2011) and SPUD (South Africa, 2010); and IMANI (Uganda, 2009). Starting at SIFF 2013 (May 16 - June 09, 2013), a minimum of ten African feature films a year will be presented at the Seattle International Film Festival throughout the course of the three-year program.
SIFF Programmer Dustin Kaspar is currently travelling in Africa, attending the Durban International Film Festival (July 2012), Cairo International Film Festival (December 2012) and FESPACO (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, February 2013). His presence in Africa and at these film festivals will afford an opportunity to build industry relationships and deepen SIFF's programming while also facilitating a greater awareness of the treasures of contemporary African cinema to a broader audience in the United States.
Visiting African filmmakers will be invited to attend and engage with other filmmaking delegates from around the world and interact with audiences following their film screenings. SIFF will also provide complimentary tickets to educators and their students to participate and attend screenings at the Festival in addition to taking filmmakers into classrooms around the region as part of SIFF's FutureWave education outreach program for K-12 and University students.
Seattle is a multicultural city with inhabitants from hundreds of cities throughout the globe. With a diverse immigrant population from countries such as Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and neighboring countries who are living in the Greater Seattle area, comes an increased need to not only understand, but also appreciate, the cultures that influence the city. "African Pictures" will benefit festival-goers directly as well as provide a deeper understanding of indigenous issues and of important sociopolitical concerns on the African continent. The ambition and scope of "African Pictures" promotes cultural discourse through the medium of film and perfectly matches with SIFF's mission to create experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world. It is through the art of cinema that we foster a community that is more informed, aware, and alive.