This year, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is presenting a wide variety of narratives, aesthetics, and voices from the African continent. These visually expressive and politically outspoken films come from Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco, Angola, DR Congo, and Nigeria. Their content and imagery take their cue from familiar genres but vary these in experimental and stimulating ways.
An example of this is FOUR DAUGHTERS (CineMasters competition), a fascinatingly complex documentary by Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania. This film introduces us to Olfa, a mother to four girls, two of whom have gone off to Libya to join ISIS. Ben Hania fills the ensuing gap in the story with the help of professional actresses; together they lift the veil on the lives of Olfa and her daughters. Kaouther Ben Hania is a recognized name in world cinema. Her first feature film, LA BELLE ET LA MEUTE, premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2017. THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN (2020) received honors at the Venice Biennale and was Tunisia’s entry for the international Oscar. FOUR DAUGHTERS had its world premiere in competition at Cannes this spring.
Screenings: Tuesday, 6/27, 5:30 pm, Rio 1; Saturday, 7/1, 5 pm, Filmmuseum
BANEL & ADAMA also premiered at Cannes — as the only debut film in competition. Like Kaouther Ben Hania, French-Senegalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy attended the famous Parisian film school La Fémis, where she earned a degree in screenwriting in 2015. Her debut feature film is about Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo), a couple living in a village in northern Senegal who got married with everyone’s blessing, but are experiencing increasing friction with their community. Sy cast amateur actors from the region for this film. This intensely acted drama about an attempt at self-assertion in a world determined by tradition is being screened in our CineVision competition.
Screenings: Saturday, 6/24, 5:30 pm, Rio 1; Sunday, 6/25, 6 pm, City 3
Banel & Adama
Also in the CineVision competition is ANIMALIA by French-Moroccan director Sofia Alaoui. Born in Casablanca to a Moroccan father and French mother, she grew up in Morocco and China. After graduating from school in Casablanca, she moved to Paris, where she learned the art of directing at La Fémis and elsewhere. In 2017, Alaoui returned to Morocco and set up her own production company, Jiango Films. Her previous film, SO WHAT IF THE GOATS DIE, received the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival in 2020 and the César for best short fiction film in 2021. Now she presents ANIMALIA, her first feature-length film, which also premiered at Sundance — an atmospheric science-fiction drama that also tells of class differences in Morocco.
Screenings: Monday, 6/26, 6 pm, Astor Club Cinema; Wednesday, 6/28, 7 pm, City 2
In their use of genre elements, the filmmakers are as adept as they are outspoken in conveying political content. Carlos Conceição’s second feature film, TOMMY GUNS (in the International Independents section), for example, casually turns into a zombie film in the middle. Born in Angola himself in 1979, Conceição deals with the situation in that country in 1974, when the war of independence was almost over and most of the Portuguese colonialists had been driven out. An entire Portuguese battalion valiantly holds its ground until it is confronted with the ghosts of the past. This film premiered at Locarno in 2022, where it received the Europa Cinemas Label. Conceição will be at both screenings of his film in Munich and will take questions from the audience.
Screenings: Monday, 6/26, 8 pm, Filmmuseum; Tuesday, 6/27, 7 pm, City 2.
Mami wata - An AFRIKAN FOLKLORE
ZOMBIES was the title of Baloji’s third short film, which earned him five awards at international festivals. Baloji, a rap star who grew up in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), then in Belgium, now presents his first feature film, OMEN, in which the supernatural also seems to be front and center. “Zabolo” is the devilish epithet that people have given Koffi. Does he have sinister magical powers? Having left his birthplace, Lubumbashi, years earlier due to ostracism, he returns there with his European fiancée and is once again subjected to prejudice. OMEN is being screened in competition for the CineRebels Award. Baloji will give a Q&A at both screenings.
Screenings: Wednesday, 6/28, 5:30 pm, City 1; Thursday, 6/29, 10 pm, City 2
While people in OMEN believe in witches and sorcerers, MAMI WATA – A WEST AFRIKAN FOLKLORE delves into the cosmos of a West African village where the motherly water deity of the title is worshipped above all else. When children disappear under mysterious circumstances, the local people are caught up in a violent religious conflict. This latest work by Nigerian director C. J. “Fiery” Obasi is a breathtaking black-and-white film that received the Special Jury Award for cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023. C. J. “Fiery” Obasi will be attending both screenings at the Filmfest (CineRebels competition).
Screenings: Wednesday, 6/28, 8:30 pm, City 1; Thursday, 6/29, 5 pm, Filmmuseum
On Thursday, June 29, a Filmmakers Live! talk on “New Visions from Africa” will be held in the Karolinensaal at the Amerikahaus at 3 pm. Curator Bernhard Karl will talk to director Baloji (OMEN) and three people involved in MAMI WATA (director C. J. “Fiery” Obasi, producer Oge Obasi, and leading actress Evelyne Ily) about their works as well as their hopes for African cinema and the challenges they face in their countries on a daily basis.
All are welcome. Free admission – first come, first served!