Today's films have an African theme,.
Godka Cirka (Spa/US/Fra) - before the main film, an unassuming but ultimately powerful look at the fate of young African girls from the perspective of a one such individuals' story growing up and reaching puberty, and the traditional practices dealt out by her mother and her relatives, shackled by tradition and religion. As she wearily whispers during preparation for the imminent act - it is Gods will. 7.5/10
Finding Hillywood (US) (site)
On a much more positive note - a rarity for films about this part of the world, Hillywood is the name given to a small but popular filmmaking movement in Rwanda, led by filmmaker, actor and director Ayuub Kasasa Mago, whose mother was one of the thousands massacred in the 1994 genocides. A country with understandably many stories to tell, he uses a chance posting as a helper on The Last King of Scotland to find his calling in the country's embryonic film business. Now, Hillywood (despite recent funding cuts - they need help to survive) is a popular filmmakers society, training men and women in all of it's aspects. Once a year they tour Rwanda to show locally grown films in a festival - to the surprise of many viewers of the open-air screenings who have no knowledge that Rwanda was capable of making them. Indeed, quite often, the rain-soaked evening screenings during the rainy season are their first taste of film.
And no, the films are far from the craziness exhibited by 2016, They may not be quite up to hollywood potential just yet, but the film played excerpts of several of them, and they looked like they would be perfectly at home on a festival circuit - some of them have already been screened internationally, such as Ayuub's short film Fora.
To see such a positive film about Rwanda is refreshing, especially as it is peppered with smiling people in often beautiful settings, and the message is one of hope. Film can be a powerful tool in affecting social change and the altering of opinions. But it is not a gerbil-faced film that tries to deny the history of the region - the dark subjects are never far away from the narration, but it is always framed in a way that suggests that it's citizens, with the help of cultural injections such as this, are starting to move past it. 7.5/10
William and the Windmill (US/Mal/SA) (site)
At the age of fourteen, William Kamkwamba decided to do something about the situation his family had found themselves in. After a particularly bad drought, they had little money for anything beyond food, and William had dropped out of school. With time on his hands he went to the modest library and picked up a book on energy. Inside was an explanation of how a turbine can be powered by the wind and how it can be used to generate electricity. Seeing a solution to their problems, he set out to make one of his own from scrap metal and wood. He was able to find a crude generator, and to the astonishment of the bemused naysayers that rubbernecked over his parent's fence, he turned on the lights to his house once more, a 30ft tower windmill stood proudly clattering away.
William had plans for more, but his life was about to change completely. After some modest media coverage, William was invited to TED in 2007 to do a talk (also). Tom Rielly, an entertainment mogul in the audience had to meet him. Perhaps recognizing a potential waste of intellectual talent, Tom took William under his wing, promising him seven years mentoring to help him realize his potential. Trips around the world on speaking tours, a book deal and SAT education sponsorship in America followed. At the point he was being pursued by a major American university his future was sealed.
The documentary would have quickly lost steam if it was just about the windmill, but the most fascinating bit is never spoken about - the story behind the story that slowly reveals itself to the viewer - showing the intense sense of expectation on this young mans' shoulders, an obligation William seems too polite to address and just goes where his fate - and Toms' overbearing father-like intentions - take him.
This lends the film a satisfying onion-like structure. The bittersweet nature of a man being given all the opportunities he deserves, in a destiny that has been wrenched from his helpless hands is clear to see in his eyes, that seem to be repeatedly looking through the walls back to his home town, and the projects he has yet to finish. Director Ben Nabors rarely chips in but is aware from an early point of the internal conflicts behind the smiles and records it silently and carefully for us all to see. 8/10