An annual mock trial contest hosts human rights law students drawn from top Universities across Africa. This year as they argue in cases regarding refugee law, these bright young students offer us a glimpse into the frustration and optimism of each of them determined to win. The cases show the potential of Africa’s future legal thought leaders.
Every year, over a hundred of the brightest law students from across Africa gather in a different capital city to compete at the prestigious African Human Rights Moot Competition. Over the course of one week, these young aspirant lawyers act as both prosecution and defence on a fictional human rights case, each hoping to bring the trophy back home. African Moot follows teams from Uganda, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa as they prepare for the annual competition happening in Gaborone, Botswana. This year’s case is centred on the rights of refugees on the continent and each student has to grapple with burning issues around migration facing their own countries. Daniella is the bright and elegant star student from Makerere University in Uganda whom everyone expects to win. Edward, the homosexual son of Ugandan refugees to South Africa, is apprehensive about how he will be received by students from elsewhere in Africa. Kareem from Cairo is a committed Pan-Africanist who also loves to party. Amor hails from a very poor village in Kenya but is determined to make it to the top. At once a human story, political documentary and dramatic competition film, African Moot intimately captures their hopes, conflicts and ever-evolving ideas as they converge for one intense week of debate, bonding and high emotion. Tracking their progress from preparation and preliminary trials towards a dramatic finale, the film delivers not only insight into urgent political questions facing Africa but also shows how committed African youth are trying to shape the future of their continent.
Human rights lawyer turned filmmaker, Shameela Seedat focuses mainly on character-driven stories and has been commissioned to make several documentaries for local and international television, and civil society institutions. Her first independent feature-length documentary Whispering Truth to Power, about the last year in the office of South Africa’s first female Public Protector, won awards from Hot Docs, FESPACO, Luxor African Film Festival, St Paul and Minneapolis FF, Jozi FF and African Studies Association and has shown at over fifty festivals around the world.
African Moot is structured around a high-stakes competition (All Africa Human Rights Moot Competition) where talented law students from different parts of the African continent gather together for a week to act as both prosecution and defence in a cutting-edge fictional human rights court case. Each student team wants to win the case and bring back the trophy to their home country. Importantly, the Moot Competition is not only a space for testing students’ legal skills and oratory – it is a place where young inquiring minds from different parts of the continent get to know each other, form bonds, explore, debate, party, express themselves, have their views challenged, and discover what unites and what divides them. I was initially drawn to making this film for one overwhelming reason. It would take me on a meaningful journey with passionate students inhabiting the same continent as I do, and I would get to hear their thoughts on everything – law, politics, mobility, music, love, and the world in general (many years ago, I was a law student myself). But even more than this, I was drawn to the prospect of simply observing the students in action as they navigated their way through the week-long moot competition, immersing myself, and potential viewers in their interactions, engagements, deliberations and emotions, while also capturing the exuberance, spontaneity and dynamism of youth. The Competition typically draws a diverse set of vibrant and opinionated students from across the continent – including feminists, traditionalists, Pan-Africanists, marginalized identities and so on, which potentially makes for meaningful exploration and audience connection.
I am hugely indebted to the inspiring, talented and passionate student characters featured in the film, and also to each and every student at the Moot who we were not able to feature. I am also extremely grateful to the Moot Organizers (particularly the team from the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria- Yusuf Sayaad, Frans Viljoen and the late Christof Heyns) for so generously and openly allowing us to take this film idea forward in the first place and for all their support, as well as to all other universities around the continent who offered their assistance and co-operation. And finally a gigantic thank you to my collaborator, fellow producer Francois Verster, the producers at STEPS behind Generation Africa, Tuffi Films, and also the film’s funders and supporters. Filmmaking is collaborative and I am so deeply grateful!
UNDERCURRENT FILM AND TELEVISION
Internationally acclaimed, Emmy award- winning documentary filmmaker Francois Verster makes films that follow creative and observational approaches to social issues and have all won multiple awards – these include Scenes from a Dry City, The Dream of Shahrazad, Sea Point Days, The Mother’s House, A Lion’s Trail and When the War is Over. He has appeared on various festival juries and has numerous festival retrospectives on his work.
Don Edkins is a South African documentary filmmaker and producer based in Cape
Town. He has produced documentary film projects that have been broadcast around
the world, such as Steps for the Future, Why Democracy? and Why Poverty? earning
multiple international awards, including an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, and the
Special Teddy Award at the 63rd Berlinale for Steps for the Future. The Peabody
awarded Why Poverty? Project, with documentary films from 21 countries, was
screened globally by 70 broadcasters. He is Executive Producer of AfriDocs, a free-to-
view VOD platform and broadcast strand across Africa that screens the best African
and international documentary films. He is currently producing a new documentary film
project with African filmmakers across the continent, Generation Africa, around the
theme of migration. He is a mentor for the Berlinale Talents, Durban FilmMart, and
Docs by the Sea in Indonesia, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Tiny Mungwe is a documentary film and arts producer. She currently works at STEPS
(Social Transformation and Empowerment Projects) where she produces Generation
Africa, a pan-African anthology of 25 documentary films from 16 countries in Africa, on
the topic of migration. Mungwe’s films include Akekho uGogo, a 48 minute
documentary about urban youth culture, which screened at several festivals including
the Durban International Film Festival, Apollo Film Festival and DOKANEMA Festival.
Her short film script Evelyn was selected for the National Film and Video Foundation
(NFVF) Women Filmmaker Project and she directed another short film in the program,
Daddy’s Boy. She has written for some of the highest rating South African television
dramas such as Muvhango and Matatiele, and was one of the directors on the series
Uzalo. For several years she worked as a festival organizer and programmer for four
international festivals, namely Time of the Writer, the Durban International Film
Festival, Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival and Poetry Africa. During that time she also worked on the program for Durban FilmMart (the co-production market of the festival) and Talents Durban (a career development program for emerging African filmmakers in partnership with Berlinale Talents). She continues to work as a program curation associate for the Durban FilmMart. She also programmed and curated the city of Durban’s inaugural book and art fair, ARTiculate Africa.