23rd EU Film Festival Blends Tradition and Innovation

From left: Kenyan film The Captain of Nakara; Viva Riva, a 2010 Congolese crime thriller film; A Hijacking, a 2012 Danish thriller film; and The Great Beauty from Italy are among films to be screened during the European Film Festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi.

From left: Kenyan film The Captain of Nakara; Viva Riva, a 2010 Congolese crime thriller film; A Hijacking, a 2012 Danish thriller film; and The Great Beauty from Italy are among films to be screened during the European Film Festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi.

The 23rd annual European Film Festival premieres on Tuesday, May 13 at Alliance Francaise featuring nearly new films from 14 of the 28 European Union-member countries and two members of the ACP (Africa-Caribbean-Pacific) states, namely Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Including 20 critically acclaimed feature films in all, the Festival will continue its tradition of screening films that reflect a wide cross-section of genres. There will be everything from comedies and crime thrillers to fantasy mixed with melodrama, romances mixed with either comedy or drama, some of which is historical, others which are political. There are also films focused on assorted themes such as sporting events, immigration, youth coming of age, corruption, war, high society, public scandal and even workers’ revolution.

And while there is only one film out of 20 that has been directed by a woman, namely Amelie van Blmbt who made the Belgian film La Tete La Premiere or Head-first, there are several that feature women as protagonists, such as Barbara from Germany, 9 Mois Ferme or 9 Months Stretch from France, Brides and The Cherry Orchard both from Greece, Blancanieves from Spain, Les Grandes Ondes or Long-waves from Switzerland and La Tete La Premiere or Head-first from Belgium.

Each European film being offered at the Festival has been hand-picked to represent some of their country’s finest films, so that one will find films that have won accolades either at the Oscars (The Great Beauty from Italy) or Cannes (The Hunt from Denmark), as well as at the Cesars (9 Month Stretch) in France, the Silver Bears (Barbara) in Berlin, the Goya Awards (Blancanieves) in Spain and the Kalasha Awards (The Captain of Nakara) in Kenya.

It’s only once a year that Nairobi plays host to such a rich array of cinematic creativity packed into a little less than three weeks’ time. What’s equally impressive about the festival is that the EU through Alliance Francaise ensures that a number of the films are also screened in Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret as well as around Nairobi from Baba Dogo and Mathare to Korogocho and Kariobangi.

This year there are several new dimensions to the Festival. One is the inclusion of two silent movies made in the early 20th 1925 by acclaimed French filmmaker Rene Clair and Le Voyage dans la lune or A Trip to the Moon, made in 1902 by another esteemed French filmmaker Georges Melies.

To complement these two film classics, Alliance Francaise has invited two award winning French musicians, pianist Guillaume Cherpitel and saxophonist Julien Petit to accompany the films, which was a tradition during the silent film era, although back then it was either an organ or a piano that sonically dramatized the moods and emotions conveyed by the actors in the films.

Cherpitel and Petit whose program is being billed as a Cine-Concert entitled The Bridge of Flavours and their music will reflect a fusion of multiple influences such as fink, electronic, groove and slam. Inspired to make music to accompany successful silent films, the two (who recently performed at the 2013 Jazz century. One is Paris qui dort or Paris Asleep, a science fiction comedy made in Pulsations International Festival in Nancy, France) were especially impressed by the global success of the Oscar-winning film The Artist which was a remake of an early silent film set to music.

The other innovative element that has been added to this year’s EU Film Festival is the public discussions called the Cine Café, which will revolve around two films that seem to be the most relevant to Kenyan audiences, one about a fictitious African country that has a peculiar resemblance to Kenya and the other about Somali pirates who hijack a Danish cargo ship in the Indian Ocean and bears a resemblance to the award-winning film Captain Philips.

The first Cine Café will discuss one of the two ACP films that will be screened, both of which were financed under the 9th cinema and audiovisual industries in ACP countries.”

The Captain of Nakara will be discussed with the public and the film’s cast and crew, including its director Bob Nyanya and his screenwriter Cajeton Boy on Wednesday, May 21st screening at 5pm. It will also be shown Sunday, May 25th

The other film that should generate living discussion is the Danish film, The Hijacking, which will be shown at a Cine Café on Tuesday May 27th Festival, Sunday, June 1st European Development Fund that “aims to contribute to the development of at 7:30pm.





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