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Promises (African Voices): A Variety Pack Review from Beeston Film Festival

Harriet Rothwell-Inch

Thursday, 2 May 2024

A review of Promises (African Voices), a Beeston Film Festival short film variety pack spotlighting a selection of excellent African cinema: Climate in the Minds of Artists, Hearts of Bwindi, Muna, Een Saam (Farther), I Promise you Paradise, & Father's Day.

Very rarely do we see African voices  prominently displayed in cinema, so to have an entire feature filled with short films with African voices as the central focus was exciting. This variety pack contained both documentaries and short films, and platformed the voices and stories of people and communities from Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Egypt, and Somalia; stories of climate change, conservation, family, grief, strive, and above all, connection.

Each of these short films fit snugly into the overall festival theme: ‘Protest and Resistance’, and not always in the way one would expect. To me, these films emphasized the subtle ways in which resistance is manifested; individually, collectively, and naturally.

Climate in the Minds of Artists

Four Tanzanian artists  specialising in different artistic mediums ponder the question: “What does climate change mean to you?”; offering their unique insights and perspectives on the issue and the ways in which they take inspiration from it and other aspects of nature for their work. While most of the dialogue was in English, one interviewee was constantly switching between English and her native language (I want to say Swahili, but it could be any of the many African languages that exist) – as a languages student this brought me a lot of joy. I enjoyed the split screen editing that showed multiple clips of African nature, the interviewees, and their artistic processes side by side. The overall message of the film was surprisingly positive; life will continue, it may not be life as we know it, but it will adapt and continue. A charming presentation and appreciation of African art and nature.

The Hearts of Bwindi

This documentary was a beautiful appreciation of the natural world and a spotlight on those who fight to protect Uganda’s biodiversity in Bwindi National Park. Focusing on the ways wildlife rangers and local communities strive to live harmoniously with the forest, this left me feeling  stunned by the beauty of the forest and by the cinematography and filmmaking choices. I particularly enjoyed the way the filmmakers periodically used the camera to draw focus to individuals  against the stunning natural backdrop of the forest: with the slight movement from the backdrop in these shots, I felt like I was watching a compilation of live photos which focussed on and celebrated each person as a key element in the fight against natural destruction. As the documentary ended, the cinema filled with the glorious natural sounds of Bwindi National Park, leaving me feeling hopeful and at peace.


A portrait of multicultural immigrant families in Britain. What particularly struck me with this BBC short film was the isolation of the main character: British-Somali teenager Muna. No one seemingly has her back: her parents have specific rules and expectations of her, her brother is seemingly favoured, and her friends (who we only see through digital overlay of their group chat messages over the camerawork) don’t understand her. The presentation of a specific cultural and religious family dynamic was, to me, incredibly insightful and eye-opening. I highly recommend watching if you want more insight into multicultural Britain.

Een Saam (Farther)

A heartbreaking depiction of a father’s struggle after the loss of his wife and subsequent estrangement of his son. The excellent cinematography, flawless acting, and beautiful storytelling: this short film effortlessly blurred the lines between reality and memory and filled the cinema with such a profound sadness that I couldn’t help but internalise it. Yeah,I cried…a lot. The film depicts the different kinds of loss and grief in a sensitive and almost cathartic way. It’s a difficult and emotional watch, but that’s what made it stand out to me and why I sincerely recommend you watch it too.

I Promise you Paradise

An Egyptian short film depicting the fear of African migrants desperate to escape to a new life. Unfortunately, a technical issue with the subtitles meant I was unable to understand the dialogue in this film. Granted, much of the film was without dialogue, only music, but where there were conversations, I found myself relying on visual cues and the physicality of the actors to piece together the story. However, I found that this actually enhanced my viewing experience and made the film more impactful. Straight out the gate I sensed that something monumental had happened, I just had no idea what, and that tension remained palpable throughout the film. As the story reached its climax and the final pieces fell into place, the music fell away, leaving behind a silence  emphasising the reality of the dangers desperate migrants face for a chance at a better life. Impactful and profound.

Father’s Day

In this South African film, Alake is being raised by a single mother but, after being called upon to give a speech for Father’s Day, tries to find his  father. The film is beautifully made; the camera work and soundtrack captured the complicated nature of broken families and single parenthood through the eyes of a child sensitively and in a way that conveyed the emotional toll these situations take on both parent and child. Unfortunately, the subtitles weren’t working, so I couldn’t understand the parts of the film in Zulu. Thankfully, the final speech in this film was in English, so not only could I understand what was being said, but I could also react to and appreciate the emotional impact of story.  An insight into how perceptive children are and a wonderful commentary on the importance of mothers.


I strongly recommend going to Beeston Film Festival next year if you didn’t get the chance to visit this time around!


About the Author

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Image provided by Beeston Film Festival.

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Barbara Dawson

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Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

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Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Such an interesting article!

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