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For our final Tanzanian filmmaker case study, we meet wildlife photographer and camera assistant Lilian Anold.

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First speakers announced for Wildscreen Festival Tanzania

Award-winning Tanzanian Filmmaker, Erica Rugabandana, unveiled as headline speaker; short doc “Chameleon Corridors” set for world premiere.


Eliya Lawrence Uzia is an acclaimed Tanzanian cinematographer documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Tanzania Wildlife Media Association (TaWiMa), which offers wildlife photography internships, visual storytelling workshops and community campaigns to promote Tanzanian creativity. His production credits include Mahale Chimp Guardians and his own film, Mkomazi Rhino Guardians won the Best International Short Documentary on Animal in Filmmakers United International Film Festival (FUIFF).

Six years ago, Eliya completed a degree in Wildlife Conservation, but he missed his graduation day to go and capture some animal footage for a project he was working on.

“That’s the life of a wildlife cinematographer!” he laughs. The thrill of capturing the right footage at the right time is one that never goes away. His journey into filmmaking began, as so many do, with photography.

“I was a passionate wildlife photographer and incredibly fortunate to receive mentorship from a National Geographic Explorer through the Tanzania Wildlife Media Association (TAWIMA)’s wildlife photography programme in Tanzania. Through that I learned the art of conservation photography and really honed my skills in capturing meaningful moments that tell powerful stories.”

The shift into filmmaking came as a result of his passion for storytelling. “My filmmaking journey wasn’t a solitary one. It came through opportunities that arose to collaborate with filmmakers on various assignments.

“These experiences opened my eyes to the transformative power of storytelling through film. This solidified my desire to transition from capturing single moments to crafting comprehensive narratives that could inspire change and conservation action.”

In essence, Eliya’s journey wasn’t just a career shift – it was, he explains, “a personal evolution. I wanted to share the wonders of our country, of our planet, in a tangible way.”

The rocket fuel of mentorship
For Eliya, mentorship was a crucial part of his career trajectory. “As an African filmmaker, I can attest to the immense value of mentorship in my journey. By participating in mentorship programmes and assisting experienced filmmakers, I gained invaluable hands-on experience and exposure to the craft of storytelling.”

Working alongside wildlife and documentary filmmakers gave Eliya the practical skills he needed to grow as a filmmaker in his own right.

Working on projects such as Mahale Chimpanzee Guardians, which achieved international acclaim, was a transformative experience for him. “Learning from industry veterans, having access to better equipment and being on a big set is where you can break into the industry and start developing your own voice. It’s a formative experience for a young filmmaker.”

A game-changing experience
A common struggle for African filmmakers, however, is a lack of access – to equipment, training and connections to secure funding for their work. In 2022, Eliya secured a bursary via National Geographic to attend Wildscreen Festival in the UK. It proved to be a game-changer.

“As with many of my peers, I faced all these challenges, but actually it was attending Wildscreen Festival in 2022 that became a pivotal moment in my journey. It was there that I was able to learn about financing films, applying for grants, and managing entire film projects – including how to procure equipment.

“There are intricacies in this industry that it’s hard to pick up on from the outside. This is why exchange programmes and international collaborations are so important.

“Initiatives aimed at skill development and international collaboration offer tremendous opportunities for African filmmakers like myself to thrive in the global film landscape.”

Barriers to access
The industry in Tanzania remains challenging for local filmmakers, however. “Financing a film in Tanzania is undeniably challenging.

“Firstly, limited funding sources are available, and those that exist often prioritize projects aligned with their organizational interests. Consequently, many filmmakers struggle to secure financing.

“Additionally, a lack of knowledge and experience in writing effective pitches and grants further compounds the issue. As a result, filmmakers face significant barriers in accessing the funding needed to bring their projects to life.

“Addressing these challenges will require both increasing the pool of available funding and providing support and resources to help filmmakers develop their pitching and grant-writing skills.”

Digital opportunities
Even once films are made, the route to market can be fraught with difficulty – although this is changing, slowly.

“In Africa, the platforms available for sharing our films are limited, but opportunities are emerging, particularly with the growing appreciation for indigenous content on platforms like YouTube and local TV channels in Tanzania.

“While these platforms may have a smaller audience compared to mainstream channels, they are beginning to value and showcase locally produced content. Despite this progress, reaching a wide audience remains a challenge. Many viewers may not actively seek out indigenous content, leading to lower viewership numbers on these platforms.

“To overcome this hurdle, filmmakers often resort to alternative methods such as organizing screenings in schools or communities to directly engage with audiences.”

Empowering indigenous voices
As a filmmaker and mentor, Eliya hopes to see a greater emphasis on developing African creativity.

“We need to see greater collaboration between local and international organisations to provide African filmmakers with access to equipment, training and funding for their projects.

“There also needs to be a greater emphasis on empowering indigenous voices so that we can achieve more inclusive and authentic portrayals of African cultures and experiences on screen.”

As digital platforms and streaming services expand, African stories have the potential to be heard on the global stage.

“With the right backing and the right technology, the creativity and rich diversity of African stories and perspectives could have a huge impact on the world stage – but the time to start investing is now.”

Wildscreen Festival Tanzania takes place from 6 – 7 June in Arusha, Tanzania. Find out more and buy tickets online here.