Africa Rising International Film Festival returns to give the marginalised a voice

Lala Tuku is the chairperson and founder of Africa Rising International Film Festival (Ariff). Picture: Supplied

Lala Tuku is the chairperson and founder of Africa Rising International Film Festival (Ariff). Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 20, 2022


Following a successful four-year run, the Africa Rising International Film Festival (Ariff) is set for a landmark 5th instalment from November 24 – 27.

The festival announced its return during a private launch at The Bioscope Independent Cinema earlier this month.

At the launch were a handful of actors and film-makers, including Sthandile Nkosi, Vincent Moloi and Mmabatho Montsho, and the media.

The social impact film festival, which was launched in 2018 with the aim of “leaving no storyteller behind”, announced that it was celebrating its growth in the industry with a #HereWeAre theme.

The line-up will be divided between The Bioscope, Atlas Studios and Ster Kinekor Rosebank.

Over the past four years, the festival has lived up to its intended purpose of being inclusive by uniting emerging film-makers with established figures from across the continent.

Festival chairperson and founder Lala Tuku looks back fondly at its unique journey.

“It has been an incredible feat for us to be able to achieve such a milestone,” she said. “The fact that we have been able to position ourselves as a festival that is accessible to all and gives voice to the marginalised, like women, young people, the LGBTQ+ community and those living with disabilities, which is something that has always been the most important part of our organisation, is testament to what is possible when industries give voice to the voiceless and believe that every story is valid.

“We look back and literally give ourselves a high five as we celebrate our fifth year. I think we are inspired more than ever to keep going and do more so that no story is left to die in the shadows because there is still so much.”

The festival will host an array of curated programmes such as film screenings, Ariff Film Child, Ariff digital hub and Ariff Talks Series.

Gaopie Kabe, Vincent Moloi and Mmabatho Montsho at the Ariff launch. Picture: Supplied

The talks programme is set to position African storytellers as the inspiration to a world that continues to look to Africa for new narratives entrenched in our diverse cultures, traditions and heritage.

Tuku said that this year’s concept, Here We Are, speaks to recognition, validation and “taking up spaces in celebration of the modern-day milestones” and the strides made by the African film industry.

“We are strongly rooted in who we are,” she said. “We matter. Our stories matter. We are important. We validate each other: I see you, you see me. We acknowledge the work we put in, we honour each other. We show up as our most authentic and the world is watching. We are here and here we are.”

Five years on, Tuku is still brimming with pride and excitement about what’s to come.

I ask her to recount how the concept for Ariff first came about. “We sat as the founders of Ariff and found it critical to have conversations and to create space for the marginalised.

“We realised that there was a huge gap in the market and our storytelling was not captured in the form of a film festival.

“We live on a continent where storytelling literally pumps through our veins – it is who we are – and we thought it was so unfortunate that we had no place to showcase that, especially in an economy where the world was now looking at us for our narratives.”

Their main objective was to be the anchors of that narrative while simultaneously providing a platform for African films and film-makers to be visible in the global market.

Vincent Moloi speaking at the Ariff launch. Picture: Supplied

One of the stand-outs on the festival programme is Ariff Talks. These talks aim to unpack the meaning of legacy through storytelling, and to do so “while honouring our past in the present in order to leave a strong storytelling footprint for future generations to build on”, Tuku said.

“Ariff will bring a multidisciplinary and multi-generational participation of speakers, panellists and moderators who will resonate with an industry that is fast exploring the telling of stories from this multidisciplinary lens.”

The festival will conclude with the African Legends Series to select and celebrate one African film and TV thought leader who has contributed to telling authentic African stories on the continent.