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Africa in Motion: bringing African cinema to Scotland


For the last 12 years, the Africa in Motion film festival has been bringing the best of African cinema to Scotland - making it possible for Scottish audiences to engage with African stories and industry professionals from the continent. The festival caters to a varied and diverse audience from all over Scotland, the UK and further afield, and has become a key date in the cultural calendar.

We spoke to Festival Producer Justine Atkinson to hear more about 2017's programme, and why this festival is so important. Africa in Motion was funded through Creative Scotland's Open Project Funding.

What are the main aims of Africa in Motion?

African cinema is still extremely marginalised and makes up only around 1% of films released in cinemas worldwide, and one of the main aims of the festival is to bring African films to audiences in Scotland, which wouldn’t otherwise be seen. We show African films as artistic masterpieces up there with any world cinema, and the programme always includes a rich mix of fiction films, shorts and documentaries. Since the inception of Africa in Motion, we have screened over 450 African films to audiences totalling around 35,000 people, and we will continue to grow these number in the years to come.

In addition to screening great films, we also want to attract and include a wide demographic of audiences to the festival. We therefore take a collaborative approach to programming, through which we create opportunities for a number of different groups and organisations to participate in choosing what they want to see on screen. To do this we work in collaboration with Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups to programme films in spaces they frequent; with postgraduate students from the University of Glasgow who made up the selection committee for the Short Film and Documentary Competitions; with young programmers who curated four events as part of our Reviving Scotland’s Black History summer school, and more.

We feel that this approach is important to reach new audiences, finding new spaces, and ensuring that we cater for the tastes of increasingly diverse demographics. It also helps to ensure the future sustainability of the festival, training up the next generation of African film programmers who we hope will continue to be involved in Africa in Motion in the future.

Africa in Motion

What films are you looking forward to showcasing this year?

This year we are particularly excited about our programme of Africa’s Lost Classics, through which we are bringing (back) to UK screens some of the greatest African films, that have been banned, censored, lost or forgotten.

Some highlights in this programme are the red carpet premiere of 1969 Egyptian film Al-Mumia: The Night of Counting the Years at the Dominion (Edinburgh), which is regarded as the greatest Egyptian film ever made, and Soleil o, directed by Med Hondo. This film offers a scathing attack on colonialism, exposing racism in the 1960s, scenes from which are still relevant today (the screening is on 29 October in the Glasgow Film Theatre).

Another film I’m personally looking forward to screening is the award-winning documentary-animation hybrid Liyana. This is an amazing new film that brings a fictional story to life through the imagination of five orphaned children in Swaziland (Screening 4 November at Filmhouse). One final highlight is our Dine-and-View event in the beautifully decorated Nur Restaurant. We have done a few in the past years and they are also a big hit! This time, the menu will be composed of a selection of tagines accompanied by a screening of Egyptian film Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim.


What are the rewards and challenges of putting together a programme like this?

It’s a real privilege to be able to programme a festival such as Africa in Motion. Africa is a massive continent with 54 different countries, each with their own storytelling traditions, and there are now so many great new films emerging each year. We work with lots of different partners each of whom bring a lot to the festival, enhance the programme and help us to reach new audiences across Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Like with any niche festival having a small team that juggles a lot of different tasks is a main challenge, but we have a really strong and committed team, who have pulled together a really exceptional programme.  

What does the future hold for the festival?

We hope to keep growing audiences and building an appetite for African cinema in Scotland. Eventually we would like our work to contribute to the wider dissemination of Africa cinema in UK cinemas, as we feel that there are brilliant films that should to be seen more widely.

Africa in Motion run from Friday 27th October to Sunday 5th November.

This article was published on 27 Sep 2017