Films for children and youth in East Africa – A Development Project Evolves

CULTURAL EXCHANGE. It has been 10 years since the Zanzibar Film Festival added its Children & Film Panorama sidebar, aiming to promote film culture and film production for East African children and teens. The festival – and the sidebar – are still going strong.

Historically, East Africa has no particular tradition of producing and distributing films for children and youth. For the last decade, however, a new generation on the East African island of Zanzibar, in Tanzania, has had the opportunity to watch Danish, international and a few locally produced children’s films, in the Children & Film Panorama sidebar at the Zanzibar Film Festival (ZIFF). 

This child-geared section of the festival was added in 2007 on the initiative of Charlotte Giese, special advisor for children and youth at the Danish Film Institute; then ZIFF director Martin Mhando; Anne Lise Andreasen, consultant to the cross-cultural Salaam Film Festival for children; and ZIFF Founder Fatma Alloo. Robert Manondolo from ZIFF has played a key role in running and developing the programme, and from DFI Barbara Rovsing Olsen has assisted with project coordination.

For the first five years, the DFI was a partner in Children & Film Panorama, organising screenings for children and teens and master classes for professionals from the East African film industry, featuring Danish directors like Tobias Lindholm and Louise Friedberg. The aim was to inspire the local film industry and provide tools for children and teens to make their own films, within an African context. Recent years have also seen the involvement of the Danish Embassy in Tanzania, with the DFI in an advisory function. 

Children & Film Panorama has not only successfully run for 10 years, it has also evolved. Today, several schools in mainland Tanzania have partnered with the festival and started using films in the classroom. 

The experience from Children & Film Panorama has moreover served to inspire efforts by other organisations working in partnership with the DFI, both in Africa and the Middle East, including Youth & Film Uganda (with Maisha Film Lab), Cinema on the Road Lebanon (with Metropolis Art Cinema) and Film Lab: Palestine. 

This year, Charlotte Giese has been invited to ZIFF to help assess the results to date and discuss the project’s future potential. 

Read more about ZIFF at

Below you can watch a short film the 2010 Children & Film Panorama at ZIFF. The film was directed and produced by Anne Svejgård Lund, with support from the DFI.

Pictures from ZIFF: