UNESCO project enables ten African female filmmakers to work with director Naomi Kawase in Japan

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, and Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase on Thursday announced the names of the ten winners of the UNESCO-Nara Residency for Young African Female Filmmakers, in a side event of the 13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in Paris.

“It is important for the cinema industry to make the voice of Africa heard,” said the Director-General, “to support the emergence of diverse cultural expressions, put forth new ideas and emotions, and make sure that women as creators contribute to a necessary global dialogue for peace, culture and development.”

The ten winners, female filmmakers aged 21 to 35 from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, will be in residence in Tawara, in Nara Prefecture, from 29 March to 12 April this year. They will be coached by Ms Kawase and Senegalese female filmmaker Fatou Kandé Senghor. The residency project is supported by the Government of Japan and the Japan Foundation.

“In a way,” says Ms Kawase, “being a woman made it easier for me to look closely at my own environment. Not being in the mainstream or the centre, women can make new discoveries. In my case, I will create things from sources within myself. I believe there is something universal in deep personal experience.”

The ten filmmakers are:

  • Mayowa Bakare, Nigerian scriptwriter and assistant director. “There are not enough stories about women told by women. I will explore a different narrative for the stories we tell of ourselves.”
  • Okule Dyosopu, South African documentary film director, founder of an independent production company. “Women are the best kept secret in the film industry. I am the change I want to see.”
  • Awa Gueye, Senegalese director of five documentary, docudrama and fiction films. “Today, we attach so much importance to appearance. I want to capture a different kind of beauty, beauty in opening up to and accepting others.”
  • Joan Kiragu, award winning Kenyan documentary filmmaker. “This residency offers an international platform for the voice of women. I will be an ambassador pushing forward the agenda whilst making stories that matter.”
  • Uren Makut, Nigerian director and producer, creator of a training centre for young filmmakers. “Women have always had a presence in filmmaking but have consistently been in the background. They are highly creative and will do amazing things when encouraged.”
  • Lydia Matata, Kenyan filmmaker, writer and journalist. Filmmaking, like life, offers constant lessons. I want the confidence that what I explore through my work as a female African filmmaker is just as good and important as my counterparts elsewhere.”
  • Fama Reyanne Sow, Senegalese director and screenwriter. “I want to create strong women characters so the youth in Senegal can have heroines to admire.”
  • Delphine Yerbanga, director and producer at Burkina Faso’s public national television. “This residency will be a creative process that can show me how to grow an idea and give birth to a tangible film.”
  • Thishiwe Ziqubu, director and founder of a production company in South Africa. “I don’t want to just be a South African filmmaker, but a global artist who must expand her world view to create work that crosses boundaries.”
  • Floriane Zoundi, director and scriptwriter for television in Burkina Faso. “They say a director is like a conductor of an orchestra. I want to gain new skills, watch others work, and listen and share among my peers.”

The filmmakers will develop film projects and participate in master classes, filming and debates. Residents will be invited to present their work at the next Nara International Film Festival (18-22 September 2020).

Africa and women are two crosscutting global priorities for UNESCO. The film residency brings a concrete contribution to the professional development of women in cinema and expands the reach of African films.

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