African interest lifts film festival
Based on previous stagings of the E. Desmond Lee Africa World Documentary Film Festival (AWDFF), Dr Rachel Mosley-Wood can confidently forecast the attendance pattern at the 2017 renewal. It begins today at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and continues until Sunday.
Entry is free. The festival is sponsored by the E. Desmond Lee Professorship in African/African-American Studies, International Studies and Programmes at the University of Missouri, St Louis, and was first staged in Jamaica in 2013.
Mosley-Wood of the UWI, Mona's Department of Literatures in English, said a strong Jamaican interest in things related to Africa helps with the turnout.
"Usually for the opening, we tend to fill, or almost fill, N1, (the largest room on the lecture theatre block)," Mosley-Wood said.
Today's opening ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. with Philip Riley, South Africa's chargÈ d'affaires to Jamaica, slated to declare the festival open. The South African and Nigerian High Commissions are supporting the festival at a time of reduced input from the events' accustomed supporters.
Among the opening day's films are Alive and Kicking: The Soccer Grannies of South Africa, China Remix and the closing Carnaval.
Screenings start at 2 p.m. each day except Sunday's closing day when they begin at 12:45 p.m. with Fatherland and end at 9 p.m. with The Fire Festival of Cuba. Mosley-Wood said, "We get a good turnout on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. We don't get that many people in the 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. period. We get a good turnout when people come from work."
Deciding on the opening night's films is a "quite practical" process. "We want something that is not too long. The people who come to the opening ceremony may not be able to stay an hour and 30 minutes," Mosley-Wood said.
With the E. Desmond Lee Africa World Documentary Film Festival staged in various countries. Mosley-Wood said, "I think the staging in Kingston tends to get quite good support. I was attending a conference in South Africa a few years ago and the university was doing the festival. I was approached by one of the organisers, who asked how we get so much support."
The films being shown this year are actually from the 2016 festival and the event has been reduced by a day, as it would usually begin on Wednesday.
While Professor Tunde Bewaji of the Department of Literatures in English was the initial point of contact with Professor Niji Coker for the festival to be staged in Jamaica, the involvement of three other UWI, Mona, academic entities reflects the broad-based relevance of film. Language, Linguistics and Philosophy, the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) are all involved in the festival.
And in cases where groups cannot attend the event, there is the possibility of still being able to see an entry.
"I just had a request from a high school to show a particular film. They will come to the campus. We can do this; we arrange for screenings," Mosley-Wood said.