It is the artist and filmmakers that will continue to suffer if effort is not made to dismantle the unnecessary borders that have been created around Africa, which has not allowed people to move freely within the continent. Travelling visas have become something of an essential commodity amongst people of the continent. It is the reason why so many people have not been able to exploit the opportunities that abound outside of their shores.
For instance four Nigerian filmmakers - Didi Cheeka, Victor Okhai, Folasakin Iwajomo and Yinka Edwards - who are on the official guest list of the ongoing Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) obviously wont be able to make it to Durban this year before the festival closed on July 28. They have all complained of having issues with securing South African travelling visas, in spite of the fact that they started the application process early. They claimed that they applied over a month ago even though they are aware that the process only ‘'takes about 6 days''.
Even those who eventually got their visas like Edward and Derin Ajao (Film Critic) complained that it came so late that they missed their flights. Didi Cheeka, Yinka Edward are supposed to be part (with Derin Ajao who finally arrived yesterday Saturday in Durban) of the Talent Campus Durban programme-a hands on training programme for young African filmmakers organized as part of the festival, while Okhai and Iwajomo are supposed to present the short film- The Line Up which they made as part of the African Metropolis Short Project-a seven stories, seven cities cinema project presented by Goethe Institut South Africa with support from GTBank and Hubert Bais Fund, and produced by Steven Markovitz.
While Edward will be participating in the production component of the Talent Campus, Ajao is participating in the film critic component of the programme. Interestingly, this is the second time Ajao gets difficulty in securing visa. She couldn't travel over same issue last year and was not be able to make it to the campus.
"My passport is still at the High Commission. I am hoping it comes out anytime soon so I can still spend two days or three at the festival'' says widely travelled filmmaker and critic Victor Okhai on Sunday. Nollywood's most sought after Director of Photography Yinka Edward said he was looking forward to the experience of participating at the talent campus but lamented that the delay in granting him an entry visa has spoilt it for him. The festival continues with the screening of a diverse line-up of world-class cinema.
There have been several seminars, workshop and public discussion forums. There was a well-attended and heated discussion on new phase of censorship in South Africa. The discussion was held against the backdrop of the ban placed on Jahmil Quebeka film Of Good Report by the Federal Publication Board of South Africa (FPB). The Board relied on provisions of its 1996 act to refuse the film classification. They labeled scenes in the film ‘child porn' and subsequently ordered the film to be destroyed or surrendered to the police.
The FPB warned that ‘possession of the film is a criminal act'. Organizers of the festival who couldn't show the film on the opening night, this past Thursday following the FPB decision have appealed the decision. The film Producer Michael Auret, a lawyer, has also appealed the decision of the FPB that has generally been condemned by most filmmakers. ‘'It is senseless and stupid to ban such a good film-Of Good Report'' says a leading South African Filmmaker who doesn't want to be named. ‘'It is a damn good film. Those scenes they talk about is not just there because someone wanted to promote porn. It is there because it helps to advance the story. It is a senseless decision and it should be resisted'' he decried.
OF GOOD REPORT by Jahmil XT Qubeka - Official Trailer - South Africa, 2013 from Africiné www.africine.org on Vimeo.
By Shaibu Husseini (Durban, South Africa)