France: First African film entries in mobile film festival

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A wave of mobile film festivals have been happening globally that reflect the rise of use of the mobile phone for making short films. At the beginning of June there was a three day festival of so-called “Pocket Films” with over 200 films of every genre from 30 countries represented. It was an interesting straw in the wind that several African countries entered films. For it is probably true now that more Africans have access to a mobile than have access to a cinema screen.

Films submitted to the festival included everything from comedies, political statements, experimental work and community campaigning films, demonstrating that this new “pocket cinema” can be both spontaneous and inventive. “It is very important that there is world event dedicated to these kinds of films…we received around 1000 entries. The palette (for makers) is very open,” said Benoit Labourdette, the Co-ordinator of the Pocket Films event at the Centre Pompidou.

After cinema, television and the computer, the mobile phone represents the birth of the fourth screen. Work on it varies enormously but because mobile phones lend themselves to clandestine filming it has often been used by bloggers and experimental film-makers in very different ways to film shot for TV or the big screen. It has also become a space for social sharing with the controversial rise of things like “happy slapping” where friends take pictures of surprise attacks on other people. However, the Festival also had entries from a range of students attending film schools in France.

Africa, which is so often absent from film festivals, was represented by the films of Zaanga, a co-operative audio-visual agency which also encourages the spread of open source software on the Internet. It brought films from three francophone countries – Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo – and showed work about places that are usually largely invisible to more mainstream media.

Blogging was slow to migrate to Africa but there are now a considerable number of extremely accomplished African bloggers as the recent TED Festival in Arusha demonstrated. So it can only be a matter of time before Africa spawns its own breed of pocket film-makers. Watch out what’s happening on a mobile near you…