‘Sembene Across Africa’ Screening inspire Rwandan filmmakers

By Joseph Njata

I heard about ‘Sembene Across Africa’ screening for weeks and was curious to know about the filmmaker behind the ambitious campaign. This is the man who once said “If Africa loses its stories, Africa will disappear”. How powerful!

The programing is well coordinated because for the first time in my filmmaking career, there is an event taking place in different African capitals at the same time. I knew the program belonged to aspiring African filmmakers but I didn’t know it was also supposed to be a must-attend event. I should have known better.

Exactly one hour before the screening, I happened to be at Kwetu Film Institute – the cultural spot we proudly call home. My presence in the building was a mere coincidence because I was meeting this young Congolese politician who is vying for an elective post in DRC. He was in Rwanda to shop for guys who could help him invigorate his presence on the social media. Christian Gakombe, my long time friend in cinema had met him at a conference and floated my name among the prospects.

Income wise, I had preferred meeting him than sitting in the cinema hall to catch a film. Don’t get me wrong. Its not that I considered the screening useless but I thought I could still watch the film at a later date yet our political meeting could not have waited. My dilly dallying would have meant losing a solid social media gig and forget the Congolese francs. I cannot overemphasize my love for politics but that is a story for another day. In nutshell, this is exactly how I successfully showed ‘Sembene Across Africa’ Screening the middle finger!

Unexpectedly, the meeting was rather brief because the guy was really focused on his objectives and by sheer luck, we connected very fast in our broken Swahili. Some few minutes before the event, I was as free as a bird and anyone could have been forgiven to think that it was all system go for the screening. That was not the case. I immediately decided to rush to Gisimenti for another assignment – send money to Nairobi for my daughters’ school fees.

Fast forward, I found myself at the entrance to the screening hall already ten minutes late. How shameful! I hurriedly grabbed a cold Skol – my favorite beer and stealthily took a seat in the dark cinema hall which I later discovered was almost full. Around twenty minutes into the film, I realized how ignorant I was towards Sembene’s work. The documentary is perhaps the most educative piece I have ever watched. The soundtrack was phenomenal and the film had brilliant shots laced with great archival footage. Every moment along the viewing, I felt like I was in the middle of the most intensive master class in filmmaking. Trust me, it was way much more than just watching a documentary film for me.

I would highly recommend this documentary film to any serious filmmaker, whether experienced, frugal or upcoming and I am very glad that I was part of the audience. Before the final credits rolled down, I had no shred of doubt that Sambene is truly the real father of African cinema. I am also convinced that, it will take ages and perhaps impossible to get someone who could fit into Sambene’s huge golden shoes.

After the cocktails and chit chat over some drinks, I went home a fully inspired person with this new burning desire to make films. That same desire is now threatening to explode! The day was not wasted and I look forward to catch his next project ‘Xala’ the 1975 classic adapted from the book by the same title today and tomorrow. Let’s celebrate this legend!

Even though Sembene passed away in 2007, his spirit is not leaving us anytime soon. Viva Africa!

You cannot afford to miss this FREE entrance event (Today 10th June & Tomorrow 11th June).