RapidLion roars: the best of Africa and BRICS at the Market Theatre


The second edition of the RapidLion film festival opens on 5 March, giving Johannesburg film lovers an opportunity to watch the best African and BRICS films.

By showcasing the best African and Brics film and documentaries, RapidLion will boost the image of the continental industry. (Image: RapidLion)

The RapidLion film festival is riding the wave of shifting political and cultural change, believes director and festival founder Eric Miyeni. As eyes turn to Africa, the Rapid Lion festival seeks to uplift and celebrate African auteurs and the continental film industry.

As Miyeni points out, there are no continental film festivals that deal with the African industry and South African film especially. RapidLion exists to showcase the best of African film, as well as give South African audiences an opportunity to watch movies from BRICS countries they would otherwise not to see.

African auteurs are gleaming stones in a mosaic, and it is time to celebrate all the stories of the diaspora, he says. For Miyeni, RapidLion is a space where the full diversity of the African experience is celebrated without apology.

The industry outside North America is blooming, says the director, and the quality of productions is getting better. “A film like the Nigerian 93 Days matches Hollywood quality and style. This trend has also made it easier for western audiences to embrace, and understand, Africa more easily.”

Watch Miyeni speak about talent outside Western Europe and North America:

It was important for the festival panel to select films from South Africa’s BRICS partners. Miyeni explains: “African and BRICS directors are making great and important films. We wanted films that you could not see at Cinema Nouveau, movies that you had to watch and not in a distracted manner like you would a Tom Cruise movie.”

And those are the films you will see at RapidLion. Africa offers something different, he says. “Africa has always told stories. It’s the way we pass on culture and traditions. It is how we teach.” RapidLion, he argues passionately, is a way for Africa to expand its story.

He also anticipates that filmmakers will grow to understand the importance of marketing. It’s an overlooked part of the process for them, he believes. Something as simple as the festival’s Q&A panels will spread the word and build audiences. “Filmmakers don’t see it as important, so they don’t give it the support it needs. In the end it does not matter that we are making better films if we don’t reach an audience. We need to help filmmakers understand the importance of buzz. We need to have audiences salivating before a premiere.”

Miyeni hopes that visitors to the festival – which runs from 5-12 March at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg – will feel as he does about the selection of films on show. They may be, in most part, relatively obscure but they are all richly rewarding experiences. “Come see something you wouldn’t normally or something you don’t believe will be interesting. You will discover, and there is nothing more beautiful or important.”

No single film or evening can define the festival. Rather, it is the broad range of films from around the world that best captures its spirit. There are surprises among the schedule of films at RapidLion. An audience unfamiliar with films outside the Hollywood machine will find excellence. Miyeni believes there are films no-one should miss. “These are personal favourites, from South Africa’s BRICS partners. These are films that you are unlikely to see anywhere else.”

In the Shadow of the Hill – Brazil
Daniel Jackson’s documentary spotlights crime and corruption in Brazil. Jackson uses the disappearance of Amarildo, a father of six, to highlight the resilience and solidarity of the residents of Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela, as they protest against the government’s pacification programme in the run-up to the World Cup and the Olympics.
Watch the trailer:

Skulls of my people – South Africa
This is Vincent Moloi’s documentary about the struggle for the return of skulls taken by German scientists from Namibia after the 1904 genocide. It is a David against Goliath story of a small Namibian tribe fighting the mighty and powerful German government.
Watch the trailer:

Norjmaa – China
A charming comedy about peace and forgiveness, the sweeping Mongolian Highlands are its background. Set during the Second World War, it’s the story of goat herder Norjmaa who nurses two injured soldiers back to health, even as they try to kill each other.
Watch the trailer:

Aligarh – India
The bio-pic is about Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a language professor in the city of Aligarh, who is suspended after his sexual preferences are revealed by a newspaper. It is the story of Siras and the journalist, Dipu Sebastian, who humanised him for an entire sub-continent.
Watch the trailer: