Low Country Screens

A ton of new films by African filmmakers or with African themes are screening at the 2014 edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

A still from "Walk with Me."

This year’s International Film Festival of Rotterdam has a big selection of new African films scheduled. The festival runs until next weekend so if you’re anywhere near, go check it out. Thankfully, most of the films (documentary, short, long fiction) have more than one screening date. The introductory blurbs come courtesy of the festival’s website.

Walk With Me (Johan Oettinger and Peter Tukei Muhumuza). Uganda, Denmark. “This complex, sometimes dark short film skillfully combines animation and feature film techniques. The two directors were brought together as part of the Copenhagen documentary festival’s Dox:Lab project. Walk with Me was shot in Uganda and completed in Denmark. A young girl in Uganda dreams of being a ballerina …”


Shoeshine (Amil Shivji). Tanzania. “A colorful and light like a comedy, but the maker also provides social commentary on Dar-es-Salaam’s society and his country, Tanzania. The story is set in a street where a shoeshine man and a bar owner symbolize the rest of the world.”


Salvation Army (Abdellah Taïa). Morocco, France. “A young Moroccan writer filmed his own book, telling his life’s story. About a boy in Casablanca who finds out you can earn money through homosexuality and about a student who, poor, cold and alone, knocks on the door of the Salvation Army in Europe.”


B For Boy (Chika Anadu). Nigeria. “A drama that bucks the familiar Nollywood trend. A contemporary, detailed narrative about a woman who takes extreme measures to give her husband a son.”


Berea (Vincent Moloi). South Africa. “Long after friends and family have moved away from a notorious Johannesburg suburb, Jewish retiree Aaron Zukerman lives there in his ever smaller, darkening world. An unexpected visit on Friday breaks Aaron’s routine and sets off cautious assimilation.”


Chigger Ale (Fanta Ananas). Ethiopia, Spain. “People are dancing at the neighborhood bar Fendika in Addis Ababa, but it goes quiet when Hitler walks in. Only briefly, mind you, as it’s soon time to play a practical joke, like pulling the fake mustache off the little guy in uniform. He’s not amused.” Yes, that sounds far-out. The trailer doesn’t reveal much more.


A Hole in the Sky (Antonio Tibaldi and Alex Lora). Somalia, France. “A document providing insight into the mind of a rural Somali girl. She accepts that tradition demands that she has to make a great sacrifice. The boundary between fact and fiction dissolves thanks to the poetic voice-over.”


A Letter to Mohamed (Christine Moderbacher). Tunisia, Austria, Belgium. “A Personal report from Tunisia two years after the revolution. Many people are disappointed, but they still hope that they will gain freedom and justice and that the tourists will return. What is freedom actually like? Traces of revolutionary zeal about to ignite against this background.”


Rags and Tatters (Ahmad Abdalla). Egypt. “January 2011: Egypt is in the grip of revolution. Asser Yassin escapes from jail only to end up in a country he no longer recognises. Rags and Tatters does not feature mass protests on Tahrir Square, but rather a general sense of threat.”


It’s Us (Nick Reding). Kenya. “Convincing proof that an educational, political film made in Africa (Kenya) can also be good fun. Even comical. A nonchalant mix of film and theatre, inspired by the election riots of 2007: on mistrust in a fragile community.”


There’s many more, including some older ones that haven’t been shown all that often in the Low Countries. Check the full program (neatly sorted per continent).

Further Reading

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

Breaking the chains of indifference

The significance of ending the ongoing war in Sudan cannot be overstated, and represents more than just an end to violence. It provides a critical moment for the international community to follow the lead of the Sudanese people.

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.

The two Africas

In the latest controversies about race and ancient Egypt, both the warring ‘North Africans as white’ and ‘black Africans as Afrocentrists’ camps find refuge in the empty-yet-powerful discourse of precolonial excellence.

A vote of no confidence

Although calling for the cancellation of Nigeria’s February elections is counterintuitive, the truth is that they were marred by fraud, voter suppression, technical glitches and vote-buying.