Africa Roars through the Michel Kinder Festival with Much Success
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer
It was exciting to see the audience filled with children having their first taste of an African-style of film and they fully enjoyed it. There were two wonderful African films represented this year: Felix from South Africa and Horizon Beautiful from Ethiopia. Not only that, but Africa paved its way into Hamburg’s Kinder Festival history when the South African film Felix walked away with the Michel prize.
Felix, directed by Roberta Durrant, opens with a sense of joy when we see a group of children playing instruments and dancing in the sand. One boy stands out from the others due to his ability to play the penny whistle and sway to the rhythm. His name Felix (Hlayani Mabasa) means “happily” and he wears it well. At the same time we see his mother (Linda Sokhulu) working hard in order to get him a stipendium at the local private school. The moment he joins the school, he feels uncomfortable as he is faced with racism as well as classism. He is unsure where he stands until two boys jump in, when they realize that Felix is not only a talented person but is also an outsider like them. Felix has also a difficult home situation when he discovers that his father was not only a famous musician but had died of alcohol abuse. His mother wants him to go to school and not follow his father’s path, but Felix’s love of music gives him no other choice. The back drop is Cape Town and Durrant explained that the music particular to the area is called Cape jazz which is a kind of smooth jazz. She also said her film crew was almost all women and none of them had any problems filming in the local townships. The film manages to weave through several difficult issues with a light hand and was enjoyed by all ages.
Horizon Beautiful, directed by Stefan Jäger, was filmed in Ethiopia. A group of boys collects socks, plastic bags and any recyclable material to create a football. It is either that or go to school by the local orphanage, but for Admassu (Henok Tadele), there are no options. He will become a famous football star like Lionel Messi. When he hears that a famous football scout (Stefan Gubser) is coming to town, he does everything he can think of to meet him. Little does he know that this Swiss manager is an arrogant jerk and is not in the least interested in being there or looking for talent. Admassu, whose name means “horizon beautiful,” has to go to extreme measures in order to win his confidence. In real life the main actor was a street kid who now actually attends a local school. Director Jäger was invited by the Swiss Embassy and the Goethe Institute to teach at the Blue Nile Film Academy. He helped the students create this film and did not change their storyline which dives into some of the Ethiopian tales and customs. This film was different from Felix since it showed the chaos and street life of Africa and gave one a sense of the poverty that truly does exist there. Yet among all that chaos the people still find a way to enjoy themselves.