Umunthu (2013 / 30min): screening of documentary film about homosexuality in Malawi
Art and Global Health Center Africa (AGHCA – www.aghcafrica.org) is very excited to be screening the film Umunthu at the ‘Without Borders’ conference. Umunthu was made by a young Malawian film maker, Mwizalero Nyirenda (Mwiza), as part of AGHCA’s Students With Dreams programme.
The topic of homosexuality in Malawi is highly contentious and complex. It is commonly described and widely perceived as a western cultural imposition – ‘un-African’, ‘un-Malawian’ and ‘un-Christian’. LGBTI people face discrimination in their daily lives- a recent study by Afrobarometer http://afrobarometer.org/publications/tolerance-in-africa found that only 6 out of 100 Malawians would tolerate having a homosexual neighbour (far greater intolerance than any other group included in the study, such as people of different ethnicities and immigrants), and research by the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation found only 2 of a sample of 24 health workers said they are not prejudiced against LGBTI people. Homosexual acts are criminalised, and a recent moratorium on arrests met a strong public backlash, triggering instances of targeted violence against the LGBTI community.
Against the perception of foreign imposition, Mwiza was moved to explore the topic of homosexuality through an African cultural lens – that of Umunthu, a Pan-African philosophical concept of humanity, often defined in the phrase, “I am because we are.” The film follows the journey of three young Malawians – the filmmaker and two friends who have opposing views on gay rights – as they explore the issue with experts and people in different parts of Malawi.
Umunthu has won the Sembene Ousmane prize at the Zanzibar International Film Festival and has been screened internationally at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, Boston International Film Festival, Zanzibar International Film Festival, Harvard University and Boston University. It also won 4 awards at the first ever Malawian international film festival, Lilongwe Shorts in May 2015.
AGHCA has toured Umunthu around Malawian universities and other venues, to create a platform for discussion about homosexuality based around local concepts and values. We’re now shifting our programming to in depth workshops, applying the Umunthu philosophy and way of life to enable participants to reflect and engage on issues of stigma and discrimination, with a particular focus on LGBTI people. Ultimately the workshops aim to elicit empathy and bring awareness of our oneness as people.
Art and Global Health Center Africa is a small charity based in Zomba, Malawi. We believe in the transformative power of the arts for experiential learning, cross-cultural understanding, eliciting empathy and strengthening of community. We work to foster creative leadership and implement innovative arts-based health-oriented programmes that inspire and mobilise. Center programmes use collaboration to nurture healthy, empowered, open and active communities in Malawi.
The Umunthu film will be introduced by AGHCA’s Executive Director, Helen Todd.
The screening takes place on day 1 of the conference
Reel In The Closet, discovering the hidden benefits and challenges of your organization allowing access, even collaborating (!) with media types. Special screening and discussion.
A special screening with the filmmaker and archival consultant/producer of the new critically acclaimed documentary about the movement to save and share LGBTQ+ home movies and personal moving images. The screening will be followed by an in-depth Q&A to share experiences and generate dialogue about:
- Collaborations between archives, archivists and filmmakers
- The importance of home movies and films archivists have in their collections
- Preservation strategies
- Outreach strategies for collecting from underrepresented communities
- Crowd sourcing and breaking down barriers between archives and donors
- Copyright, privacy rights, and encouraging bequests
- How film events can help achieve the goals of your organization.
Marjorie Bryer is a Project Archivist at The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked or volunteered at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society in San Francisco since 1999. She has worked with many filmmakers and earned a producer credit for her work with Stu on Reel In the Closet. Marjorie also has a Ph.D. in U.S. History. Her academic work as a historian and her practical work as an archivist reflect her political commitment to preserving the history of groups that have been marginalized by society.
Stu Maddux is a multi-award winning filmmaker with international credits whose goals include strengthening the queer community by bringing together different generations through their histories. His current film, Reel In The Closet, is the first comprehensive look at those histories captured in home movies dating back to the 1930s. His films include Gen Silent the widely used documentary about Gay, LGBT older people hiding their lives to survive discrimination and abuse. His first documentary as an independent filmmaker was the critically-acclaimed Bob and Jack’s 52-Year Adventure about an Army sergeant who began an affair with his commanding officer in 1952.
The Bancroft Library is the primary special collections library at UC Berkeley. The GLBT Historical Society houses one of the world’s largest collections of LGBTQ+ materials.
Stu Maddux Films works with NGOs to create documentaries that have been seen internationally on television, web and theaters about topics around LGBT aging and history. The films generally are used in communities to affect change around a film’s topic through grassroots screenings.
The special screening event will take place on the evening of day 2 of the conference