out_in_africa_end_of_eraAfrica’s longest running gay and lesbian film festival will be hosting what could be its last event this week as it continues to face funding woes and lets go of staff.

The Out In Africa (OIA) film festival is quietly marking its 21st year with a mini festival screening of just four films this week in Johannesburg and Cape Town – a far cry from its heyday.

At one point the event hosted festivals across South Africa and each opening night was a popular and sought-after social and cultural gathering of members of the gay community.

Over the years, OIA became an institution and screened some 1,160 films (including 112 SA titles) at over 3,500 screenings and hosted more than 160 SA and international guest filmmakers.

Despite all this, the funding and sponsorship horizon is not rosy, say the organisers, revealing that the mini-festival is the final public event that’s likely to take place – at least for some time.

Sharon Jackson, Deputy Director of the festival, confirmed to Mambaonline that OIA’s staff members are moving on to other jobs, describing it as “the end of an era.”

“We’re not closing down entirety. Nodi [Murphy, the Festival Director] will keep the company going and when funds amass we will try to do some public events,” she said.

Jackson blamed OIA’s woes on both a lack of funding and changing patterns around cinema-going.

“Human rights funders are focussing on [other parts of] Southern Africa, where human rights atrocities are on the rise. They feel that South Africa is standing on its own feet. But the reality is that arts projects cannot survive without sponsorship and funding,” she said.

Jackson noted that “corporates are still very afraid of putting their logo and company on a gay and lesbian project. They are worried about antagonising their straight clients.”

“Times are also really changing. People are going for films on demand and people subscribe to Netflix or watch movies on DSTV,” she added.

Pride, one of the films screening this week at the OIA Mini Film Festival

Pride, one of the films screening this week at the OIA Mini Film Festival

OIA will continue to make LGBT films available to organisations, researchers and university students. It will also soon be releasing a feature film funded by the National Lottery, with additional support from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The movie, titled While You Weren’t Looking, is now in post-production. “The film will hopefully be released in January or February next year. We’ll be submitting it to the international festivals before releasing it on the local market,” said Jackson.

The festival has urged members of the community to continue with their contributions, either as direct donations, or though the MySchool initiative. It’s hoped that with these contributions and possible future funding that may emerge, the festival will rise again.

OIA will be screening four internationally acclaimed films from 13th to 16th November at Cinema Nouveau in Cape Town (V&A Waterfront) and Johannesburg (Rosebank Mall). For more info on the movies and to book, click here.

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