Cinema on the ground in Tanzania

A documentary short by Christiane Buchmann – a name to watch for – Sinema Leo. This fantastic short, about Elisonguo Kiwia’s dream to show film and create a film industry in Tanzania armed with a van and a petrol powered projector, is a delight. It captures the kinds of gentle, but exuberant passion and the determination of its star in ways that provide an alternative to the radically interrogative, speculative stance, so often the province of documentary film-making today. This is particularly remarkable in light of those European-financed and produced films – and Sinema Leo is one – Buchmann is German – that look at areas of Africa in light of their deprivation, violence, or invest positivity in terms of alterity, alternative. This just isn’t Kiwia’s concern, although it’s what he addresses indirectly, bringing technology to villages whose inhabitants have never even seen film. I think it’s the portrayal of this, an absence of any kind of pedagogy whatsoever, that is the success of both the film and film-maker, and allows Kiwia space and voice.

In conversation at the Birds Eye View International Women’s Day Gala, of which Sinema Leo was a part, Buchmann explained that they had gathered so much material on Kiwia that her next project would be to extend this short footage to a feature. Be interesting to see whether the tone of the film alters and whether it is possible to retain this light, directorial stance.

The film is available here.


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