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The magnificent sunrays lit the blue waters of the Indian Ocean as the far horizons engulfed the setting sun. Hundreds of fishermen brought the dhows to dock. As darkness crept in in the rather quiet island, there at Zanzibar’s Old Fort Amphitheatre commonly known as Ngome Kongwe, the night came alive as thousands of locals and foreigners assembled to witness the culmination of a great two weeks’ bonanza.

That Saturday night — the closing ceremony of the Zuku TV sponsored annual Zanzibar International Film Festival (Ziff) — the crème of the continent’s filmmakers, directors, scriptwriters and actors joined the masses at the open square where the jury waited to give its verdict.

Even though hundreds of submissions had made the cut and competed favourably, it was Kenya’s award winning Nairobi Half Life, Shoeshine by Tanzanian producer and Golechehreh, a film by Iranian filmmaker Vahid Moosaiyan (a film that won the Red Rose Award for best film at this year’s JIFF) that promised to make the awards sweep.

During the previous night, another big contender of the awards, The Last Fishing Boat, directed by Malawian filmmaker Charles Shemu Joyah had become the talk of the festival after it was screened to a mammoth reception. 

Based on a once successful fisherman (Yussuf) on Lake Malawi, who is now faced with struggle due to the depletion of fish in the lake, while his cultural values are being threatened by the expanding tourist industry, the film seemed to paint a reality of the threats the locals faced, provoking mixed emotional reception.

But here was yet another reality check, the Iranian drama Golchehreh, which is about Taliban’s hostile attitude toward cinema, giving everyone else a run for their money.

 Directed by Vahid Musaian, the film is based on a true story about the Taliban in Afghanistan and how they tried to destroy their national film archive and close the movie theaters.

The colourful ceremony, attended by a strong Kenyan delegation led by the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts, Wario Arero, the Kenya Film Commission CEO Peter Mutie as well as the Zuku CEO Richard Bell, got off to a flying start as entertainers from across the region made thrills.

And true to the predictions, Kenya’s Nairobi Half Life emerged the Best East African film as another Kenyan movie Ni Sisi by Nick Reding, scored a double taking home the Silver Dhow award and the Signis award. Golechehreh won the enviable Golden Dhow overall award. 

And all was not lost for the locals as popular Bongo movies among them Lover’s Island, Woman of Principle and Shoeshine, shared the spoils in the special category of the Zuku sponsored Bongo Movie awards.

It was quite an eventful town in the stone town, as Kenyans dominated the show away from the awards ceremony with performances by the VJ Nijo led Hype team ruled the night with a memorable performance — before Jua Cali brought the curtains down with a thunderous show.

This year’s festival had been themed A shared History.

Since the first festival 15 years ago, Ziff has built a reputation for showcasing some of the most captivating and cutting edge cinema. The festival shows films by the big guns, and has hosted Hollywood actor Danny Glover and African legends Ntare Mwine, Malic Bowens and Mario Van Peebles.

“This is quite a great platform for the local film makers to showcase their talent and share experiences in developing the local industry before the international market,” celebrated Toronto-based film director, Tonya Lee Williams, popularly known for her leading role in The Young and the Restless drama series, said in her closing remarks.

By Stevens Muendo

Source: Pulse

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