Swahiliwood: Fighting HIV by Strengthening Local Filmmaker Capacity

On February 20, 2014, three feature films with a focus on HIV prevention and treatment premiered in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The films were produced through the Swahiliwood Feature Films Project, a collaborative partnership between CCP’s Tanzania Capacity and Communication Project (TCCP) and Tanzanian filmmakers, and made possible through the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The films, Network, Mdundiko, and Sunshine engage audiences in compelling drama while delivering important social and health messages. The movies showcase three unique stories from three unique voices:

  • Network – A haunting story about a serial murder case to be solved by an aging detective and his young colleague.
  • Mdundiko – A story about the conflict between morality, tradition, and reason in the life of a village community.
  • Sunshine – A touching modern urban story about the temptations of crime, and the unconditional love between a son and his mother.

The premiere event took place at the Century Cinemax – Oysterbay on February 20, and was attended by the stars of the films, as well as Dar es Salaam’s leading entertainment figures, community leaders, business leaders and socialites, alongside project donors and government, health and NGO partners. The films will also be distributed commercially through television, DVD and online, reaching millions of Swahili-speaking people in East Africa and around the world.

Media for Development International (MFDI), a TCCP partner organization, spearheaded the effort to produce these films, fostering mentorship of young Tanzanian film makers by local, regional, and international film professionals. Filmmakers were guided through the script development process, and attended workshops on pre-production, production and distribution of feature films. The project also engages key stakeholders from Tanzania’s public sector, including the Copyright Society of Tanzania, the National Film Board (censorship), and the Tanzania Revenue Authority to influence industry policies conducive to the growth and development of the film production industry in Tanzania.

“The Swahiliwood model harnesses the youthful energy of Tanzania’s exploding film industry to communicate social complexities around HIV, which is recognized by the government of Tanzania as one of the most serious health challenges facing the nation,” explained MFDI Country Director John Riber.

The Swahiliwood Feature Films Project is a small part of the overall Swahiliwood Project being implemented by Media for Development International, which harnesses the energy and creativity of young Tanzanian filmmakers to address social themes in an entertaining format. Partnering with private sector distributors insures the films reach wide audiences through commercially driven distribution networks. The overall goals of the Swahiliwood Project are to:

  • Produce and distribute feature films that effectively address social themes.
  • Build the technical skills of Tanzanian filmmakers.
  • Improve the production values of the Tanzanian feature films.
  • Enhance the growth of Tanzania’s film sector.
  • Create employment opportunities for thousands of young Tanzanians.

View photos of the event.


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