we are dying here film

We Are Dying Here opened the Africa Rising International Film Festival (ARIFF), screened as the country observed 16 days of activism against women and children abuse. An adaptation of a local stage production of the same name, We Are Dying Here raises awareness of gender-based violence in the country and marks the first time the Kolisis have served as executive producers.

Africa Rising International Film Festival (ARIFF) announced the full lineup of screenings and programmes for its fourth edition themed Africa In Me #MyStory. The festival took place online and on-site in venues across Johannesburg.

This year’s festival programme was supported by 4 key pillars are screenings, talks and panels (ARIFF Talks), social impact (ARIFF Film Child), and digital, and the Digital Hub programme.

ARIFF’s vision

“We seek to package African films for export to the global stage while being at the centre of driving change and being a motivating anchor that unearths authentic African stories,” said festival chair Lala Tuku, speaking at a virtual press roundtable.

“The films selected for this year’s edition celebrate our collective Africanness but in so doing are not tone-deaf to issues faced by everyday people on the continent,” she added.

In line with ARIFF’s vision of being a voice in film for change, some of the films selected make bold statements.

“Our mandate as ARIFF is to raise social issues. That’s why we are opening the festival with a film like “We Are Dying Here” – a short South African film based on a stage production. Executive produced by Rachel and Siya Kolisi, the film is a poetic indictment of the prevalence of gender-based violence in South Africa,” stated festival director Ayanda Sithebe.

Film selection

The films selected for screening at this year’s festival went through a meticulous vetting process led by Sihle Hlophe.

“We are proud to present a wide array of films that celebrate African cinema and are aligned with our theme, Africa In Me #MyStory. We have films from more than 30 African countries (including Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya) as well as films from the African diaspora,” said Hlophe, adding that the festival sought out films featuring strong African voices, pleasing aesthetics, and social relevance.

Honouring Legends

A new addition to ARIFF’s line-up this year is the Pan-African Cinema Legends Series aimed at honoring creatives who have contributed immensely to the African film industry. The inaugural honoree is BAFTA-award-winning filmmaker and actress Ms. Xoliswa Sithole.

Closing Film

This year’s festival will culminate with the screening of an LGBTQI+ centered film called “I Am Samuel”. Filmed over five years in Kenya, I Am Samuel is an intimate portrait of a Kenyan man balancing pressures of family loyalty, love, and safety and questioning the concept of conflicting identities. The film was banned by the Film Classification Board in Kenya.

“A hundred years from now, ARIFF wants to make sure that we’ll be able to look back at a glorious archive of impactful African stories told by storytellers with an authentically African point of view,” Tuku concluded.