The first weekend of AiM was devoted to our theme of conflict, trauma and reconciliation in a pan-African context.
On Friday evening we screened two Rwandan documentaries – Keepers of Memory and A Love Letter to my Country – both homegrown productions dealing with the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. Tough films dealing with a tough subject, followed by an insightful discussion led by three experts working on Rwanda and Rwandan films.
The Saturday began very early, when we started hanging up posters and installing all the AV equipment in the University of Edinburgh’s Chrystal Macmillan Building for our symposium dealing with art and trauma. It was a race against the clock, trying to get everything sorted before the speakers arrived. The presentations started with Piotr’s paper on Rwandan films dealing with these traumatic issues. Right from the start he posed the questions we really wanted to see addressed: can film represent trauma, is it effective, does it reach the right people, is it maybe too early to start using artistic ways to overcome the atrocities in Rwanda? John continued the focus with his presentation on Rwandan literature. Cara and Sarah both research South African films like Homecoming and Ubuntu’s Wounds, and cultural institutions such as the Number Four Prison museum as ways of documenting, remembering and dealing with the past. In the afternoon we went on to look at Nigerian hiphop as an artform promoting peace in the Niger Delta region, Ghanaian literature, and Mozambican art made from recycled and destroyed weapons. The whole Saturday was amazingly informative and fascinating. The combination of the festival and symposium, the artistic and the theoretical, excited me more than I already have the tendency to be. I talked to so many people from all over the world interested in the same thing – bliss! Jacqueline’s keynote address rounded up the day perfectly, with her multi-media presentation, lots of clips, and a very entertaining way of keeping our attention. She was amazing as always and we felt sorry to say goodbye this morning.
The screening of Between Joyce and Remembrance later that evening continued the theme, and informed all the symposium speakers and attendees very directly of the consequences of the apartheid regime and the effects of the TRC on a family severely traumatised by the murder of their son by the secret police. It was a very harrowing film, so we followed it with a discussion between Jacqueline Maingard, a film theorist who knows the director Mark Kaplan very well, and Gill Moreton, a trauma therapist. The discussion created a space for reflection and combined these two experts’ opinions to also “counsel” the audience to a certain extent. It was tough but rewarding. To finish the night with Sea Point Days and Notice to Quit! was truly uplifting. The recent developments of Cape Town were reflected in the area of Sea Point where all walks of life come together, the different perspectives and the innumerable characters didn’t shy away from problematic issues, but ultimately provided us with a glow of positivity in spite of the traumatic past of South Africa. Esdon Frost’s film from 1960 did the same: it showed us how effective filmmaking within the context of fifty years ago can express anger in a rational and measured way at a dictatorial government and a racist situation. Esdon himself turned out to be a true storyteller, enjoying the feedback from the audience and loving the fact that his film was shown on the big screen. He had never seen it that big and he brought his whole family along to join in the exhibition of this previously “lost” film which has now been found!
Sunday was a chance for us to catch up on some sleep as the clock changed, and we never needed an extra hour more! After a lovely lunch at the Indian restaurant Gandhi’s (get it? Even the restaurant was linked with our reconciliation theme) with Esdon and family and our other invited guests, we all gathered at Filmhouse for the screening of the documentary The Reckoning, about the International Criminal Court. We could see in this documentary some steps being take towards bringing the perpetrators and instigators of conflict and atrocity to justice – with justice certainly being a hugely important part of reaching forgiveness and reconciliation. The screening was followed by a discussion led by Jenna Sapiano, who is researching the ICC at the Centre of African Studies.
The next screening was the beautiful poetic documentary Our Forbidden Places, about Morroco’s Truth and Equity Commission, again followed by a discussion with Mohamed, a Morrocan radio presented, and Jolyon Mitchell, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity. Our opening weekend ended on an absolute high point with the screening of the award-winning Zimbabwean feature film Flame, about two women joining the guerilla war for the country’s liberation. We were proud and delighted to have director Ingrid Sinclair, producer Simon Bright, and Ulla Mahako, the beautiful Zimbabwean actress who plays the second female lead in the film, in attendance to talk to the audience after the screening. We were excited to film the discussion which will be used as an extra on a new dvd release planned for the film.
Then it was time to say goodbye, as Simon, Ingrid, Ulla, Jacqueline and Emma were all leaving on Monday. What a weekend! And lots more still to come…
Stef & Lizelle xx