Cape Town - 2018 marked the first year a short film from Rwanda competed at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival – and it won.
Samuel Ishimwe’s Imfura took home the Silver Bear Jury Prize in the short film category – one of nine awards given at this year’s festival to African-linked films.
This weekend’s awards went to:
Imfura - Berlinale Shorts: Silver Bear Jury Prize
Gisa, a young man, travels to the village of his mother, who disappeared in the genocide. He wants to comprehend, to remember, but is instead forced to choose a side in a fight over an inheritance, a shell of a house. Berlin’s programme says, “The film’s hybrid form, its fusion of documentary and staged material, gives it a great sense of immediacy.”
Burkina Brandenburg Komplex - Berlin Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards
Directed by German Ulu Braun, Burkina Brandenburg Komplex is set in a presumably African village, inhabited by Germans, and “describes a geographical construction that makes use of ‘our’ medial and collective image of Africa and puts it to the test,” according to Berlin’s programme.
Styx –Ecumenical Jury: Panorama Prize Winner; Label Europa Cinemas; the Heiner Carow Prize; & 2nd Place, Panorama Audience Award: Fiction Film
Directed by Austria’s Wolfgang Fischer, Styx follows a German woman on a solo yacht trip who encounters a sinking boat of refugees off the coast of Mauritania. Kenyan teen actor Gedion Wekesa Odour shines as one of the refugees: Variety called his performance “superb” and The Hollywood Reporter praised him as a “find.”
The Ecumenical Jury citation said Styx “discovers the biblical story of the Good Samaritan in the challenge the EU faces in the arrival of desperate immigrants from Africa. It is a film of high artistic quality, which tells a tale of suspense, and confronts us with the ethical dilemma that individuals and nations must face when we are asked, ‘Who is my neighbour?’”
Fortuna - Generation 14Plus: Youth Jury Crystal Bear & the International Jury Grand Prix
Directed by Switzerland’s Germinal Roaux, Fortuna is the story of a 14-year-old Ethiopian refugee (Kidist Siyum Beza) who has found shelter with Catholic friars in Switzerland. The International Jury praised its “sincere performances” and “sublime black and white cinematography,” adding, “This film transcends religious and political dogma in a beautifully realized tale of purity and survival as seen through the eyes of a strong-willed Ethiopian girl.”
Supa Modo - Generation 14Plus: Children’s Jury Special Mention
Directed by Kenyan Likarion Wainaina, Supa Modo is the story of a terminally-ill girl who dreams of being a superhero, and how her village helps her achieve that dream. The children’s jury citation praised the film as “touching” and “gripping,” adding that it “shows the resourcefulness of the girl and the humanity and the strong willpower of the entire village in their efforts to make the last months of her life something special.” It's produced by One Fine Day Films and Ginger Ink, the team behind Kati Kati, Nairobi Half Life, Something Necessary, Soul Boy, and Veve.
18 other African-linked projects screened at Berlin this year. This was more than four times as many African-linked films as were at Sundance in January and, encouragingly, two-thirds of them were directed by Africans.
Africa has a proud history at Berlin, with over 50 films, documentaries and short films linked to the continent having won, dating back to 1952.