The Distinguished Woman of African Cinema Award is presented biennially to a woman of African descent anywhere in the world who has made and continues to make a significant contribution to the African film industry within any of its areas. The main aim of this award is to focus attention on the need for women of colour, particularly those of African descent, to tell their stories in film. The award is presented at the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF).
- honours an outstanding woman who, through her endurance and the excellence of her work has helped to expand the role of African women in the film industry,
- recognises outstanding achievements in any area of film development, production and distribution,
- recognises a filmmaker who opens paths for other women filmmakers of African descent.
IIFF is engaging with African Women Development Fund (AWDF) to make it an annual award as the number of African women and women of African descent engaging in cinema, whether practically or in advocacy, is increasing.
At its first year in 2007 there were two nominees: Musola Cathrine Kaseketi and Lebo Mashile, who became joint winners:
Musola Cathrine Kaseketi of Zambia, is founder of the Zambian International Film Festival and the first professional Zambian woman filmmaker.
Lebo Mashile of South Africa, poet, writer and actress.
In 2009 there were three nominees: Susan Makore, Nakai Matema, Dorothy Meck
Nakai Matema of Zimbabwe, the 2009 laureate, has produced, directed, trained filmmakers and was until 2010, the director of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival.
Susan Makore has lectured at the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, Zimbabwe Open University and currently the University of Zimbabwe. In addition she is the Managing Director of Mighty Movies Private Limited.
Dorothy Meck joined Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) as a producer with Radio 4 and later moved to the television department. She has produced and directed over 45 drama series and has mentored young women aspirants on these productions.
In 2011 there were three nominees: Jackie Cahi, Beti Ellerson, Bridget Pickering
Beti Ellerson, the 2011 laureate (United States), is the founder and director of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.
Jackie Cahi is a filmmaker, producer and cultural activist from Zimbabwe.
Bridget Pickering is a producer and filmmaker from Namibia based in South Africa.
2013: Due to circumstances, there was no competition in 2013.
The nominees of the 2014 edition: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Yaba Badoe, Lupita Nyong’o
Kenyan-Mexican Lupita Nyong’o, the 2014 laureate, is an Academy Award winner for her role as supporting actress in the film 12 Days a Slave (2013) by Steve McQueen; she is also a filmmaker (In My Genes, 2009).
Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Achidie is a writer whose 2006 novel Half of a Yellow Sun was adapted for the film of the same name. The rights of her most recent novel Americanah has been optioned by Lupita Nyong’o.
British-Ghanaian Yaba Badoe is a writer and filmmaker. She launched a successful crowdfunding campaign for her film project on acclaimed writer Ata Ama Aidoo.
Thank you to Tsitsi Dangarembga, founder and former director of International Images Film Festival for Women, and current Director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa (ICAPA) Trust, who graciously responded to my request for information regarding the origins, history and evolution of the Distinguished Woman of African Cinema Award--Beti Ellerson, August 2014.