July 2020

Ongoing project – ROBA Koforidua, Ghana

We have finished with the construction of the ROBA school in Koforidua! 6 new classrooms and toilet facilities. In this project we have used wood and earth blocks as our main building materials. All the construction work was done by the end of August 2020 and was ready for the beginning of the new school year!

African Culture Stories 2:
An encounter with Mozambican film

A poster for the Fim do Caminho festival
Source: http://festivalfimdocaminho.org/

Picking up on our last post, here is the second installment of African Culture Stories: a cinematic excursion to Mozambique!

Mozambique is home to a thriving film industry whose development closely mirrors the country’s turbulent and violent history. Mozambican cinema was born in the wake of the country’s independence in 1975, at the end of a brutal 10-year war with Portugal. The first act of the new government was to establish a National Film Institute, whose job was to produce a weekly newsreel (entitled Kuxa Kanema, meaning “the birth of cinema”) that would “capture the image of the people and deliver it back to the people,” and which was shown all over the country – even in remote rural areas, where they were projected by mobile film vans.

The determination of the government and the personal commitment of the country’s president Samora Machel led to the creation of one of the first film production facilities in Africa, which attracted directors of international renown, including French directors Jean Rouch and Jean-Luc Godard and Portuguese-Brazilian filmmaker Ruy Guerra, who in 1979 produced Mozambique’s first feature film, Mueda: memória e massacre, considered a classic of anti-colonial cinema. For a glimpse into these early years of Mozambican film-making, check out the fascinating documentary Kuxa Kanema: The Birth of Cinema by Portuguese filmmaker Margarida Cardoso.

Still from the documentary
Kuxa Kanema: The Birth of Cinema

The rise of video and television, and especially death of President Samora in 1986, ushered in a new period dominated by video as a cheap and accessible medium. A central figure of this time was the Brazilian director Licínio Azevedo, today one of Mozambique’s most prominent filmmakers known for Virgem Margarida (2013) and O Comboio de Sal e Açúcar (The Train of Salt and Sugar, 2016), both of which explore the traumas left by the country’s past.

One of the few Mozambican feature films available on YouTube with English subtitles is Terra Sonâmbula (Sleepwalking Land, 2007) by Teresa Prata. This lyrical movie tells the story of the young boy Muidinga, who is wandering the war-ravaged countryside with his guardian Tuahir. When Muidinga discoveres a set of notebooks inside a burnt-out bus, the narration begins to shift between his present reality and the story evoked by his readings of the notebooks, which offer a personal perspective on the country’s conflict-ridden history.

And what about today? Among the up-and-coming generation of Mozambican filmmakers are Mickey Fonseca and Pipas Forjaz, who founded their own production company and produced their first feature, the crime thriller Resgate (Redemption) in 2019. This hard-hitting film, which was partially financed via crowdfunding, won the 2019 Africa Movie Academy Awards for best screenplay and best production design and will become the first independent Mozambican movie to be streamed on Netflix, where it is set to premiere this month.

Conditions for film-making remain difficult in a country where – according to the website of the Fim do Caminho festival, the first regularly recurring film festival outside of the capital Maputo, which was active from 2014 to 2017 – the number of functioning cinemas can be counted on two hands.

Abandoned newsreels
(Still from the documentary Kuxa Kanema)