Using film to advocate for human rights in Africa

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Sharon Kavhu

Windhoek - The issue of human rights in Africa is vastly talked about when a nation has severely violated them in public or when people are seeking justice on a trending issue, and yet every day there are cases in marginalised areas where no one talks about them.

It is unfortunate that the marginalised communities are the victims and they are either unaware of their rights or how to deal with violated human rights. However, film makers have made efforts to educate the people about human rights through documentaries and films. Of course, the initiative is good, but sadly such documentaries are screened mostly in urban areas, leaving the rural communities and less developed areas with little or no access.

As a way of making a difference, Africa Human Rights Film Festival (AHRFF), a South African based non-profit making organisation is making visible efforts to ensure a vibrant culture of human rights awareness in Africa through film is established.

Since April last year, the organisation has embarked on an outreach screening of films that advocate for human rights in rural and less privileged communities.   

AHRFF director Francis Hweshe told The Southern Times that from last year April to date, the organisation has screened at least 11 films in rural and less privileged communities of South Africa and this year it is expanding to other five African countries.

“We have partnered with Olive Tree Theatre, to roll out monthly screenings, in Alexandra, one of the poorest townships in Johannesburg, South Africa. These monthly outreach screenings, dubbed the Last Thursdays, seek to engage ordinary people in African cities, townships, rural communities and policy-makers on human rights issues,” said Hweshe.

“We intend to launch a similar concept with our partners in Cameroon, Nigeria, Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe before the end of this first quarter. All the ground work and logistics needed for the expansion of the project are now in place and we are waiting for some funds from our partners. ”

He said his organisation has screened high social impact films such as ‘Inxeba’, ‘Vaya’, ‘Mma Moeketsi’, ‘Our Sand’, ‘Women on Sex’, ‘When Babies Don’t Come’, ‘Troupes of War’, ‘Nomfundo’, ‘Someone to Blame’, ‘Lost Tongue’ and ‘Whispering Truth to Power of War,’ which co-hosted the screening with Jozi Film Festival.

The organisation invited film submission last year and received over 4,000 films from which they are selecting what to screen and when depending on the audience this year.

“We use cutting-edge human rights themed films as advocacy and awareness-raising tools in less developed areas. We believe in the power of film to bridge dialogue between citizens on those in power to make a better society,” said Davison Mudzingwa, AHRFF programmer.

He said AHRFF has an annual rolling programming, which creates partnerships between human rights defenders, filmmakers, investigative journalists, broader civil society and potential funders for coordinated and concerted efforts to promote human rights awareness in Africa through film.

In line with AHRFF’s vision of creating an Africa with high levels of awareness and respect for human rights among policy makers and empowered ordinary citizen in rural, marginalised and urban areas, the organisation intents to take its premiership to side-line events of political and governance summits such as Southern African Development Community and the Africa Union.

According to Mudzingwa, the organisation also has a platform to train young people in disadvantaged communities in film making for them to tell their own lived experiences and stories. The training also extends to human rights defenders in enhancing their skills set in the current digital age.

“We will identify 40 youths in marginalised communities that we will equip with skills to tell their own stories through multimedia platforms,” said Mudzingwa.

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