Due to some requests at Maker Faire Africa this weekend, I want to put up the links to download our documentary on mobile phone culture in Zanzibar “Hello Africa” once more.
There is a low-res streaming possibility at Vimeo:
ZIFF is the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and was (almost) in full swing when I arrived here. It is a magnificently (dis)organised event which brings film makers, entrepreneurs, NGOs and chancers from all over East Africa and beyond. Martin (of whom more later), as well as running an NGO which brings sustainable technology to local people, made a film about the growing use of mobile phone technology in Africa. It is well worth watching (will publish the web version sometime). More below. It is an acknowledged fact that in Africa, the mobile phone has leaprfrogged land-line phone technology; almost all people here have a mobile – a SIM card costs £0.50, and calls are cheap. More of this later.
We spent several convivial evenings at ZIFF, which is held in the old fort, a double-chambered structure, open to the air. One chamber has a sort of amphitheatre, where the films are shown; the other is an open area with a stage at which concerts took place into the small hours. There is a well-stocked bar in each. Entry was a problem (”residents” get charged £0.50, foreigners £5 or £10).
The first evening passed pleasantly enough – we finally joined up with a group of Belgian film makers who, like many others here, are involved in the general East African cultural scene, which seems to be thriving. Subsequent evenings were quieter, but we were constantly bumping into Martin’s endless contacts, some local, some European – one who came to Uganda/Kenya/Mozambique 5 years ago, and forgot to leave. All manage to make a living, sometimes precarious, but I’m slowly (quite rapidly, actually) realising that you do not need a lot in the way of material goods. It helps, and I know that I am leaving (I hope not for ever) in a few weeks, so a slightly disingenuous thought.
Apart from a few “big” movies, most of the them were sparsely attended. There was an endless cycle of films about AIDS, mostly well-meaning, but I wonder if they ever reach their target audience. Another cycle with harrowing stories of young women in traditional societies, mainly Moslem, who had a relationship, got pregnant, were abandoned and then had to face the most appalling consequences. (While predominantly Sunni Moslem, Zanzibar does not go in for that sort of thing.) One charming film from Cameroun about a couple of friends who compete for a girl (a beautifully choreographed picture of village life); the father wants to marry the girl off to a corrupt politician; she finally succumbs for the good of her family. Her erstwhile fiancée, meanwhile, is in jail after being stitched up by the politician. In the final scene, reminscent of The Graduate (Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft – remember?), the boy is released from jail by an honest policemen and, reconciled with his friend, they race up to the church just as the bride is about to say “I do”. They charge into the church, the girl runs off with her boy, after they have barred the door of the church with a giant pole through the door handles.
The last evening was a gala event, and we went down with the Zanzibits students, who were in a mood of ebullient effervescence. It is hard to exaggerate this; they were absoultely fizzng with good humour. They had made a short film in their class – a series of folk tales and fables, engagingly animated and making liberal use of local children. Another upload for sometime. Finally, Madame Karoume (the mother of the current president of Zanzibar; his father was the first president after indepence, so she is a double first lady) made an endless speech, in Swahili but, like the actor reading the telephone book, never boring. The guest of honour was Danny Glover (Colour Purple), who had previously been driven through the streets in a convoy of Unicef jeeps with blaring sirens. He was rather the worse for wear (or, as they say, tired and emotional but without the emotion), and made a rather uninspiring speech. Then the winning film was shown (an excellent, if violent, film about modern South Africa) and, true to form, everybody (or at least the bigwigs and a sizeable proportion of the audience) left as it started and migrated to the bars and music for more networking.
As a sort of postscript, there was an extra day on Sunday at which Martin’s film – Hello Africal – a cinema verité film about mobile phone usage in Zanzibar was screened to the normal sparse audience. This will also be posted in due course. The streets are now much quieter, and the nightly street market (inter alia, excellent Zanzibarian Pizza, which is not a pizza at all, for £0.75) has migrated to Africa House, which I have not yet visited.
Dan Hamm, our member on site wrote this wonderful review of ZIFF 2009 here: http://hamm.co.uk/zanziblog
This Friday (8.5. 19:30 @ Schikaneder, MargaretenstraÃŸe 24, 1040, Vienna) we will have the premiere of our documentary project “Hello Africa” which we recorded last fall in Zanzibar.
The promo text of the movie:
Hello Africa is an experimental documentary about the emerging use of mobile phones in Africa. Just in the past recent years, mobile phone subscriptions, fixed lines and internet access have increased in Africa, quicker than in any other region on earth. These rapid changes, the implications it has on African society and impact on social life in general is the reason for making this documentary.
The film is shot on the island Zanzibar outside Tanzania, considered to be one of the most enigmatic and cosmopolitan places in Africa, rich with contrasts and cultural heritage from many civilizations. It shows encounters with people from all backgrounds and proffessions; street rappers, primary school teachers, Massai watchmen, seaweed farmers, fishermen, multimedia students, nightclubbers and many more. What they all share in common is their opinions, habits and usage of cellphones, in private as well as proffessional life.
With a great music soundtrack and beats, this film wants to send a strong and positive message about the many possibilities that the new communication technologies brings, and in a larger perspective toÂ get attention to issues on how to “bridge the digital divide” between developed and underdeveloped countries.
Here is once again the trailer:
The screening will take place at the movie theatre Schikaneder in Vienna at 19:30 on Friday 08. May, entry is free.
Afterwards we’ll have a release party – so make sure you come by if you have time.
Just a short update from London – today we flew here to attend Africa Gathering tomorrow.
Today we already went for dinner with Africa Gathering organizer Ed Scotcher, Erik Hersman, David McQueen and several other interesting people, it was a really great evening and food at Ethiopian restaurant Lalibela was superb.
I’m really looking forward to meet the people at the event tomorrow – around 200 according to the organizers. Martin will also have a speech and present the new trailer of Hello Africa. It can be viewed on Youtube (Hello Africa Trailer II) and according to editor Anders Bolin it looks best in HQ mode.
More tomorrow, we’ll keep you updated.
A little update about our mobile phone documentary from Africa and Zanzibar. A first draft is now finished and can be read in its full context on our webpage. I have outlined the main ideas we want to express, what we have done so far, the characters ans stories we like to present and more. The picture below shows the sewing machine of the local tailor on Hurumzi street who produced 200 awesome DVD covers made out of recycled Kangas (and by the way, we found out that uzi in swahili means “thread”). Next step in the post-production process is the making of a trailer. Stay tuned & read all about it!
Jambiani was the first village in Tanzania that started with seaweed farming. The practice began almost 20 years ago and the harvesting was and is still done almost exclusively by women. This was once one of the only ways for women to earn their own money, giving them a greater independence in the household. Jambiani is considered a good place to farm since the weather and environmental conditions are optimal. Seaweed can be used for the Pharma industry, cosmetics, plastics and a variety of other uses. Sadly, the profit does not make it back to the community. Two main companies run the show, a Tanzanian state and a Japanese company.
We arranged for a private course in Swahili at the Jambiani Primary school. The school is located in the exact center of the village and teaches about 1.200 pupils. For one month, three days per week, we attended school classes; sitting on benches made for 7-year old kids. Mr Faridi was our tutor and mentor- he unlocked the code of Swahili for us. Mr. Faridi even arranged a special class about mobile phones for us. We met and discussed with other teachers as well regarding their views on the possibilities and challenges of mobile phones.
We already announced this via the social networks where we’re present:
We uploaded several pictures we shot during the six weeks of our African film project on FlickR. All of them are CC licensed so you are free to use them.
Above, there’s a random selection.
We wrote this blog post about our trip from Zambia to Tanzania already a while ago, but as said earlier Internet connections in Africa are sparse and I forgot to bring the text with me. That’s why we only post it now.
After a 30 hours bus drive starting in Lusaka, we arrived in Dar Es Salam on Sunday 19 October. The bus ride was quite an experience. It was overcrowded, both with passengers and luggage, since they were shipping some goods in strange boxes. The bus was old and dodgy and so was the street, especially closer towards Dar Es Salaam. We were also constantly stopped by the police at check points. At the first check point they took one of the conductors into custody (for whichever reason, we couldn’t find that out), after which more than half of the passengers exited the bus to demonstrate (successfully).
Crossing the border was also quite interesting. We arrived before 6am and had to wait until the gates were opened. There were many locals selling SIM cards and airtime, which seems to be the big border business (besides changing any currency into Tanzanian Shillings).
We only stayed one night in Dar Es Salam and took a speedboat to Zanzibar the following morning, where we checked into some private accommodation in the middle of Stone Town. Quite nice. Simple, but very authentic.
We did many interviews with locals in Stone Town the following days. More about that in another blog post.
Shortly after MobileActive08 we took the plane to Zambia with South African Airways, At the airport we got a Zain (formerly Celtel) SIM card for about 3000 Zambian Kwacha (less then one US Dollar) and some credit. We were picked up by Patience Tropo with our driver Henry and a Mitsubishi Pajero, which was supposed to take us arround the following days. We took the road from Lusaka towards the Zimbawean border to the town of Chirundu. The road was built by the Chinese and it is in pretty good condition. Near the border there were a couple of hundred trucks waiting for clearance. Most of them were US brands operated by South African companies. Many of them bring in goods to Zambia, a lot of them transit to Congo.
In the evening we arrived at Gwabi River Lodge located 20 km east of Chirundu just next to the river Kafue. They offer wireless Internet there for USD 5 for half an hour. We had a very nice dinner at the lodge and decided to do a whole day game drive the following day at Lower Zambezi National Park. So we got up early and hit the road along the river Zambezi. The road was in a horrible condition but after crossing Kafue river with a pontoon we arrived at the first gate about one hour later. Elephants were crossing the road shortly after the gate, which was pretty exciting. Then we lost the track and ended up at Kasaka River Lodge to ask for the way. The guys working at the lodge pointed us to the leaking radiator of our car! So we had a lot of luck not beeing stranded somewhere in the bushes with a overheated car. They fixed it properly and did not even charge for it. Thanks to Kasaka for this great favor. We continued our way and picked up a guide at the park gate, who was supposed to bring us to the animals. We were not very lucky and we had only one hour left to do the game drive, since we had lost quite some time with fixing the car. We saw zebras, impalas, crocodiles, baboons and vervet monkeys which was still very exciting. No lions though.
On our way back we again stopped at the gate and did an interview with Moonga Mulauka, one of the rangers. He mentioned that there is no cell phone network coverage in and arround the park and that they use radios to communicate. He pointed out that no coverage is actually good for the park, because otherwise poachers (illegal hunters) could easily communicate with each other using cell phones.
On the next day we went out to Zambezi river with a speed boat to do some fishing. Again, we were not lucky, but the fish were 🙂 We ended up watching a herd of elephants taking a bath in the river and crossing over to a sand bank to feed there. This was terriffic! While on the boat we also did an interview with Moses Banda, the boat captain.
After that we went back to Gwabi to do the check out and head back to Lusaka.
In Lusaka we met up shortly with Patience again and got to see the Zain headquarters, which is in the embassy area. We wanted to take a picture of the front building which turned out to be quite a hassle, the guards finally agreed after a lot of convincing.
More about the trip from Lusaka < > Dar Es Salaam coming up on the next blogpost!