The Words of the Kittel Family
Kathmandu, Nepal – Supporting the African Union's Africa Day program, the Universal Peace Federation of Nepal co-hosted the first-ever African Film Festival in Nepal beginning May 23 and running for three days. UPF's main partner was the College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Ambassadors from Egypt and Russia, the Consul General of South Africa, a cabinet minister and member of parliament from the Nepalese government, exchange students from Africa, filmmakers, journalists, and students of journalism and film in Nepal attended the inauguration held at the Russian Cultural Center in the capital. There were nearly 170 people attending the opening session, while throughout the first day as many as 400 people came to see different films.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that Africa Day "provides an annual opportunity to reflect on the challenges and achievements of the Governments and peoples of Africa." This was evident in the selection of movies. Nine films from six African nations were selected. Films came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia. There was one film from Nepal. (See the list of films below.)
Hon. Agni Sapkota, the Minister for Information and Communication, was the chief guest at the program. He noted that films have the ability to bring about powerful social changes, more often than economic and political factors, because through movies people's attitudes change rather easily. The Minister highlighted the fact that, "This program is bringing together two continents: Asia and Africa."
Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, President of Universal Peace Federation-Nepal, explained that the film festival was not a stand-alone event. "There is a vertical, spiritual element to this festival," he said, and gave several reasons for this rather surprising statement.
Nepal, at present, is in political turmoil. With just four days to go before the end of the one-year extension of the current parliament on May 28 and no constitution in sight, there are daily strikes (called bandhas) launched by political parties and ethnic groups. On these days communal life is crippled; shops close and public transportation is non-existent.
Amazingly Nepal's first film festival was sandwiched between two nationwide strikes, one on Sunday and another on Tuesday. In fact, a strike had also been called for the day of the festival, Monday, but it was called off at the last minute, late Sunday night. Therefore, the spiritual element Hon. Dhakal referred to was not some mysterious mystical phenomenon; it was more like Moses dividing the Red Sea. The African Film Festival seemed to divide political protests.
UPF's participation also brought the magnitude of this event in a small, landlocked Himalayan nation to the global level. Nepal's first film festival would be connected to the Africa Union's celebrations in New York City and elsewhere and reported to millions of people around the world.
Hon. Dhakal, a Member of Parliament, explained how this festival relates to his nation's current political situation: "Here in Nepal we are going through a very critical transitional period in our nation. There is something we can learn about Africa from this film festival that can help us move forward [in Nepal's peace process]."
To make his point, he stressed the accomplishments of two African "heroes": Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela, who was the leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress, overcame bitter resentment over the injustice of apartheid and his 28 years of imprisonment. He did this by putting the nation above himself and even above his own political party to prevent a bloodbath in South Africa.
Tutu headed up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and had to find a way to balance justice with forgiveness. In the process he needed to avoid retaliation and appeasement. Both South Africans received the Nobel Peace Prize, and both examples are relevant in Nepal's current quandary.
The College of Journalism and Mass Communication took the lead role in planning and preparing the event. The director and founder of the college, Dr. Manju Mishra, repeatedly announced to skeptics that the film festival would happen and its purpose was "to show the real African culture and its lifestyle to Nepal."
She said that films are a mirror and reflection of a culture. In line with this thinking, the subtitle for this three-day panorama was "Seeing Africa through African Eyes." Dr. Mishra sees this program as one step to building a university of journalism in Nepal. Because of the success of this unique program, few doubt her now.
Yvone Otieno, a journalist from Kenya, exchange student in Nepal, and one of the key staff members, connected this year's theme, "Africa and the Diaspora," with the Kathmandu event. Although there are less than one hundred Africans living in Nepal, nevertheless, this three-day program brought Africans together. It built a social network among the African Diaspora in Nepal that did not exist before.
May 25 is celebrated internationally as Africa Day. This is also the closing day of Nepal's first African film festival.
Egypt: Hasan and Morqos (about religious tolerance)
South Africa: Cry Freedom (overcoming racism)
Kenya: Osutua (a tribe in Kenya)
Kenya: Tough Choices (teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS)
Uganda: Down this Road I Walk (early marriage in Africa)
Uganda: Hearts in Pieces (the role of dowry in Africa)
Zambia: Suwi (a young girl overcoming modern-day challenges)
Democratic Republic of Congo: Congo River (challenges of water transportation)
Democratic Republic of Congo: Katanga Business (investing in African resources)
Nepal: In Search of Riyal (the struggle to survive abroad)