The Cambridge African Film Festival (CAFF) is the longest running festival of its kind in the United Kingdom and this year celebrating, its 15th anniversary, CAFF is partnering with the renowned Cambridge Film Festival and the prestigious University of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas to bring the best in contemporary African film as well as cherished classics to a wider audience.
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Expertly curated screenings, discussions and live events will take place from 21 to 27 October 2016 in a range of venues across the historic city of Cambridge.

We are delighted to announce that we are inviting film submissions to be considered for the Festival programme, up until 20th July 2016 – please email us on cambridgeafricanfilmfestival@gmail.com for further details.
 
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Founded in 2002 by a small group of graduate students at the University of Cambridge, CAFF is dedicated to promoting African and black culture, providing a UK audience for African filmmakers and offering an important counterbalance to the Western media’s stereotyping of Africa.

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It is run by a dedicated group of volunteers from diverse interest, academic and professional backgrounds who share a common passion for African film and culture.

More details about the 2016 Festival and Programme can be found via the tab above, and details from previous festivals available in the archive.

This year the Cambridge African Film Festival (CAFF), which was directed for the second consecutive year by Estrella Sendra, focused on the intertwining themes of love, music and resistance. The programme showcased nine fiction films, two short films and two documentary films coming from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan. It also featured Q&As with experts, workshops, live music, and a tribute to Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène.

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About “From Africa, with Love”

“From Africa, With Love” was a programme of African cinema that took place from October 2015 to November 2015 across the UK, as part of the BFI LOVE Blockbuster Season, in partnership with Plusnet, which sought to present a number of both classic and contemporary films about romantic love on the African continent. The programme was a collaborative effort between the five African film festivals in the UK: Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival in Scotland; Film Africa in London; Afrika Eye in Bristol; Watch-Africa in Wales; and the Cambridge African Film Festival (CAFF), with Africa in Motion taking responsibility for administering the logistics and finances of the project. The project came about as a means to augment and diversify the wider Love Blockbuster programme by presenting a number of films within the programmes of the five film festivals, as well as making these films available to other venues and hubs during the Love season. Through a collaborative programming process, we selected 8 African films that focused on the theme of love in a variety of ways, and grouped these into three overarching themes:

LOVE BREWED IN AN AFRICAN POT

This theme sought to rekindle date night in a romantic dine-and-view setting. Films that were screened in this strand included:

-Jenna Cato Bass’ quirky Love the One You Love (South Africa, 2014)

-Hermon Hailay’s Price of Love (Ethiopia, 2015)

LOVE IN CONFLICT

This strand looked at love in times of adversity, and included:

-Mark Dornford-May’s Breathe Umphefumlo (South Africa, 2015)

-Miklas Manneke’s Kanyekanye (South Africa, 2013)

ROMANTIC VIEWS

This strand explored the cultural perceptions and interpretations of love across Africa, looking at religion, class, tradition and the collision with modernity, and the unique place of love in African life, manifested in marriage, dowries, courting rituals, and the challenges of unconventional love. Films included:

-Djibril Diop Mambety’s Hyenas (Senegal, 1992)

-Youssef Chahine’s Cairo Station (Egypt, 1958)

-Jim Chuchu’s Stories of our Lives (2014)

-Zeze Gamboa’s O Grand Kilapy (Angola, 2012)

Overall, the programme was very successful. In particular, all of the Dine and View events across the five festivals were sold-out and much enjoyed by attendees. A number of other screenings saw significant audience turnout, while some screenings struggled to get audiences. This is not unexpected as these kinds of African films do not usually have a large viewership, and although positive developments in this regard can be witnessed in some of the more successful events of this programme, achieving consistently good attendance is part of a longer-term project of developing reliable audiences. The programme also saw the successful collaboration of the five African film festivals in a way that works towards the strengthening of the network for future initiatives, and which was developed previously through the BFI-funded South African film tour last year. The longer-term impact of the programme saw the successful exposure of African cinema to UK audiences in order to continue developing an interest in and demand for African cinema amongst UK audiences.

The five participating film festivals have worked extensively in their respective regions in recent years to increase this demand, and believe firmly that there is room for expansion. This “From Africa, With Love” project facilitated the reaching of audiences with an interest in the theme of ‘love’, who may not ordinarily have a specific interest in African film. This expanded the festivals’ reach beyond their typical viewership and contributed to overcoming the marginalisation of African cinema in UK film culture going forward.

CAFF benefitted greatly from taking part in this collaborative project, as not only did it enrich the programme with a large number of screenings that would not have been otherwise funded, but it also provided enjoyable parallel events, such as the already mentioned ‘Dine & View’.

As part of this section, CAFF screened five titles, including South African fiction film Love the One you Love (2014, Jenna Cato Bass), as the opening night film, followed by a wine and food reception with live music with Tanzanian singer Kyazin Lugangira; the classic Egyptian film Cairo Station (1958, Youssef Chahine); the award-winning Ethiopian film Price of Love (2014, Hermon Hailay) in a romantic ‘Dine & View’ setting, co-organised with Menelik Education; the Kenyan film Stories of Our Lives (2014, Jim Chuchu); and O Grande Kilapy (2012, Angola-Portugal, Zézé Gamboa), a rarely shown Lusophone film which does not just revolve around love, but also music and resistance. Since the year 2015 also marked the 40th anniversary of independence in the five African Portuguese-speaking countries, the latter film was selected for the closing evening of the festival,  followed by an African fashion show hosted by Congolese model Lisette Mibo’s charity Passion for Motherland, and a concert by Senegalese band Abdoulaye Samb & Minnjiaraby.

Read our CAFF 2015 for much more information!

Read our MEDIA Book to see the media coverage of our festival, including BBC Cambridge, Cambridge TV, and international publications.

Watch some videos of CAFF 2015 in our Vimeo Channel. 

See all photos in our Flickr.

See you in CAFF 2016! More news regarding the next edition soon!

By Robin Steedman

On October 2nd, 2014 the Kenya Film Classification Board banned Stories of Our Lives from being distributed, exhibited, or broadcast within Kenya on the basis that it “has obscenity, explicit scenes of sexual activities and it promotes homosexuality which is contrary to our national norms and values.” The narrative surrounding this film was thus forever changed.

When we met in Nairobi the producer, Wangechi Ngugi, told me that producingStories of Our Lives was a “dream come true” because her goal as a filmmaker is to “tell stories that open up dialogue” on taboo subjects and “to get people to start talking.” The fact that this very conversation was banned from happening ironically shows just how necessary it is in contemporary Kenya. The beauty of the five shorts that make up the film is that they are explorations of themes as human and familiar as love, desire, and loss. In effect, the message is that queer Kenyans are not so different from other Kenyans. This may seem trite, but in a country where homosexuality is still illegal and its ‘spread’ is actively feared by some (as we see in the final short film) the point that understanding and tolerance is possible, is of fundamental importance.

The film conveys its message through a sequence of five short films shot in an almost over-exposed black and white. Ask Me Nicely depicts a teenage love affair between two girls. They face harassment because of their sexuality, but they also contend with commonplace teenage struggles about fitting in and finding yourself. This theme is echoed in the next short Run, as it is about a young man discovering Nairobi’s underground gay club scene and starting to explore his own desires whether or not they conform to what his friends see as socially acceptable. Athman is a heart-breaking piece on one-sided love. Here two young best friends must cope with the fact they love each other in different and irreconcilable ways.

The film has light-hearted moments as well as serious ones, and a particularly striking moment of levity occurs in Duet when Jeff (Mugambi Nthiga) corrects his hired lover that he is not just from Africa, but specifically from Kenya. The final short,Each Night I Dream, is the most political story of the film and it interweaves local mythology and contemporary religious politics into a powerful and poetic statement about belonging and what exactly it means to be African if homosexuality is ‘un-African.’ Each of the short films is a simple snap shot of one moment in time, but together they form a nuanced and multi-faceted portrait of lives in contemporary Kenya that so often remain unseen and unspoken about.

On October 1st, 2015 the Nest Collective released a book called Stories of Our Lives: Queer Narratives From Kenya that includes many of the 250 stories that they collected from across Kenya in 2013. I can only hope that this book, made from the same stories and with the same spirit of openness and inclusivity, can open the dialogue that the film has been prevented from starting in Kenya.

Stories of Our Lives is part of ‘From Africa, with Love’
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