Case Study: Watch Africa Film Club

Watch Africa piloted a Wales-Africa Film Club with seven events in South and North Wales that showcased films from across the continent with diverse narratives that are hardly seen, portrayed or watched in mainstream cinemas.

Events included 'I Am Not A Witch' followed by Q&A with Welsh/Zambian Director Rungano Nyoni, Q&As with Norbert Mputu (a Congolese academic with extensive research in African witchcraft), Prof Racahel Langford, Dr Sarah Younan and Ali Goolyad. Screenings were offered in Wrexham and Newport, which were new locations for Watch Africa. Each event was documented using photography, vox pops, Q&A’s, discussions, workshops and web content.

This included a cross-cultural screening where they screened a film documentary in Wales, Tanzania and Kenya and interviewed people in regards to film experience, theme/subjects portrayed in the film and how they view African cinema. They also offered communication training to committee members and volunteers.

Why this matters

Among BAMER communities, cultural opportunities are rare and mostly available only through non-BAMER channels. The Wales Africa Film Club provides young BAMER people with opportunities to become involved in film; to discover, explore, network and grow their skills and confidence.

Project aims

  • According to the 2012-2013 survey by Arts Council Wales (ACW), the attendance and participation of Welsh African communities in projects funded by ACW were 26,912 out of 537,229, a mere 5% of total audiences. Film Hub Wales’s research noted only 3.45% of films screened in cinemas across Wales are considered African. Watch Africa aimed to reach out to underserved areas with cultural/foreign screenings, especially BAMER communities.
  • The club aimed to reach African communities outside of the Watch Africa festival, with informal and BAMER centred/led opportunities which worked to expand and sustain existing and core festival audiences.
  • The aim was to overcome barriers to engagement by bringing African film to BAMER communities in venues and settings familiar to them, rather than requiring them to visit venues that are unfamiliar.
  • The club planned to foster engagement among BAMER communities by providing opportunities to discover African film, to connect with developments in film on the continent, to become active participants and grow skills and confidence.

Headlines

  • Establishing film club provision beyond the festival dates, for the first time
  • Connecting established speakers such as Rungano Nyoni and Norbert Mputu to audiences in Wales
  • Reaching two communities in Wrexham and Newport for the first time
  • Increasing the number of African films screened to audiences in Wales
  • Offering communication and events training to volunteers who used this knowledge to lead events

Films

I am not a witch - Zambia Burkinabe is Rising – Burkina Faso Adama – North Africa Touki Bouki - Mali Hyenes - Mali Sacred Water - Rwanda

Key partnerships

Venues: Ty Pawb, Dagos, Barnabas Arts Centre, The Gate, Wales for Peace/Temple of Peace at Wales Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), Strategic Partners: Film Hub Wales Race Council Cymru (RCC) Ffilm Cymru Wales Jicho Communicative (Zanzibar) Tuwatch Sinema (Kenya) Dagos Made In Roath Hub Cymru Africa

Budget in brief

£5380 total project cost, £2200 Film Hub support

What worked

  • 375 people from different communities in Wales attended African film events across 6 locations
  • All 7 screenings offered Q&As or enhanced activity
  • Communications training was offered to 3 volunteers, who used this knowledge to deliver events
  • 100% of audience members rated the experience as very good (the highest possible rating)
  • New evaluation methods were used, resulting in digital feedback from audiences that can be used to promote the festival
  • 87% of audiences were new to the venues and 100% would visit again 28% of the audiences were from BAMER communities

What has been difficult

  • Planning one of the proposed screenings at Parc End Prison, Bridgend, was challenging within the time frame but delivery is planned for the future.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • The film club has allowed Watch Africa to reach new audiences and the screenings have been well received with great feedback. One thing that they weren’t able to utilise efficiently is local connections that would have reached more people. By overcoming challenges of capacity, distance and means of communication, they would have been able to reach more people. They hope that to be able to continue and develop these film clubs and learn from initial experience. Watch Africa would also like to explore the aspect of food and film more. Some audiences expected food to be provided on the day and they believe doing so will provide a holistic experience.

Awareness / Attitudes

WAFC develop and grow audiences for African cinema among difficult to reach communities in Wales but they also work with networks in Africa to grow the audiences for Welsh and British BAMER films in Africa. They are creating international dialogue, which promotes cultural exchange, potentially raising the awareness of African cultures in the UK and supporting indigenous culture in Wales. We also provided a platform to share and  learn for audiences in Wales, Tanzania and Kenya on some of the most intimate matters that are culturally similar/different. Audiences opinions/thoughts were captured and used to show how the film was received in all 3 places.

Diversity

BAMER communities especially Africans in Wales are one of the main targets for WAFC. Through Watch-Africa and having worked and screened with communities across Wales, they understand some of the challenges communities face in relation to engagement. They host free or subsidised screenings in hard to reach communities.

Knowledge & Experience

Watch Africa inspired people to understand African cinema. From documentaries with themes around sex and politics; African classics in Touki Bouki and Hyenes to more contemporary African filmmakers, the film club provided a wealth of knowledge, understanding and literacy on African cinema.  As seen from the vox pops and feedback, audiences were inspired, excited and positively provoked by the films screened.

Social Cohesion

Through the film club, they explored cultural differences between communities in Wales, BAMER communities and those in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). By screening in these different locations, they were able to understand different cultural practices, which enable audiences to question or even praise their own practices. By thinking local and acting globally, they were able to develop a global community cohesion based on mutual understanding of what makes us similar or different to others and how we can tolerate each other.

Wellbeing

They intentionally screened films that will get people talking and expand knowledge or understanding of those particular topics. Whether learning something new, or getting an in-depth understanding of a different culture/tradition, the film club vastly enriched people’s well-being and overall health by tackling difficult issues such as sex, FGM, relationships, witchcraft, women empowerment and cultural practices, which are often not discussed openly unless triggered.

Economy

Through the film club, youth volunteers received in house training in running a film club/film festival. One of them attended accessible web training provided by Film Hub Wales. Another young person was responsible in filming/editing and developing vox pops. The Barnabas Arts Centre in Newport and Ty Pawb in Wrexham are all new venues for them and as one of the most deprived areas in Wales, screenings brought new people to the venue. 80% of our attendees have never been or heard of these venues prior to the screenings.

What audiences said

  • 'Inspiring, Informative and Uplifting' - Burkinabe is Rising
  • 'Inspiring, Thought Provoking, gave me more hope for the future of Zimbabwe'
  • 'Very emotive and moving. Very artistic and hard hitting. Beautifully shot and thought provoking' - I am Not a Witch
  • 'Extremely Insightful, wonderful to have some context + listen to different angles/observations' - I am Not a Witch
  • 'Really proud to have a event like this in Newport' - Burkinabe is Rising
  • 'Very thought provoking and uplifting' - Burkinabe is Rising
  • 'Very artistic film & powerful, addressing worldwide & political views'. - I Am Not a Witch

What professionals, press and partners said

  • 'We would love to continue to develop cross-cultural screenings with audiences in Wales' – Dave, owner of Dagos.
  • Opportunity to learn about Film – how it works – and about programmes & pathways
  • Opportunity to hear speakers and then talk to them in person
  • Q & A from ‘inspirational woman and role model'
  • Interesting to know we have Black films & directors
  • Diversity of audience
  • More invites to similar events