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Out in Africa Film Festival

 
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JOHANNESBURG(Reuters): For 12 years, the ''Out in Africa'' film festival has been one of the biggest events on South Africa's gay cultural calendar.Now, its organisers hope to take ''queer cinema'' to other African countries, where many gay people still live in fear of being persecuted for their sexuality -- much less get a chance to see people like themselves in films.

The festival already distributes free DVDs in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and its organisers plan to add six more African countries to that list by the end of the year.The organisers get permission from the filmmakers to duplicate movies free of charge; they are then passed on to gay groups in each country for their own mini-festivals or any other use they see fit.

Festival director Nodi Murphy said the enthusiasm with which ''Out in Africa'' has been received in small-town South Africa, where the event is still in its infancy, showed there was definitely a hunger for gay films even in out of the way places.'You go to small communities where people are just thirsting for knowledge, they're thirsting for images of themselves.They're so appreciative. They're ready to celebrate,'' Murphy told Reuters.

These ''satellite festivals'' in South Africa initially got off to a slow start when the films were screened in cinemas, where many gay people afraid of revealing their sexuality were too afraid to go, Murphy said.They then decided to work with local gay groups to spread the word about the events and screen the films in places that were less in the public eye -- in one case in a hotel owned by a gay-friendly straight man.

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