Berlinale’s Africa Hub Hosts Innovative Voices

For the past three editions of the European Film Market, as visitors cinched their coats tight and hustled through the February chill, many noticed a stark presence in the shadow of the Martin Gropius Bau: a giant glass cube teeming with overflow crowds, built by the EFM to host the Berlinale Africa Hub.

Conceived as a meeting place to address the unique challenges and opportunities facing filmmakers in Africa and throughout its diaspora, the Africa Hub is arguably the first platform at a top-shelf film festival to offer a stand-alone space entirely devoted to African cinema.

This year it’s leaving its former home and relocating to the Marriott Hotel, the fulfillment of an ambition EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol has held for the hub since day one. “From the beginning, it was the idea to merge and include it within the venues of the EFM,” he says.

The Berlinale Africa Hub is an initiative of the EFM, in cooperation with the World Cinema Fund, Berlinale Talents (and its sister program, Talents Durban) and the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

A full slate is planned for the hub’s fourth edition, which takes place from Feb. 21-26. Along with hosting exhibitors involved in the African film ecosystem, the Africa Hub will feature a range of talks, VR screenings and presentations, including the latest edition of Engage, a traveling series of critical think tank and panel conversations on the future of African and diaspora screen industries. A key Africa Hub sponsor this year is the Intl. Emerging Film Talent Assn. (IEFTA), a Monaco-based organization devoted to discovering and developing film talent from emerging regions.

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The move into the Marriott is sure to give the hub a more visible and vibrant presence within the broader framework of the EFM — a fitting symbol of a wider embrace of African content in the global marketplace. “It’s a dynamic market,” says Philipp Hoffmann of Cologne-based Rushlake Media, which specializes in licensing for VOD markets and has a strong focus on African content.

Hoffmann cited the example of “Supa Modo,” by Kenya’s Likarion Wainaina, which on the heels of its Berlinale Generation Kplus premiere sold to more than 30 countries, “even in territories that would never take a look at African films,” he says. “I think the appetite [for African content] is there.”

So is the appetite to connect. “Within African countries, there is a generation of people that is shaking things up and connecting to see what can be done and what can be improved,” says Knol. “To shed a light on that, and to make that visible in Berlin, is a good thing.”

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