Ten African filmmakers have been selected to participate in a new movie residency in one of the most historic regions of Japan, working with acclaimed Japanese director Naomi Kawase, under the auspices of UNESCO.
Kawase and Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO (the United Nations’ cultural agency), on Feb. 13 announced the names of the 10 winners for the inaugural UNESCO-Nara Residency for Young African Female Filmmakers, which will run from March 28 to April 12 in Nara Prefecture - a region renowned for having one of Imperial Japan’s first capital cities.
|Audrey Azoulay (L) and Naomi Kawase (R) announce the|
winners for the UNESCO-Nara Residency.
(Photo: UNESCO/C. Alix)
The chosen filmmakers are Mayowa Bakare and Uren Makut of Nigeria; Okule Dyosopu and Thishiwe Ziqubu of South Africa; Awa Gueye and Fama Reyanne Sow of Senegal; Joan Kiragu and Lydia Matata of Kenya; and Delphine Yerbanga and Floriane Zoundi of Burkina Faso - the country that hosts the biennial FESPACO film festival, Africa’s largest such event.
The announcement came in Paris as a meeting was taking place of the Intergovernmental Committee responsible for overseeing the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (a convention that Japan has not yet signed).
“We need to hear a plurality of voices,” Azoulay said. “It is important for the cinema industry to make the voice of Africa heard, to support the emergence of diverse cultural expressions, put forth new ideas and emotions, and make sure that women as creators contribute to a necessary global dialogue for peace, culture and development.”
|Naomi Kawase (far right) calls for support for women|
filmmakers. (Photo: UNESCO/C. Alix)
Kawase meanwhile stressed that it was essential to support women working in the film industry as female directors are often overlooked in the selection for festivals and awards. For instance, only one woman - Jane Campion of New Zealand - has won the Palme d’Or top prize at France’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Kawase is among a small number of women directors who have received other prizes at Cannes. She won the Caméra d'Or newcomers’ award, for best new director, in 1997 with her first 35mm film, Suzaku, and the Grand Prix in 2007 for her fourth feature The Mourning Forest (Mogari no Mori).
Last year, Senegalese-French director Mati Diop became the first black woman to have a film in competition for the Palme d’Or, and her film Atlantics went on to win the Grand Prix, or the silver medal.
Recent events show that things are changing, Kawase said, but more needs to be done. “I’m convinced that working together, we can open a new door,” she said.
|Naomi Kawase discusses the residency and plans|
for future initiatives. (Photo: SWAN/McKenzie)
The ten filmmakers - selected from some 600 applicants - range in age from 21 to 35 and will be coached by Kawase and Senegalese female filmmaker Fatou Kandé Senghor, in the residency’s picturesque village of Tawara, Nara Prefecture. The project is supported by the Government of Japan and the Japan Foundation, UNESCO said.
“In a way, being a woman made it easier for me to look closely at my own environment,” Kawase told reporters at a UNESCO press conference. “Not being in the mainstream or the centre, women can make new discoveries. In my case, I will create things from sources within myself. I believe there is something universal in deep personal experience.”
She added that the environment of the residency was sure to have a “spiritual” effect on the filmmakers, as the forests and mountains of the location could be inspiring. She grew up in the region, and The Mourning Forest was filmed there.
The filmmakers will develop projects and participate in master classes, filming and debates, according to UNESCO. Residents will be invited to present their work at the next Nara International Film Festival (NIFF), taking place Sept. 18 to 22. Kawase founded this event in 2010, and it now attracts thousands of film fans. – SWAN
Follow SWAN's founder on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale