Never underestimate the power of the short film

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With that goal in mind, influential South African executive Steve Markovitz was tasked with working with series producers Angele Diabang and Brian Tilly to commission a diverse team of continent-based African film talent to perform.

The first films in the series launched online on November 30, with the rest slated to be released in installments in the New Year.

We took a deep dive into the Africa Direct project and came up with five of the best films in the series. The character-driven projects provide interesting snapshots, not only of respective human subjects, but also of the environments in which they exist.

The Bookmaker (Ethiopia)

Still from ‘The Bookmaker’

In the first images of Girum Berehanetsehay The bookmaker, in Ethiopia’s Ankober Mountains, Archbishop Kalehiwot Habtewold instructs five of his disciples to go to the village to buy a decent goatskin. The skin is a raw material for the ancient craft of making books in parchment practiced by the ancient ecclesiastic.

The bookmaker follows the clergyman home and at work as he attempts to shatter his attraction to the painstaking but ultimately rewarding process that can often last an entire decade. Berehanetsehay captures the great sky, haze, and high altitudes surrounding his subjects present a vivid snapshot of a profession that seems frozen in its time capsule.

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The Grotto (Algeria)

Still from ‘La Grotte’

In the remote Algerian town of Sidi Bel Abbès, puppeteer Houcine Bensemicha and his artist father have created a welcome center for artists and the public to pursue their passions and engage in the arts. With the charming The cave, Director El Kheyer Zidani tells a story of the well-being of artistic life and reveals an inspiring example of how creative communities can be created and nurtured.

The film starts out fairly simple, focusing on the bond between a father and son, both as family members and as artists. From the conversations and jokes between the two, Zidani can flesh out a narrative of ordinary people creating communities of care even when there is not always support through politics or government aid. .

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Desert Libraries (Mali)

Still in the “Desert Libraries”

Andrey S Diarra’s Desert Libraries is perhaps the most cinematic – and the most successful – of Africa Direct films. Using brilliant cinematography, written outlines, and a character-driven narrative that rejects traditional talking heads, Diarra sheds light on the rapidly disappearing art of copying ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu.

For convenience, Desert Libraries focus on Boubacar Saddeck Najim, one of the few remaining copyists in the historic city who works hard to reproduce precious manuscripts for posterity. But the film is really an overview of the cultural and academic history of Timbuktu and the challenge of clinging to ancient traditions, even as the wheel of modernity continues to turn onward.

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Happiness (Cameroon)

Always of ‘Happiness’

The most heartwarming story in the series is this charming dispatch from Yaoundé, Cameroon, where a charismatic deputy mayor has earned a reputation as an officer of dramatic wedding ceremonies. As deputy mayor, Claude Samuel Monthé announces to the congregation while officiating yet another marriage – only one in his busy schedule of about twenty each month – his region is appreciated by couples because “it is the only one. town hall of Cameroon, in paradise and on earth. who has a dancing mayor.

Director Valaire Fossi stands discreetly in a corner and watches Monthé at work. Whether he signs documents, puts on a full show or admonishes a couple he has just married, Monthé is as convincing as ever.

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On the White Nile (South Sudan)

Extract from “Sur le Nil Blanc”

Director Akuol de Mabior was filming another project in Juba Port, somewhere in South Sudan’s capital, when she met fisherman Rebecca Lith Chol, the main subject of her film On the White Nile. It’s easy to see why de Mabior would be fascinated by the captain of the fishing boat. Instantly startling and confident, Rebecca emerges as an imposing but utterly feminine figure existing in a field dominated by men.

In the 13-minute short, de Mabior captures the essence of its protagonist, presenting a sober but engaging profile of a fiercely independent woman who pushes her way in the best way she knows how. The whole movie revolves around Rebecca and the interior of her life is complex enough to allow for a multidimensional profile.

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