Underground: The Emergence of a Film Festival
In earlier days, there were few festivals like the Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Annecy International Animation Film Festival the Toronto International Film Festival organised by film associations, cultural institutions, and groups of individuals.
It is heartwarming to discover the emergence of film festivals organised by filmmakers across the African continent. Quite a number of times, independent filmmakers hardly get inroads to some of the big film festivals. However, the Underground Film Festival is one of the platforms introduced to showcase upcoming and independent filmmakers. Birthed in Munich, Germany in January 2015, its concept gives room for showing films simultaneously across the world in pop-up mini festivals. It is referred to as grassroots festival for and by filmmakers and has successfully renewed community interest in independent and alternative film, in different cities and world cultures. Here, films are screened across multiple countries during ‘underground’ events the whole year. This concept was designed to break barriers as evident in its expansion to Birmingham, Alabama in the United States and Beeston in the United Kingdom, just six months after its launch.
Organised by James Kellogg, global events director, Stuart Oates in Birmingham and Huy Nguyen in Saigon among others, the festival spread to Italy, Cameroon and Bangkok in 2016. Over the years, films from countries like Uganda, The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, United States, Japan, France, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Italy, and Australia have been screened. Interestingly, the festival with 23 different categories including action sports films, African-American/ Diaspora Filmmakers Showcase, and Episodic Web TV Series, is funded by volunteers who also promote thought-provoking and visually stimulating films submitted on social networks across the globe. There is also a Science Fiction category from which the audience selects their best films through votes; after this, the films are entered into the competition.
The Underground Film Festival is also one of the first to show virtual reality 360 films, and there are plans for a virtual reality event in France this year. In addition, art exhibitions, musical performances, and a handcrafted flea market add some creativity to the overall event. In November 2015, the Cameroon edition of the festival commenced with visual artist and musician Nyuyse Damien Senyuy (Damien Blue) as the events director. Past events have taken place at the Spee Arts Gallery Cultural Centre in Bamenda (May 2016) and at the Hotel Residence Carlos in Beau (October 2016). The Birmingham Film Festival and the Munich edition were held on June 8 and 24 respectively while the festival in Cameroon will take place later in the year.
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