Ten films, including features and documentaries and eleven videos were screened during the course of the festival. This year’s festival selection highlighted works from Portuguese-speaking African countries and works of established and emerging directors from Brazil. Several of the films were premieres, including Penalti (Penalty), a film made by Bahian director, Adler Kibe Paz. Mr. Adler’s film explores the world of popular culture and its impact on young Bahians via a touching story about how an ill-fated penalty kick haunts a young soccer player. Penalti’s African counterpart was Fintar el Destino (Dribbling Fate) which depicts the passion and sacrifices of a Cape Verdian who was destined to be a soccer great.
One of the highlights of the festival was the presence of Sao Paulo filmmaker, Joelzito Araujo, and the screening of his much anticipated film, A Negacao do Brasil (Denying Brazil). This documentary feature, which is accompanied by a book written by the director, explores one of Brazil’s most taboo subjects: race. The film gives a historical account of the portrayal of black actors in the media, particularly in the telenovelas which are shown throughout Latin America. The audiences for this screening was very impressive, since the festival was able to bring together so many groups and communities of Bahian society in celebration of the PAFF. In the same reflective filmmaking mode, Tania Cypriano of Brazil, our sole female filmmaker in this year’s festival, actively touches on the subject of AIDS in her film, Odoy — Vida com AIDS (Odoy — Life With AIDS). The film explores how the Brazilian societies, with the support of Candomble practices, are finding solutions to educate those in marginalized communities.
Another important aspect of the PAFF was the opportunity to screen the work of Licinio Azevedo, a Brazilian filmmaker who has lived in Mozambique for the past 25 years. His presence and the screening of his films conjured historical discussions for the Brazilian audiences, who have managed to retain strong emotional ties to the notion of a purified Africa. His work also was central to PAFF 2000′s special tribute to Mozambique, and its particularly vibrant cinema of resistance, which continues despite serious economic problems.
One film that brought together Brazilian, Cape Verdian and Portuguese actors and production crews was O Testamento do Senhor Napomuceno (Napumoceno’s Will). The interaction amongst the actors was an enjoyable viewing experience. It made audiences realize that their historical ties to Africa and their colonial ties to Portugal create stronger similarities with their counterparts who live in Africa. This same spirit was underlined in A Song to Angola, a short film in which Brazilian, Portuguese, and African singers come together in tribute to the people of war-torn Angola.
Salvador, Bahia is a city of strong African influence, as it is home to the third largest Afro-descendent population outside of Africa. It has a privileged localization and within all of its urban space and culture one finds the history of black peoples. The Pan African Film Festival inserts itself within this magical surrounding to propose a discussion concerning African heritage, at a moment when these discussions are resurfacing, permeated by a new awareness of cultural identity and its relationships with society and the environment.
The festival integrates all formats and styles including film and video, documentaries and fiction, short and full-length features, to help trace the profile of a multicolored people with innovative contemporary experimentations as well as historical expositions. We hope that the concept of Pan-Africanism will fortify and explore the connections between Bahia, the African Continent, and the Black Diaspora at large.
AN INTERVIEW WITH PAFF COORDINATOR,
AFF: What was the idea or rationale behind doing an African film festival in Bahia, Brazil? Is there a demand from Brazilian audiences for such films?
Fatima Froes: The idea came out of the collaboration between your organization, AFF, and Casa Via Magia to bring African films to the cultural market in December 1999. The films drew large audiences, so we decided to do four other screenings throughout 2000. Those screenings were also well received by the public, so we realized that there was a market for African and diaspora films here in Bahia. The second edition of PAFF was just the natural outgrowth of these other screenings. This time we increased the number of films shown and added more video work. Also, we tried to do a lot of community outreach, which increased the turnout considerably.
AFF: What are Brazilian audiences’ responses to African cinema?
F: By doing lots of special screenings in different communities, we manage to create a lot of word-of-mouth interest in this kind of film. Many of these audiences have never seen African film before, and they are delighted to see that there exists a whole repertoire of films made by black people populated by black faces. They are also happy to see that these films often have a critical political perspective, dealing head on with racism and poverty. After these screenings there is always a lot of discussion taking place.
AFF: What kind of dialogue are the festival organizers trying to foster?
F: That’s hard to answer, because we want to promote dialogue with all the different groups in the city. This year during the festival we were talking to local film and video makers, actors, women, teenagers, and capoeira clubs and then tried to find films that speak to their concerns and reflect their realities. During the entire year, we went to schools, community centers, candomblé practitioners, universities, black political movements, and generally every group that might be interested in the question of African culture. These people’s everyday practices, music, religion, and art are rooted in African tradition, so naturally they have some considerable curiosity of how these elements are manifested and practiced on the continent.
AFF: How does the festival fit in with other kinds of film available in Bahia?
F: There are only two other festivals, The Jornada Internacional de Cinema da Bahia and the Video Festival that brings videos from around the country. Both of these festivals, along with PAFF, contribute to the film culture in Bahia, for instance bringing in local and regional filmmakers and videos about the Afro-Cuban culture and music.
AFF: What is the film community like in Brazil?
F: We couldn’t say that we have a big industry. It’s really hard to produce films in the third world. We always needed some government assistance to make films, and since 1986 when the government film company, Embrafilme, shut down, all filmmakers have had a difficult time.
Now with new technologies like digital video, the Brazilian film industry is being revitalized. But we still have problems because most filmmakers lack the funds to properly publicize and distribute their work. All the money is taken up by production costs. Also, the short films fall through the cracks, because the theater owners don’t think they are profitable. I think we have the same problem in all of Latin America and in Africa as well. That’s why the Pan African Film Festival is so important. It brings the public to see other kinds of movies that reflect their own image and culture.
AFF: What are the prospects for black Brazilian filmmakers in particular?
F: In our search for films made by black Brazilian directors, we could find only ten (35mm and 16mm), which is a glaring indication of the institutionalized racism that exists! It creates an unsuitable environment for blacks in the film industry. Films are the most expensive means of expression and the Afro-Brazilians (and African-Americans) are in the worse economic conditions. We have great black actors, musicians, painters, dancers, but because of the financial reality of film, very few great black directors.
Our project is to create as many workshops as possible in the black community throughout the year. Last year, we did a little project with students from Federal, but we want to conduct at least four workshops a year and organize several more to coincide with next year’s festival. We believe that if we give the kids a chance to get their hands on video equipment and to see what engaged filmmaking looks like, they will be inspired to document their own stories in the future. PAFF’s long-term goal is to find and create these kinds of opportunities for young people in Bahia.