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Zanzibar festival showcases arts

By Christine Otieno, BBC, 16 July 2001

The island of Zanzibar has come alive with different cultures and people for two weeks during the fourth Zanzibar International Film Festival.

Although called a film festival, the event includes various musicians and crafts people from throughout Africa, as well as countries straddling the Indian Ocean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

It had to be extended by a day following the death of Tanzania's Vice-President Ali Juma earlier this month, and is now due to end on Tuesday.


Out-door shows were staged with local Zanzibaris putting on impromptu and scheduled drama in Swahili.

Unique Sisters from Tanzania Legendary buildings such as The House of Wonders, a 19th century palace, were transformed into movie theatres as a variety of films were screened to packed audiences.

Directing the festival is West Indian filmmaker Imruh Bakari. Mr Bakari, who has lived in Zanzibar for five years, was pleased by the turnout for the event although disappointed by the low turnout of film-makers from east Africa.

"The problem is mainly funding. This has proved to be a stumbling block. But we are hoping to see more changes within the industry."

'Gift of Song'

South Africa, on the other hand, was out in force at the festival.

The very popular South African video "Gift of Song" showcased young black opera singers.

One of the producers, Victor Khulile Nxumalo, said: "Festivals such as these have so much talent. I could work with someone from Asia or Middle East and create co-productions. This is good for the industry."

Bupe Mwangota, a filmmaker from Tanzania, was impressed by the number of workshops geared specifically for women film-makers.

She said: "As a woman, I am pleased with all the workshops aimed at women scriptwriters and filmmakers. They are quite refreshing."

Villages and schools Outdoor youth programmes were organised, with performances held in villages and schools.

Mr Bakari said this was a way to bring theatre to those people who normally do not get a chance to watch plays.

At the House of Wonders, audiences were treated to a stream of varied culture.

"Zaman Al-Akbar" by the Palestinian filmmaker Azza El-Hassan was extremely popular.

The film, the title of which means "newstime", was about a group of four Palestinian boys and their daily lives in what has become one of the world's most violent places to be: the Gaza Strip.

Among the musicians was Zimbabwe's legendary Oliver Mtukudzi who performed to a packed audience.

Congo's Remmy Ongalla, now a Tanzanian citizen, was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

In the past week some newspapers in Tanzanian have carried unfounded stories that the ailing star had died.

He was pleased to receive his award and assure his fans that he was still very much alive.