13th edition of Cologne’s African film festival

83 Films from 27 African countries and 25 international guests at the “Out of Europe XIII – New films from Africa” (18th - 28th September 2014) by FilmInitiativ Köln e.V. 

The 13th edition of Cologne’s African film festival, “Out of Europe”, will be held from 18th to 28th September 2014. Current productions will be presented from the most significant film festivals across Africa, including Ouagadougou, Tunis, Durban, and Zanzibar, as well as from international festivals with an African focus around the world, including New York, Toronto, Cordoba, Leuven, Milan, and Amsterdam. Overall, 83 new films hailing from 27 African countries are on the programme and 25 international guests have been invited to discuss with the public their productions and the situations in their countries.

This year’s festival patron is Dani Kouyaté, from Burkina Faso, one of West Africa’s most important film directors. During the Cologne festival, he will also present his newest feature film, SOLEILS, in which an old man helps a young girl who has lost her memory, by taking her on a virtual journey through time and space, to sites where African and European history have unfolded.


One section of the first festival weekend is entitled “Queer Africa”. On the programme are films revealing the persecution of homosexuals in countries such as Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Morocco and Tunisia. Directors and activists have been invited to present “African initiatives against homophobia”. These include the gay imam Muhsin Hendricks and the lesbian photographer Zanele Muholi from South Africa, as well as the first openly homosexual Moroccan feature film director Abdallah Taïand the Algerian activist Yahia Zaidi.


On the occasion of the 50-year anniversary of the Tunis-Cologne twin towns agreement, the second festival weekend will feature two invited directors and two actors from Tunisia. They will present feature films such as MAKING OF, about an unemployed and down-on-his-luck breakdancer in Tunis who becomes a conversion target for suicide bombers, and SELMA, about a courageous woman who wants to become a taxi driver, a job that in Tunis has traditionally been reserved exclusively for men. Documentaries such as the award-winning CURSED BE THE PHOSPHATE are a reminder that before the protests against the Ben Ali dictatorship began, there were already broad opposition movements and strikes in the country’s phosphate mines – paving the way for social revolution across Tunisia. The mayor of Tunis, Seifallah Lafram, who plans to travel to Cologne for the anniversary celebrations, has been invited to this presentation in the festival cinema.


In another country highlight, new films from Madagascar will be presented. Then from Cameroon and Kenya come impressive feature films such asNINAH’S DOWRY and SOMETHING NECESSARY,which depict violence against women in everyday life and in war situations. Feature films such as RAGS AND TATTERS from Egypt, YEMA from Algeria, and THEY ARE THE DOGS from Morocco offer new cineastic reflections on social change in North Africa. For the first time, the Libyan director Nizam Najjar will come to Cologne to present his documentary DIARY FROM THE REVOLUTION.


The short film programme includes award-winning productions from competitions and African film schools, such as NAFTI from Ghana. The NIGHT OF THE SHORTS invites visitors for a cinematic exploration through eleven countries across the African continent.

The festival’s accompanying programme includes two photographic exhibitions of African film stars (held in the Institut Français) and African cartoons on the theme of “African Unity” (held in Cologne’s Zentralbibliothek), a reading in the Theater im Bauturm, school and children’s showings,workshops, and a Global Player Party with live African music from Funkhaus Europa (WDR broadcasting).


The Steven Ouma-Band will appear at the festival opening (on 18th September in the Filmforum in Museum Ludwig), featuring musicians from Kenya, Guinea-Bissau, and Cologne playing together. A caricature exhibition on 16th September will feature the internationally renowned balafon virtuoso Aly Keita.


Two audience choice awards will be handed out at the festival: one for the best feature film (endowed by Choices magazine), and one for the best documentary feature (endowed by the WDR public broadcaster). Complete information on the films, guests, and scheduling (in German, English, and French) will be posted starting in August at www.filme-aus-afrika.de.

The entrance prices for film showings run €6.50 for regular admission and €5.00 for reduced admission. Festival passes for all showings are available for €30 regular,  €20 reduced, and €50 sponsorship.


FilmInitiativ Köln e.V. has organised the “Out of Europe – Films from Africa” festival since 1992. Since then, both at the biennial festival and special film series held in between, more than 500 films from 40 African countries have been shown in Cologne, and the public has had the opportunity to meet more than 100 filmmakers in person. “Out of Europe” is thus Germany’s most significant African film festival, and one of the largest in Europe.

Press accreditation (€10) starts on 15th August at www.filme-aus-afrika.de .

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Fitrah screening Q n A [March 2014]

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Official selection of African Film Festival Cologne

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Listen to ‘War is Where the Heart is’ official soundtrack to Fitrah.

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The Dilemma of negotiating Sexual Diversity, Gender Identity and Islam

FITRAH is a documentary that explores the dilemma queer Muslims face when negotiating the troubled space between sexual orientation, gender identity and Islam.  For the first time we have a documentary that not only explores the narratives of Muslims who are marginalized based on sexual orientation and gender identity,  but also have professional psychologists, anthropologists, theologians and gender experts sharing thought provoking insights around the narratives; touching on critical issues of condemnation and how the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is always used as a blanket condemnation for homosexuality in the Abrahamic faiths.

The documentary highlights the struggles queer Muslims experience in various Islamic contexts and the often disobliging messages from the orthodox Muslim clergy.  The documentary makes an interesting comparison between the different levels of negotiations open to queer Muslims and how most of these negotiations lead to self limitations and religious despondency.

Whether the documentary provides any solution is perhaps left to the viewer to decide.  Certainly a great documentary that can be used in training and to facilitate a much needed dialogue on the topic of Islam, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Directed by Imam Muhsin Hendricks and Latheem Nair



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