When Sembene Ousmane, the late grandfather of the African moving picture, described cinema as evening classes, he couldn’t have envisaged how many schools would emerge throughout Europe. Today, several European nations host more than one African film festival or major cultural event, reflecting Europe’s growing curiosity in an alternative, authentic view of Africa, while capturing Africa’s desire for self-expression.
Many of these festivals started as student or basement projects but have developed into major cultural galas. From Galway to Poznan, Cordoba to Wuerzburg, Africa is charming communities throughout Europe and strengthening its Diaspora. The African Courier brings you a list of 12 of the best African festivals in Europe.
FESTIVAL CINEMA AFRICANO
(Milan, Italy; 19-26 March 2017)
Spread across five venues in Italy’s fashion capital, the Festival Cinema Africano screens more than 100 African films. The Festival Centre also organises arts exhibitions, children’s events and live music.
FESTIVAL DE CINE AFRICANO
(Tarifa, Spain; 28 April-6 May 2017)
Perhaps enchanted by its mirror image of North Africa, the African Film Festival has gone from strength to strength in recent screenings, becoming a dynamic and leading player in bringing rarely seen African films to Southern Spanish shores. The Festival, taking place in Tarifa and Tánger, sets up a bridge for dialogue between the Spanish and Moroccan shores of the Strait of Gibraltar.
(Wuerzburg, Germany; 25-28 May 2017)
Wuerzburg’s Africa Festival is the largest annual gathering of African music and culture in Europe (more than two million people have attended the festival so far.
If you want to hear the red-earth-moving rhythms of Papa Wemba or Amadou & Mariam, then make your way to Wuerzburg in May. If you can’t make it, Arte (TV) usually broadcasts live concerts and highlights. Certainly worth a visit for the unbelievable line-up; add the film screenings, bazaar and the extensive children’s programmes, and Wuerzburg can legitimately claim to be Africa’s largest cultural gathering in Europe.
(Winterthur, Switzerland; 29 May-5 June 2017)
Now more than 25 years old, Switzerland’s largest African and world music gathering sells out year after year. Quaint yet quintessential, this laid-back festival, which regularly screens African films, is popular with younger crowds.
(Angoulême, France; 2-4 June 2017)
While not strictly focused on Africa, Musiques Metisses is a large annual jamboree of African music in Europe. This extravaganza in the Bordeaux region also offers the chance to catch up on African cinema and literature, with film screenings and readings from across the continent.
AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
(Cologne, Germany; 21 September-1 October 2017)
FilmInitiativ Köln e.V. has organised the festival themed Jenseits von Europa – Filme aus Afrika (Out of Europe – Films from Africa) since 1992. About 750 films from 40 African countries have been shown in Cologne at the festival and the film specials held during the years in between.
AFRICA IN MOTION
(Edinburgh, UK; 27 October – 5 November 2017)
Based at the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh, Africa in Motion (AiM) is an annual African film festival taking place in Scotland, consisting of film screenings and complementary events. Now in its twelfth year, AiM brings the best of African cinema to Scotland—making it possible for Scottish audiences to engage with African stories and industry professionals from the continent.
(London, UK; 27 October -5 November 2017)
Film Africa is the Royal African Society’s annual festival celebrating the best African cinema from across the continent and Diaspora. Launched in 2011, Film Africa is now the UK’s largest festival of African film and culture.
Every year, the festival brings London audiences a core programme of fiction and documentary films alongside a vibrant series of accompanying events.
AFRIKA EYE FILM FESTIVAL
(Bristol, UK; 10-12 November 2017)
The watershed cinema in Bristol hosts this three-day African film-event, bringing Sembene Ousmane’s ‘evening classes’ to South West England. AfrikaEye “aims to offer an insight into African culture both on and beyond the screen.”
GALWAY AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
(Galway, Ireland; no date fixed yet for the 2017 event)
A latecomer to the scene (founded in 2008), the Galway African Film Festival has already shown intent as a last-minute bloomer, bringing big-name directors and producers to its first three festivals. Keep an eye out for future rumblings.
CAMBRIDGE AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
(Cambridge, UK; no date fixed yet for the 2017 event)
Similar to Africa in Motion but older and further south in another university city, the Cambridge African Film Festival has been showcasing African films since 2002. Past guests include Ian Gabriel, while the range and depth of talks highlights this festival as one for the intellectual.
AFRICA IN THE PICTURE
(Amsterdam, The Netherlands; no date fixed yet for 2017)
Africa in the Picture (AITP) is an independent film festival and platform for African and African Diaspora cinema. AITP wants to contribute to the development of African film by promoting and spreading films (in the Netherlands, in the rest of Europe and at the African continent) and by offering an international platform for cinematographic professionals. By showing a modern Africa from the perspective of African filmmakers, AITP strives to inspire people in the Netherlands in developing a more complete and realistic world view.