A Gambian photo journalist and videographer Alhagie Manka

By Momodou Jarju

A Gambian photo journalist and videographer Alhagie Manka, has his co-produced film ‘Gift from Babylon’, selected in the competition for Best Short Narrative, at the upcoming Pan African Film Festival, the largest black film convergence in Los Angeles, in the United States. ‘Gift from Babylon’ is a clip depicting the ‘psychological’ impact of migration on a Gambian migrant returnee.

Manka and his film director Bas Ackermann, named their joint initiative as ‘The Dutch-Gambian Co-Production’. The duo will attend the festival from the 7th to 18th February, to celebrate the achievement the ‘Dutch-Gambian Co-production, and will also receive its North American premiere at the festival. 

Gifts from Babylon is a short narrative, exploring the psychological impact of Africa-EU migration through the lens of a Gambian migrant returnee. The film which was shot on location in The Gambia with a full Gambian cast, captures the personal conflicts that arise when Modou, a deportee, returned to his home country after having lived illegally in Europe for five years. Suffering from the intense flashback of his traumatic migrant journey which prevents him from reconnecting with his family, friends and himself, Modou wonders what has become of him.

Gifts from Babylon is the second Dutch-Gambian co-production made by Dutch film duo Bas Ackermann (director) and Emiel Martens (producer), in collaboration with Alhagie and Babucarr Manka from Gambia media production house ‘State of Mic’. Previously they made ‘Welcome to the Smiling Coast (2016) together, which is a featured documentary on Gambian tourism that received its world premiere at the Pan African Film Festival in 2016, and has since been shown at over fifty international film festivals and other events across the world. ‘Gifts from Babylon’ could be seen as a sequel to ‘Welcome to the Smiling Coast.’

Last year ‘Gifts from Babylon’ won a pitch competition and small token from ‘Movies that Matter’, the well-known human rights film festival in The Hague, and raised an additional production budget through a crowd funding campaign. A few months ago, the film received its world premiere at the Netherlands Film Festival and its African premiere at Festival Gorée Cinéma in Dakar, Senegal. Subsequently, ‘Gifts from Babylon’ has had several public screenings in both The Netherlands and The Gambia.

The premiere screening of Gifts from Babylon will take place on Friday February 8th at 6.25 pm. The film will have repeat showings on Tuesday February 12th at 3.35 pm and Monday February 18th at 7.50 pm. The first screening will be attended by Bas Ackermann and Alhagie Manka, who are both very honored that their film is nominated for Best Short Narrative at PAFF.  ‘‘We are thrilled with this nomination. It shows that the subject of the film is topical and urgent. The psychological impact of the refugee crisis often gets forgotten. With ‘Gifts from Babylon’, we want to draw attention and raise awareness on this ultimately human crisis,’’ Ackermann concludes.

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