To: The Staff, Board Members, Trustees, Advisors and Sponsors of the DC ‘International’ Film Festival
From: Sylvie Bello, Washington, DC
Re: Africa at the Washington, DC ‘International’ Film Festival
My name is Sylvie Bello. I am a Gold Member of the DC Film Society and at the request of the DC Film Society, I volunteered during the 2010 Washington DC ‘International’ Film Festival. I was very happy to make my small contribution in enriching our great city’s cultural life.
I’d like to say how much I enjoyed the films shown at this year’s Film Festival. However, I was
disappointed in the lack of variety of films representing the African Diaspora/Black experience.
To my count, I could only identify Six (6) of such films out of over 80 films screened in 2010. These include: ‘Soundtrack of the Revolution’ (USA), ‘Holding on to Jah’ (USA), ‘Moloch Tropical’ (Haiti), ‘Heliopolis’ (Egypt) ‘Scheherezade, Tell me a Story’ (Egypt) and ‘White Wedding’ (South Africa). Of these films ONLY ONE FILM: “White Wedding” (South Africa) was from the entire Sub-Saharan African region.
To put things in perspective, at the 2010 Festival, the entire African continent with over fifty (50) countries- had only three (3) films screened; the country of Finland had three (3) films screened, the country of Brazil had three (3) films screened. Then we have Germany with seven (7) films and France with (14) films! When we include films from the 2010 highlights Romania six (6) and Italy nine (9), we have a total of 39 film from Europe alone (as many as five other European countries represented at the 2010 Festival are not included in this 39 total). Implying that, while Africa had only 3 films, Europe was represented with over 50% of 80 plus films screened.
This gross disparity in the portrayal of African Diaspora films is magnified by the fact that in 2010, seventeen (17) African countries are celebrating fifty (50) years of independence from colonial powers. These nations include: Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, DR Congo, Somalia, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Nigeria and Mauritania. As well as, for the first time ever, the Soccer World Cup will be taking place in Africa. Along South Africa as host, Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Cameroon have qualified.
So, I channeled my disappointment, by seeking to fill the cultural void, via organizing a Saturday, May 15th 2010 day trip to New York City, for the 17th edition of the New York City African Filmfest (http://cameroonamericancouncil1.eventbrite.com). I have enjoyed going to other festivals publicized through the DC Film Society mailing list such as the Arabian Sights Festival, Jewish Filmfest, Environmental Filmfest, several French film series, German filmfest etc. Consequently, I extended my New York City trip invitation to the Membership Coordinator (Michael) of the DC Film Society to share the trip with my fellow Film Society members.
To my surprise, Michael wrote back saying that he wouldn’t publish my event because the DC Film Society only ‘promotes events locally’. To which I responded on May 6th 2010, stating that the bus trip is organized by a DC film lover for DC residents to explore a segment of films not readily available in ourCity. It has been over a week now and I have not heard a word from Michael or the DC Film Society.
The DC Film Society is a major sponsor of and a division of the DC ‘International’ Film. Thus I am writing today because in the near future I will be organizing more events to New York: to the musical ‘Fela!’ by Bill T. Jones (eleven Tony nominations in 2010) and Twyla Tharp’s ‘Come Fly Away’ starring the Tony nominated Cameroonian Karine Plantadit. Do provide me with some clarification on: What the policy is for Film Society members seeking to promote cultural events to fellow members?
While I have this opportunity to address you, please know that I appreciate that for twenty-four years the Festival has been on a mission to serve as a “platform from which the world’s filmmakers can tell their stories with passion, humor and integrity” (per your 2010 catalog- http://www.filmfestdc.org/PDFs/catalog2010.pdf ). Yet upon researching the Festival catalogs (www.filmfestdc.org/pastFestivals.cfm) of the last decade, I was terribly shocked to discover that NOT ONE African country nor an African sub region has ever been highlighted. Granted, there have been two or three films from the entire African continent each year, but NEVER a national/regional focus on Africa. A few examples of the highlights include- 2010: Italy and Romania, 2009: Eastern Europe and Japan, 2008: Latin America, 2007: France, 2006: Brazil, 2005: India and China.
I know that the DC ‘International’ Film Festival provides “a rare opportunity to look inside another culture and see it from the perspective of those who live there, rather than through the media” (as per your 2009 catalog- www.filmfestdc.org/PDFs/catalog2009.pdf). As a result, my biggest dream/wish is that while you “scour the globe for the freshest and the best, the most provocative and the most creative films” (as per your 2003 catalog- www.filmfestdc.org/PDFs/catalog2003.pdf); kindly make the time to attend some of Africa’s many internationally recognized film festivals such as the FESPACO
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panafrican_Film_and_Television_Festival_of_Ouagadougou) held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso since 1969.
The official song of this year’s Soccer World Cup is, “Waka Waka: This Time for Africa”- sung by Shakira and the South African band Freshlyground (http://en.afrik.com/article17489.html). The chorus is borrowed (http://www.world2010cup.com/news/194/zangalewa-the-original-song-from-which-wakawaka-borrows-chorus.html) from a famous 1980s marching song by the Cameroonian band Zangalewa (previously known as Golden Sounds). ‘Waka Waka’ roughly translates into Cameroonian languages (Fang, Pidgin English) as “Do it, Do it” or “Walk, Walk”.
Hence I am pleading with the Washington, DC ‘International’ Film Festival that on your 25th anniversary in 2011, do make the Festival truly international, inclusive and representative of the diverse ethnic/international groups in our fine city by considering to:- Do it, Do it: Please Highlight Africa or better yet…
WAKA WAKA: Please Highlight Africa
I look forward to your response. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org