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African Metropolis is a compilation of six short fiction films, set in six major African cities, a unique partnership towards new African cinema. The films from Abidjan, Cairo, Dakar, Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi tell urban tales about life in African metropolises. Over 50 percent of the continent’s total population now lives in cities and vital urban cultures are forming and transforming – fast, and with growing complexity. In African cinema, the shift is towards urban stories, with less focus on the traditional, rural Africa that dominated in the past.


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Running Time: 92 min.
Subject(s): African Cinema and Culture, Cinema, Ethnography, Human Rights, Personal Story, Poverty, Society, Urbanism
Language(s): Arabic, English
Subtitles: Arabic, English, French, German
Director(s):
Producer(s): Steven Markovitz

Press

  • Producer Steven Markovitz to launch 'African Metropolis' at Durban fest

    Steven Markovitz is a South African a feature and documentary producer, whose films have been co-produced with nearly a dozen countries around the world. His latest pic, “African Metropolis,” features seven short films from seven African directors, shot in seven African cities. Before the film premieres at the Durban Intl. Film Festival this weekend, Markovitz spoke with Variety about crucial next steps for the South African film industry.

    What kinds of projects are getting the most interest in the South African market right now?

    There seems to be a lot of support for genre movies, but I think we need to find our own style and voice in cinema.

    What sort of challenges do you see South African filmmakers facing?

    There is funding for low-budget South African films available. We still need to find our voice, our groove, as a filmmaking country, then international audiences will notice our work more readily. Distribution is still a big challenge. Most cinemas are still in former white areas. Until we have a broad spread of cinemas across the country, it will be difficult for filmmakers to find large audiences in South Africa.

    In other markets, film is yielding to TV. Do you see that happening in South Africa?

    Not in South Africa. TV is not very well funded here and hence most TV products tend to be of lower quality and don’t travel very well. We need TV stations to start co-producing or financing feature films or TV movies like HBO and the U.K.’s Channel 4, and in Germany and France. We need television to come to the party.

    Who’s your target audience? When you make a documentary, are you thinking primarily about the local South African audience or the global one?

    I produce feature films and documentaries. We generally think of global audiences. If the film is well crafted, has a good narrative arc and is compelling, surprising, I think it has a fighting chance in the international market.

    As VOD skyrockets, do you see moviegoing as an endangered species?

    Not in South Africa. VOD is still in its infancy here. Cinemas have not peaked here. We have a growing middle class, if there is investment in exhibition spaces in South Africa and the rest of the continent, I think there is good room for growth in cinema.

    What’s the key element in funding a project?

    If you have a brilliant script or a great treatment for an engaging documentary with unique access, it becomes a lot easier to fund. No one has the answers of what will work or won’t work, you have to trust your instincts, have huge amounts of passion for your project and a thick skin. Eventually you will find the money.

    So much of the global perception of South Africa has to do with race and politics. Do local audiences want those topics addressed, or do you believe they prefer escapism?

    I think audiences prefer entertainment or they prefer films that are artistically brilliant. We have a painful past that has to be dealt with but there are many avenues besides cinema to do this. We need to make compelling films that touch audiences emotionally, regardless of their subject matter.
    South Africa Searches for Its Groove in World Cinema
    ALLEGRA TEPPER
  • Several of the largest cities in the world today are found in Africa, as it
    becomes an increasingly urban continent. This fact, and growing interest in
    urbanism in the global South, makes African Metropolis, a collection of shorts
    by emerging filmmakers from six cities, especially timely. African cities are
    sometimes cast as harbingers of a global urban future, as archives of a colonial
    past, or as a sign of the times, so to speak. Similarly, the relationship
    that draws together these films from Abidjan, Cairo, Dakar, Johannesburg,
    Lagos, and Nairobi is not simply the city, but how compellingly each imagines
    time in an African metropolis.
    The collection begins with Jim Chuchu’s Homecoming, an unorthodox
    take on unrequited love that blurs reality and fantasy. The narrative focuses
    on Max, a small, unassuming homebody with an outsized admiration for
    Alina, who lives in the neighboring apartment block. Through nonlinear
    narration, we leap from Max’s romantic frustration to four fantasies of a
    future Nairobi where he and Alina grow deeply in love while fleeing a menacing
    faceless figure. Of all the films in the collection, Homecoming most
    directly plays with genre as it refashions speculative and futurist conventions.
    The future the film creates for Nairobi includes alien invaders, space
    the subject, among them Newton Aduaka’s Ezra (2007), Jean-Stéphane
    Sauvaire’s Johnny Chien Méchant (Johnny Mad Dog, 2008, adapted from the
    2002 novel by Emmanuel Dongala), and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Beasts of No
    Nation (2015, adapted from the 2005 novel by Uzodinma Iweala). Traoré,
    who was an assistant director for Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu (2014)
    and a production director for Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Un Homme qui crie
    (A Screaming Man, 2010) and Grigris (2013), employs a screenplay by the
    French writers Luis Marquès and Christophe Lemoine. In the classroom,
    Traoré’s film would work nicely when paired with other films, or with literary
    works such as Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (1985),
    Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah n’est pas obligé (Allah Is Not Obliged, 2000),
    Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone (2007), or Chris Abani’s Song For Night
    (2007), to name a few.
    No single narrative can be expected to capture the experiences of
    child soldiers. While L’oeil du cyclone’s “time bomb” conclusion eclipses more
    complex depictions of childhood soldiering, the film is nevertheless a fine
    example of the murkiness of representation itself.
    MaryEllen Higgins
    Pennsylvania State University, Greater Allegheny
    McKeesport, Pennsylvania
    doi:10.1017/asr.2016.116 mxh68@psu.edu
    FILM REVIEWS 323
    travelers, and suggestions of a space colony, but it also permits Max to fulfill
    his desires and reinvent himself through fantasy.
    Ahmed Ghoneimy’s The Cave, set in Cairo, centers on Adham, an
    aspiring musician who reconnects with his old friend, Amr, only to discover
    that with time comes distance. Amr has moved on from the passion of their
    youth—music and nightlife—to become an established family man, part
    of the city’s upwardly mobile population. The film’s cinematography ranges
    from the notable following shots that navigate the viewer through Cairo’s
    warren of back alleys to extreme long takes that punctuate the narrative’s
    first and last shots. The vignette of Cairo that emerges is one of social
    fragmentation, highlighting the differences between those with a comfortable
    future and those who struggle only to find dead ends.
    In The Line-Up, ten men from the streets of Lagos subject themselves to
    a ritualized selection in a dark warehouse, where a wealthy woman and her
    henchman inspect the naked men. One is selected and then disappears.
    The others are sent home with bulging envelopes of cash, money that the
    protagonist, Bala, desperately needs to pay for his young sister’s surgery.
    In the morally charged conceit (and overwrought acting) we can detect
    the fingerprints of the veteran Nollywood director Victor Okhai and the
    noted screenwriter Kemi Adesoye. But the short also attests to Nollywood’s
    dominance as a film culture with its own codes and conventions that continue
    to govern how stories of Lagos are told.
    By contrast, Marie Ka’s The Other Woman, set in Dakar, could be understood
    as a rewriting of received stories about gender, sexuality, and the
    forms of women’s freedom. The story details the secret attraction between
    Madeleine (Awa Sene Sarr of Faat Kiné [2001]) and her husband’s younger
    second wife, Amayelle. The director’s notes describe this as a story about
    Madeleine’s self-discovery through an intimacy beyond conventional norms.
    Colorful, subtle, and tender in bringing its characters to life, the film breaks
    with the way sex and intimacy in Africa are typically represented. It functions
    as an updated version of previous stories of women’s self-discovery and
    women’s roles within multi-spouse households.
    The last two films in this collection revisit the past. Philippe Lacote’s To
    Repel Ghosts pays homage to the memory of the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat
    and his 1986 visit to Abidjan. The film portrays Basquiat’s visit as a journey
    of artistic, cultural, and spiritual return to Africa, with the narrative turning
    on the artist’s struggle with self-doubt, addiction, and longing for connection
    with the people of Abidjan. The film does not promise an accurate
    accounting of history, but rather provides an endearing exercise of imagination
    that claims an iconic American artist of Puerto Rican and Haitian
    descent as one of Abidjan’s own. In this regard, the short is the only one of
    the collection to address the historical connections between African cities
    and the African diaspora.
    Finally, Vincent Moloi’s Berea offers the unexpected story of Aaron
    Zukerman, an aging Jewish pensioner who lives on in the Johannesburg
    neighborhood of Berea even after his friends, family, and acquaintances
    324 African Studies Review
    DOCUMENTARIES
    Sérgio Graciano, director. Njinga: Rainha de Angola (Njinga: Queen of Angola).
    2013. 109 minutes. Portuguese and Kimbundu. Semba Comunicação. No price reported.
    The Angolan historical epic film Njinga: Queen of Angola is the country’s most
    expensive production, as reported by the Portuguese daily Diário de Notícias.
    It memorializes one of Africa’s greatest women and the nation’s most
    important hero, who is also championed by the global African diaspora.
    Njinga emerges at a time of renewed interest in the seventeenthcentury
    historical figure and her symbolic meaning today as reflected by
    academic conferences and publications, including the critically acclaimed
    novel A rainha Ginga (2014) by José Eduardo Agualusa and the volume of
    essays, A rainha Nzinga Mbandi: história, memória e mito (2012). While a statue
    of Njinga has figured prominently since 2002 on one of Luanda’s main
    have left. Zukerman, the only white character in the film, barricades himself
    away from interaction with the outside world, save a weekly visit from a
    prostitute named Ilse. The narrative takes off when, one week, Ilse does
    not arrive but sends in her place a young black woman who, we soon
    discover, faces her own dilemma involving her child. The camera follows
    Zukerman into the streets of Berea—offering notable shots of the spaces
    of Johannesburg—as he seeks to help the young woman, a quest that
    ends with an unexpected result. Written by Makgano Mamabolo and Lodi
    Matsetela, the story captures the complex entanglement of the city’s racial
    communities. The protagonist, who lives in a Berea that is already long
    gone, must discover a link to the here and now, which entails taking the risk
    of forging connections with strangers unlike himself.
    The production of African Metropolis was supported by the Goethe Institute
    South with financial backing from Guaranteed Trust Bank and the Hubert
    Bals Fund, with the expressed intention of providing opportunities and recognition
    to emerging African filmmakers. These institutions, therefore, are
    themselves encouraging the turn in African cinema toward urban stories.
    Two of the filmmakers promoted in this collection have gone on to produce
    films on their respective cities. Philippe Lacote’s Run (2014) became
    the first Ivorian film selected to premiere at Cannes Film Festival, while
    Jim Chuchu’s short Tuko Macho will screen at this year’s Toronto Film
    Festival. If compilation releases like this continue to provide a springboard
    for new filmmakers, then African Metropolis perhaps offers a taste
    of what is to come.
    African Metropolis: Six Stories from African Cities
  • Manager of Durban International Film Festival (DIFF)
    “We are delighted to host the world premiere of the African Metropolis Short Film Project, which explores and promotes young directing talent from
    different capitals of the continent. This idea fits perfectly with our own goal of highlighting the emerging African film industry.”
    Peter Machen
  • Artistic Director of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
    "African Metropolis really shows us a new generation of African film makers and gives us a glimpse of new talent from the continent. The short films
    reflect on some of the social realities. We are glad to have Executive Producer Steven Markovitz back; he has previously shown work at TIFF. I hope
    that some of the African Metropolis directors will go on to make feature films quite soon."
    Cameron Bailey
  • International Programmer of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
    "The African Metropolis Short Film Project has given young filmmakers the license to shape an aesthetic and imagine stories and characters set in a
    culture of urbanity. The plurality and diversity of voices is a joy to discover. Should this series continue, a small compendium of emerging talents from
    urban Africa can compile into a rare, and fascinating contemporary testimony from a continent for too long harnessed into the most moribund and facile prejudices."
    Rasha Salti
  • International Programmer and Head of Short Film Programme of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
    "Big city films from African big cities is just what we have been waiting for. It is about time we move on from pre-colonial nostalgia. The best would be
    if this project could work as a model for the future. Many occasional film projects have been done in Africa - and also Rotterdam had its share in them -
    but continuation is what is needed. On to the next series should be the motto."
    Gertjan Zuilhof and Peter van Hoof

Festival & Awards

  • Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) - 2013
    World Premiere
  • Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) - 2013
    International Premiere
  • International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) - 2013
    European Premiere

additional materials

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  • About the project

    African Metropolis is a compilation of six short fiction films, set in six major African cities, a unique partnership towards new African cinema.

    The films from Abidjan, Cairo, Dakar, Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi tell urban tales about life in African metropolises. Over 50 percent of the continent’s total population now lives in cities and vital urban cultures are forming and transforming – fast, and with growing complexity. In African cinema, the shift is towards urban stories, with less focus on the traditional, rural Africa that dominated in the past.

    African Metropolis premiered at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) 2013. Three of the films were shown at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2013. In Europe, the films premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) 2014.

    Two years of intensive preparation lead up to the premieres: based on 40 scripts submitted, the filmmakers were chosen from the six cities. A mentoring programme and workshops ensued, with the aim to provide opportunities and recognition to African filmmakers.

    Rasha Salti, Africa and Middle East Programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), says about the project: „If the African Metropolis Short Film Project is to be continued (…) an intriguing testimony of contemporary filmmaking may emerge – a testimony of a continent that has served as a projection screen for rigid and superficial clichés for too long.“

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