Why are film festivals important? This is a question that is repeatedly asked by a variety of individuals. There are even more queries when it specifically comes to documentary films.
There is an erroneous perception that the most exciting festivals and the most ‘looked forwarded to’ events involve only high-budget feature films, because they include blockbuster films in which famous actors and actresses almost invariably take part. Most people seem interested in the celebrities themselves or about their financial gains from making such films.
Film festivals basically provide the opportunity for those who are interested in the art of film making; from up-and-coming film makers and film enthusiasts to script writers and potential directors, both amateur and professional. It is a platform for aspiring people in the film industry to mingle and develop a sense of community and support.
But film festivals are not just about blockbusters, they are also about documentary films which depict social commentaries on real life happenstances. So what makes documentary films attractive and interesting? Since they are based on real life experiences, they have the ability to hit close to home. They revolve around real people in certain situations, the environment, important events, social problems and many more. The key word here is “real”. There are no pretensions, no acting or stage settings; just hard, cold fact and raw reality.
Documentaries are usually made to bring about awareness to the multitude concerning certain issues, to educate people and to basically say “This is what is happening.” Some convey realities not spoken about publicly or that are considered taboo. Documentaries sometimes feature people who have gone through the most horrific situation imaginable, but despite that, still hold their heads high and hope for a better future. It describes strength at its best. Some films use comedy while telling sad stories to show that even through rainy days there is always a place for a bit of sense of humor.
When some think of documentary films, they automatically think of serious issues; war, poverty, climate change and human suffering depicted through different situations. But it is not all about grim issues; documentaries also feature positive stories on progress, development, peace, love and everything else that is beautiful in the world. It could be comedic and light.
Initiative Africa (IA) is holding the 7th ‘Addis International Film Festival’, beginning on Tuesday and continuing until the following Monday, May 19th. The festival will include many documentary films that convey social messages, address injustices and draw attention to the plight of the poor and underprivileged of the world. It is committed to use film as the medium or tool to get its messages across.
The lined up films are compelling and truly inspiring. Some are award winning films and others are not, but all are equally intriguing. The festival is not only about films, but also incorporates instructive workshops, panel discussions and other special events.
Despite the recent modest “boom” in film-making in Ethiopia, the film industry remains under-developed. Especially in regards to the making of documentary films, it wouldn’t be wrong to assert that it is practically nonexistent. Through the Addis Film Festival, Initiative Africa hopes to see young men and women challenging conventional perspectives on complex and challenging issues, like social justice, women empowerment, children’s rights, the environment, etc…
It also hopes that the festival will serve as a venue for the interaction of local and international film makers, the youth and the general public. It has also planned a capacity building workshop for some 30 young film professionals on the production of documentary films, in the hopes of contributing to its development.
Atrocities committed and the greediness of foreign powers that result in social turmoil, terror and the feeling of hopelessness among the population of African countries, uncertainty about the prison systems – whether they truly reform wayward youngsters or not – are only a few of the issues the selected films will focus on. It truly is food for thought.
There are also questions on migration and deportation. Some focus on tales of the illegal trade in human organs around impoverished parts of the world that compels you to explore your own moral and ethical beliefs. On the cheerful and lighter side, there is a story about a musical street performance by a group in Hamburg, Germany who dance to collect donations to pay for their schooling to become professional artists.
Comedy, action, drama, tragedy… you name it; it is all there. If you want to witness lights being shined in the darkest parts of the world, if you want to bear witness to human strength at its highest and cruelty at its worst and if you want to have a better perspective of the world around you, then this film festival will be a quintessential portal.