Interview with Festival Director Orvil Kunga (Afrikans On Film Festival)

A unique opportunity to see films rarely seen on the big screen. A well attended festival noted for shining a light on the multilayered aspect of Afrikan filmmaking. It boasts informed discussions, workshops, a unique Afrikan craft market and great cultural food (vegan options available). With performance, poetry and story-telling thrown in for good measure. A true Afrikan experience that will tingle the senses, inform, insight and educate.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Orvil Kunga: Afrikans on Film festival has been successful in premiering work for filmmakers who are often overlooked in the wider discourse of mainstream cinema.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

Our festival exists solely to promote the multilayered aspect of African centred, creativity. Those who attend our festival should expect films from the African continent, along with African centred films from US, UK and Europe. Many of them are UK premiers. All have been selected because they speak to the essence of the on-going journey of the African body.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We look at films across the board. Animation, documentaries, drama and even music videos.

There is no criteria as such. As the curator, I am interested in films which skilfully portray where African filmmaking is now but also where these contemporary stories sit within Africa’s uniquely spiritual nature of story-telling. Whilst a few of the films screened might be made by non-Black, African people (either from the continent or the diaspora), it is ultimately, the African-centred nature that forms the main criteria for selection.

Do you think that some films don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Certainly. African people within the creative industries are often marginalised in the West and the African narrative has almost been erased from mainstream TV and cinema globally. The representation of the African body has historically been mediated through a white (all too often male) gaze. This is problematic and has severely hindered the African’s ability to tell our human stories to the world.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Our lived experience guides our passion for creating a platform for pushing the multi-prismic nature of these stores. It is great when we see this work on the big screen. It’s great when we see a room full of young and older people, their eyes wide open looking at the screen, in total awe at the quality, richness and range of these stories.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Its been amazing! Although we’ve been running for 6 years, we’ve not tried FilmFreeway before and have been blown away by the amount of submissions received in such a short space of time since registering on the site. If there is a gripe, then it would be that some people avoided (deliberate or otherwise), the fact that we seek African films. Films either made by Africans or films which focus on African people.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Our Afrikans on film festival has been serving films to the public for over 5 years, free of charge. Which is amazing! It has been partially funded by a small organisation in London, called Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festivals, who receive funding from the local borough of Southwark and thankfully collaborate with us in order to get these beautiful films on screen. Whilst the ‘free’ film festival may well continue under this relationship, Afrikans on Film as a subsidiary film provider, seeks wider sponsorship as we aim to push the festival to twice a year and provide pop-up screenings throughout the year. We hope to provide an out-reach programme, working with creatives here in the UK and linking them with creatives around the African world. If all goes to plan, by 2020 we should be bigger and better!

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Aah difficult one! Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene), Sankofa (Haile Gerima). BAFTA nominated, Short film – Mwansa The Great (Rungana Nyoni), watched and shared many times! Battledream Chronicles (Alain Bidard). An animated feature from Guadeloupe. The first feature from Guadeloupe is a gem on many levels and I’ve watched it too many times! Summer Of Gods (Eliciana Nascimento), Oya Rise of The Orishas (Nosa Igbinedion). Award-winning web-series Ackee and Saltfish (Cecile Emeke).

I know you said ‘film’ but an unfair question deserves an unfair answer!lol

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film speaks to an inert truth, appeals to the viewer through codes and tropes which unites the soul and lingers on, connecting others as its memories ripple.

How is the film scene in your city?

In London the independent scene is vibrant.

Online platforms have changed the game as cities/filmmakers become more and more interconnected.

Although all the big and medium films come through this city, the home of BFI’s LFF (London Film Festival), Afrikans on Film festival, attempts to serve a need and we feel, remains among the best places to see unique work from up-coming filmmakers who are equally passionate about sharing the Afrikan story.

‘K’ in Afrikan represents a disruption from the contemporary spelling, echoing the politicised presence of the festival and the consciousness of Afrikan-centred creative.

 

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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