Inaugural Kwetu festival brings together animation filmmakers

Tuesday April 13 2021

A poster of one of the films entered in the inaugural Kwetu International Animation Film Festival (KIAFF). PHOTO | COURTESY


Kenyan Stanslaus Manthi is among film directors who scooped awards at the inaugural Kwetu International Animation Film Festival (KIAFF).

The festival that was screened online via KIAFF partner, NuellaTV, between April 2 and 3, attracted 50 animations of high quality works from around the world, which included features and TV commercials, and made in Africa films made by African animators in Africa.

The Special Jury Mention went to This Side, Other Side by the Iranian director Lida Fazli. The jury found this film to be tackling the subject in a very powerful and creative but exceedingly impactful manner. The style, the imagery and the impact of the film stays with one for a long time as the subject itself. As the saying goes, “an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

Kenyan director Stanslaus Manthi won the Audience Award for 208.

The Best Commercial Ad award was won by Danish director Jessica Laurent for her ad Water. According to the jury, this ominous description of a state of being comes with a reminder and a lesson that there are always consequences to any decision we make.

The Winner of the Best Film in Sound award was Costa Rican designer Florian Calmer for Memories for Sale. According to the jury, the lyrics and dramatic sounds are brought together to narrate, emphasise and evoke emotional response, and this elevates the story dramatically to engulf the viewer in a never imagined mood as the story unfolds.


The Best Character award went to Benjamin in the film Benjamin by the Iranian director Mohsen Enayati. The jury says: A character whose quest for success instigates adventure and whose final revelation resonates with every viewer’s hopes and dreams through the thoughts, emotions and personality of the animated creature.

The Best Story/Script accolade went to Costa Rican director Manuel Lopez for Memories for Sale. In its citation the jury said: Beautiful and intriguing films that reminds us that the capacity to forgive is probably the greatest gift given to human beings and that understanding the weaknesses of others makes us better people because we are also fallible.

Kenyan director Brian Msafiri won the Best East African Film award for his film From Here to Timbuktu. According to the jury, this truly legendary quest for knowledge is an artful story steeped in African history, tradition and even politics whose sounds and visions take us to places where only the brave go and come back with a sense of confidence and hunger for more African history.

The Best Film Made in Africa accolade went Kenyan director Kwame Nyong’o for the film The Legend of Lwanda Magere. In its citation the jury said a classic story about vanity that reminds people not only of the purpose of art in society but also of the need for beauty and its perils among human beings.

French director Pierre Burgoni won the Best Short Film award for Beyond the Trees. According to jury, Beyond the Trees is a beautiful narrative of a moment as we journey on to life. As the character faces their fears and confronts reality, we realise that in us we hold the power to express ourselves in the best way possible.

The Best Feature Film award went to Benjamin by Iranian director Mohsen Enayati. According to the jury, Benjamin is a film that brings out the child in every one of us, and one that resonates with children, to whom adventure, travel and family are the best ingredients of life.

The awards were presented on April 5, live on Zoom, by the jury made up of Prof Martin Mhando (Tanzania), Fred Lyons (Australia) and Fibby Kioria (Kenya).

The theme for the inaugural edition of KIAFF was “Between Art and Reality/Kati ya Sanaa na Ukweli.”

Film lovers from the region watched the films free of charge.

Those outside of eastern Africa paid for a one-off ticket worth $10 to access all the films over the two days.

A workshop on “Writing for Animation” was conducted by Anaeli Kihunrwa from MediaOne from April 1 to 3.

According to the organisers, in future editions, the festival will become a place of intercultural exchange and a platform for the critical animated cinematic exploration of social and development issues.

It will discover and develop new animation talents in East Africa and the globe, and accompany them on their path into the spotlight and support their careers, visions, projects, dreams and works.

“Technology has changed and now it allows for animation filmmakers to make more films. Also, there is a need for more initiatives in East Africa that helps/pushes animators to produce more films. Animation films have been loved and [are] still loved by children and family hence its audience is permanent so filmmakers must be more creative and feed the market,” said Daniel Nyalusi, the festival founder and director.

“Kwetu International Animation Film Festival (KIAFF)…will bring together animation filmmakers and stakeholders including corporate companies that use animation for advertisement. KIAFF will be organised every year in April and [will] also organise training workshops throughout the year. The aim of KIAFF is to become the centre and the HUB of the animation film industry in East Africa.”

KIAFF is supported by Goethe Institut Dar es Salaam, CDEA and NuellaTV.