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The Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival’s 17th Edition Goes Online

Rosario Pérez | Photos: ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

The “Festival de Cine Africano Tarifa-Tánger” (Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival) featured over 50 films, forums, online live discussions, the Afrotopía photographic exhibition and cinema workshops this December 2020, taking place both off and online due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival Cine Africano Afrotopia FCAT

The 17th “Festival de Cine Africano Tarifa-Tánger” (FCAT) (Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival) took parts of its show online this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. This year saw the festival taking a hybrid format; some aspects were conducted in person in Tarifa, while other aspects went global through streaming platforms such as ‘Filmin’. Thus, FCAT was able to overcome all obstacles and do what it does best: Promote filmmakers from the African continent and to “bring down taboos, ignorance and prejudice”.

Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival Cine Africano Afrotopia FCAT

“Our desire to keep this annual African cinema event alive this year has been greater than our fear”, said the film festival’s director, Mane Cisneros. The 17th edition opened last Friday 4th December at the Alameda Theatre in Tarifa with a gala which saw none other than actress Susana Córdoba in attendance, alongside officials from the region. There was also a performance by the Senegalese group from Seville and “One pac & Fellows”.

The FCAT has established itself as a reference for the African film industry in the Spanish-speaking world. It featured over 50 films, a workshop and reflection session called “The Tree of Words”, a photographic exhibition “Afrotopía”, a cross-frontier meeting, a screening of “Los Toruños” at the Puerto de Santa María and a ‘School Space’ in Morocco.

Sudanese Amjad Abu Alala’s debut film in Spain, “You will die at 20”, opened the public screenings, which alternated between the Alameda Theatre and the Santa María church. This was done in a bid to provide a “safe space, to make theatres a hub for networking and exchange of ideas … to ensure their continuation as an act of resistance”, as Mane Cisenros herself said.

Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival Cine Africano Afrotopia FCAT

Abu Alala’s film is a drama about “the fear of living” which “reminds the Sudanese people, and the rest of the planet, that there is a world outside of their home village”. The film was also streamed on the FCAT on ‘Filmin’.

African Comedy

Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival Cine Africano Afrotopia FCAT

The afternoon of the inauguration opened with “Laughs and humour in African cinemas”, a programme which was screened to the public with a view to show that “that there are good comedy titles from the neighbouring continent”.

Some examples can be found with the film “Visa” which took a humorous view on emigration and Schengen Law and the animated feature film “Aya de Yopougon”, directed by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubreri, set in a city neighbourhood in the Ivory Coast during the 70’s.

During the subsequent discussions, the speakers came to the conclusion that “humour allows us to bring sensitive issues to the table that would otherwise not be discussed”, and that “political, religious or social issues can be explored better through the vehicle of humour”.

In the words of Pablo de María, the Director of the SACO Festival in Oviedo (Northern Spain), the comedy as a genre is “despised at festivals” but filmmaker Marguerite About argues that comedy serves to “de-dramatize sensitive topics such as homosexuality”.

Direcor Laurence Attali said that “humour is a way of coming closer to foreign cultures”, while Senegalese critic Demba Cissoko says that it is all about “knowing how to laugh at oneself”. He had been invited to “redefine the concept of humour” as a political and artistic tool that serves to highlight problems, “rather than to entertain.”

Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival Cine Africano Afrotopia FCAT

Everyone at that first round of discussions, which as viewers watching from around the world via YouTube Live and the festival’s social networks – for example from the Spanish Cultural Centres in Equatorial Guinea (Malabo and Bata) – agreed that “there is nothing better than humour in the face of pain”.

Meanwhile, on Filmin, known as the “big virtual theatre” of this year’s FCAT, all the films in the competitive sections (“Hyperopia” and “In short”), as well as other features screened at this 17th edition, such as: “A Laugh”, “Anticolonial Visions” (about 60 years of African independence), “However, they create” (based on the difficulty of being an artist in Equatorial Guinea), “Next time, the fires ”(On systemic racism in the West), and“ La Tercera Root ” (a look at Afro-cinemas in Latin America).

A “Tree of Words” and a film workshop

Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival Cine Africano Afrotopia FCAT

The 17th edition of the FCAT concluded with a workshop called “The Tree of Words”, which aimed to stimulate reflection and debate through daily round tables streamied on the festival’s YouTube channel.

The 2020 program also included another activity: an African Cinema Classroom taught by critic and programmer Javier H. Estrada, which took place during the bank holiday in early December, and in which more than 15,000 students from Spanish and Spanish speaking Moroccan schools participated virtually via Espacio Escuela.

Tarifa-Tangier African Film Festival Cine Africano Afrotopia FCAT

According to the FCAT organization, the Estrada workship turned into “a unique Spanish language opportunity aimed at film students, journalists, audiovisual professionals or anyone interested in deepening their knowledge and understanding of African cinemas.” Framed in the context of the 8th edition of the Tree of Words, the course was also streamed and broadcast on demand in Equatorial Guinea and in Latin American countries.

35 African photographers, at the Castillo Guzmán el Bueno

The Castillo Guzmán el Bueno de Tarifa also hosted an FCAT exhibition in December called “Afrotopía”, which brought together photos from 35 young Africans, in collaboration with Casa África and “Sobre” (the training program for development in the cultural sector of the Spanish International Cooperation initiative).

The FCAT 2020 featured work by Moroccan designer and architect Omar Kdouri, from his Moroccan Minimalism series which is a tribute to fountains in the Moroccan city of Fez, which was used as the poster. According to the organisers, the poster, “flooded by the blue that has fascinated so many painters throughout time, symbolizes the colour of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic that merge in the Strait, the alley of water that connects the two continents and what makes this festival cross-border”.

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