Massimadi Festival – films to get the conversation started.

The Massimadi Festival is taking place at Cinema Nova on 14-15 October.

The festival showcases films and art that explore the LGBTQ experience of people from Africa and the diaspora.

I caught up with Landry Fogaing for a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s event.

“I first heard of Massimadi in 2018 – that was also the first time that I attended the festival…” explains Landry. “In that edition, I saw a movie that spoke to me – it was called Vibrancy of Silence by Marthe Djilo Kamga. It spoke to me because there was a familiarity, things I was recognising. I had – for the first time in 10 years since arriving and living here in Belgium – the sense that I could recognise myself. That led me to become part of the festival organisation, so that I could contribute as much as possible.”

This is the 8th edition of Massimadi. It was last held in March 2020, but that event was disrupted by the onset of Covid-19. The enforced reflection of the Covid confinement has seen some changes now that the festival has returned.

“The pandemic affected the festival organisation on a personal level…” explains Landry. “We lost someone in our group, a pillar, someone who was there since 2013. All that, coupled with each of our individual personal struggles obviously had an impact on the mental health of each of us. That led to a number of people leaving the organising group while a small number of decided to stay on.”

“Also, the festival had to serve the experience of black queer people even better – the festival had to be closer to our local realities.”

“We know that the pandemic greatly weakened some of us who were already the most vulnerable – those of us without a job, without a steady income, without ‘papers’, sex-workers, or those who couldn’t afford therapy.”

“Based on my experience as a black gay man living in Belgium, we’ve seen that a lot of the networks we had have thinned out and some have disappeared. For many of us, those informal networks are really important to help us survive.”

“What we are trying to do this year, and for the years to come, is to bring those experiences of our community into the festival. It’s not just about films and art pieces anymore, it must be about conversations, exchange, transmission, learning, refuge, and – hopefully – hope, transition, and transformation.”

“In this year’s festival, we’re creating a space called Palaba Corna. The idea is to have conversations with artists but also with the public on all kinds of themes. We’re working on finding ways to engage the public into building it all with us.”

“In some ways, the art is becoming just an excuse to get the conversation going.”

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