Challenges await ZIFF's 20th edition
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IN similar fashion with the opening of the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), the closing ceremony, last Sunday, started with a live performance of “Maulid Ya Home” in the Old Fort within Stone Town, of the nine-day event. (Photo by Iman Mani)

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MANY questions went through Fabrizio Colombo’s mind, before the actual opening of this year’s Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), earlier this month. He was used to feeling some kind of pressure, at this juncture in previous episodes, when he held the position of Assistant Festival Director.

However, now in the capacity of director, for the first time, it was much more intent, for now he is the one literally holding the helm. In a conversation with the ‘Daily News’ earlier this week, he admitted continually questioning himself, right up to the last minutes before the actual opening of this year’s twentieth edition.

His capability of handling such an event, which had many activities, of which some were new, going on simultaneously, became his haunting reality. Various issues in the organisation, together with introducing the Soko Market and Film School sections, bothered him much more than he wanted to admit.

Then, it was not much of a comfort either, when another voice within him came as a reminder that such doubts are normal, given his desire to bring these two elements into the festival.

Given such revelations, earlier this week, helped bring some understanding to Colombo’s newly found relief, after the closing day-last Sunday-which brought his anxieties to a satisfactory rest when the sail was lowered.

“Now I’m really glad we made that choice. I didn’t expect such a success. You know, internally, we had quite a number of economic problems and the organisations of the venues for screening films are still lacking, together with distributing the work, because we are few and didn’t have the money to pay everyone,” he admitted.

“However,” he continued still in an optimistic tone, “externally, the workshops were a big success. Afterwards many participants came to me saying how they had really learnt something from trainers of high quality…. I’m really glad that they understood the vision, which says after 20 years ZIFF must become the preferential platform for East Africa’s movie industry.”

Colombo, who is originally from Italy and has spent years working in Africa, maintains that the festival must be where filmmakers in the East African region get the opportunity to show and sell their works.

According to him they do not come to festivals for holidays but to take hold of the opportunities to network and make a living from their works. He mentioned having “a good turnout” to these activities, although he would like to see some greater presence Tanzanian nationals in them.

He was extremely pleased to see that there is now signs of a political interest in the festival, which was not there before.

Evidence of this new interest he says could be seen from the former President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, being the Guest of Honour, at the opening ceremony on Saturday evening, on the eighth of the month and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Professor Elisante Ole Gabriel, filling that chair for the closing last Sunday.

According to Colombo all members of the ZIFF’s team, including the board, were pleased to hear these highlyplaced representatives of the national government stressing the government’s interest and intentions towards helping build the annual event.

Former President Kikwete even challenged the board to give the actual festival more of what he called an “international appearance” which it deserves. “This festival is truly international because it is being acknowledged worldwide as this.

It’s impossible to leave out the big contribution the ZIFF has made when talking about films in the country or the develop ment of the local industry. So please don’t look at this event as just an insignificant one.

It is a big event, which has placed us in the (global) film industry,” Kikwete said in his address on the opening night. It is for these above-mentioned reasons, he advised the ZIFF team to put more effort into polishing it up more, so that it will have more of an international appeal.

He also advised them to take note when analysing the event, as to what extent and in what ways, the festival has moved closer to local communities. Also, to what extent members of the community has played a role in its development.

“This has to be done because if you want to build and grow, the hands of locals must be involved. Now people from the community cannot lend a hand if you’re not together with them. I’m saying this as a point of emphasising it although I know you’re already doing this and have succeeded in both of them,” he added.

The former president continued to explain the importance he saw for locals, both on the Isles and Mainland, to acknowledge how the world is and the important role the ZIFF, which belongs to them, plays in this entire affair.

When they have fully comprehended all of this, according to him, they will participate fully. This will be so apparent that when one episode finishes these same locals will be left with a thirst for the following one.

Hearing such remarks from the former president both at the opening ceremony and in a short discussion with the festival’s board before leaving the island the following morning, Fabrizio says left all of them more confident of a brighter future for the event.

This, together with Professor Ole Gabriel’s participation, Colombo says is being taken as a “strong positive signs” that the national government has seen that ZIFF is not a small festival in a little island but a national thing.

“Therefore, the question that we have to brand ZIFF so that it becomes a national brand makes us happy. Finally, they understand that we can really be a platform where the industry of tourism, art and culture can bring some good results,” Colombo said.

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