Film has always been an important medium in artistic expression. Many voices embrace film, some even finding their calling because of it, but we often don’t get to see what they have to say. Within the cinematic world, there are many ways a narrative can take shape and many overlooked perspectives. The goal of Dedza Films, an initiative supported by distributor Kino Lorber, is to highlight emerging voices from underrepresented groups worldwide.
Founders Kate Gondwe and Aaron Hunt formed the collective in response to the pandemic and emerging filmmakers who have been impacted by it with the cancellation of festivals and release dates. They intend to curate, build community, break barriers and redefine distribution, especially when it comes to short films. It’s an exciting, timely endeavour and necessary as the film world needs a definite reboot in terms of access, stories and representation.
In Dedza Films’ first collection entitled Who Will Start Another Fire, a line from “Chilembwe Tree” by Malawian poet Jack Mapanje, we get shorts from Israel, Uganda, the U.S. and more. Each film is unique in style but approaches universal issues like fractured families, generational trauma, and experimental visions.
Some themes include navigating the harsh adult world as a child with Like Flying directed by Peier Tracy Shen, Troublemaker directed by Olive Nwosu, and Family Tree directed by Nicole Amani Magabo Kiggundu. In Like Flying, a lost child is stuck in the middle of her parents. She sees all that happens around her, but they fail to notice the impact their dysfunction has on the spritely child and her desperate need for her parents’ love and attention. Troublemaker follows a mischievous little boy who is bored in his rural Ugandan community of Ugbenu. His pranking and goading leads to painful memories he has no connection to and judgement from his elders. Family Tree knocks an idolized parent off his pedestal as his daughter finds out he isn’t the perfectly doting dad she spends time with every weekend.
There are experimental shorts like Slip directed by Nicole Otero, that uses shadow, architectural details and colours to convey ghostly visits through a city at night and the question of a lone woman’s safety; a trans woman’s journey to her rebirth by way of her past in The Lights Are On, No One is Home directed by Faye Ruiz; and The Rose of Manila directed by Alex Westfall, a speculative film about the young life of Imelda Marcos.
The community-based By Way of Carnarsie, directed by Lesley Steele & Emily Packer, shows how Brooklyn residents connect with the waterway in the past and present. It’s an important part of the community and something they protect with passion. Not Black Enough directed by Jermaine Manigault, and Polygraph, directed by Samira Saraya, takes on identity in the Black community and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from an LGBTQ lens. These films broach the hard questions about who we are and acceptance with excellent performances and divisive topics.
Dedza Films has also put out a digital scrapbook with essays by emerging critics. It’s a beautiful addition to this collection of bright new voices. You can find the scrapbook and more information about the initiative, screenings of the film and the planned DVD at www.dedzafilms.com