Interview: Africa in Motion

Now in its twelfth year, Africa in Motion (AiM) brings the best of African cinema to Scotland—making it possible for Scottish audiences to engage with African stories and industry professionals from the continent.

What are your key creative motivations as a film company?

Africa in Motion’s key motivation is to increase awareness about African cinema, its current talent and potential, giving rise to diverse stories and voices from the African continent to audiences living in Scotland.

Our creative programme is also motivated by our collaborative curatorial practice with different individuals, organisations and communities. We particularly look to work creatively and collaboratively with Scotland’s African diaspora communities.

Is there one image that speaks to you which you would use to summarise your selection of films for the Hidden Door festival?

Within Hidden Door Festival we have curated a package entitled ‘Reimagining African Cityscapes’, which explores new notions of African metropolis through film. We are looking forward to hosting an event within the old Leith Theatre’s 1930s style interior, and using the old architecture to juxtapose the modern African city.

This image is taken from the short film entitled ‘Shanty Mega-structures’ an experimental animation re-envisioning the architectural structure of the city of Lagos inspired by the ‘shanty-structure’. We feel that this image summarises our programme of short films well as it allows the viewer to reimagine African cities from new perspectives. African cities are some of the fastest growing in the world, hubs of urban innovation, cultural expressions and vast engines of change. From the bustling streets of Lagos, to the ancient city walls in Mali, to new and reimagined notions of African cities, this package will offer new perspectives of African cityscapes.

What do you love about film as a medium?

Film can voyage across borders and cultural boundaries carrying new stories and ideas across the world, providing a form of cultural communication more widely understood than any other. African stories are told from African perspectives, challenging colonial and neo-colonial voices. Contemporary African filmmakers are like modern day Griots, or storytellers, capturing and preserving oral cultural knowledge and identity by merging traditional forms of storytelling with modern technologies. This in turn creates a new social and political medium through which African identities are given a voice.

Too often the media is dominated by storytelling from the West, with the few African stories which are made available to mass audiences envisioned and told through Western eyes. African cinema currently only makes up around 1% of films released in cinemas worldwide, and we are one of the few organisations who aim to overcome this marginalization of African film. By showing African stories told by African people to audiences in Scotland, we are helping to offer new narratives about the African continent through film, breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions people might hold.

Are there any particular screening venues (either that you have used or want to use) that stand out for you?

A key creative motivation of our festival is to continue to develop our geographical reach across both cities Edinburgh and Glasgow – we are always looking to work with different and interesting spaces that may thematically link in well with a particular film.

We used the country and western club The Grand Ole Opry on Govan Road last year for a screening of a Congolese film that looked at the historical influence of cowboy films in the Congo together with the current lack of cinema going culture in Kinshasa. The Grand Old Opry was a cinema from 1921 until 1959. It still retains some beautiful features that remind one of an old picture house. The venue is also adorned with cowboy western memorabilia which worked perfectly with the film’s thematic.