When Alice Mutoni started to brew the idea of a film screening and panel discussion in late 2018, her aim was simple.
"I wanted to do something fun as a way of spending time with friends and learning something new", Mutoni says.
A friend tipped Mutoni off that the cultural centre Museum of Impossible Forms in the Kontula district could possibly offer their spaces for an event. Mutoni e-mailed the centre immediately. The first Ubuntu Film Club screening was held in January 2019.
"I noticed that it is after all not difficult to organise a bigger event. There are many groups and associations in Helsinki that can offer help and funding."
Mutoni was prepared to pay for the food and drinks from her own pocket, but the cultural centre ended up taking over the costs. Mutoni’s friends Rewina Teklai and Fiona Musanga decided to give a hand with the organisation and soon understood just how significant the event would be. Many young people showed up at the screening, even though the topic – the Congolese civil war – was heavy. The young people also took an active role in the panel discussion and the women realised that there needs to be a follow-up event.
"We offered a safe space where people like us could participate", Rewina Teklai summarises.
Many kinds of collaborations
Ubuntu Film Club started out hosting gatherings every month. Their club nights so far have included screenings of films such as Susani Mahadura’s documentary Kelet, the American Oscar winner Moonlight and Beyoncé’s concert film Homecoming.
Ubuntu Film Club’s panel discussions have addressed topics such as violence against women, better allyship, and what it is like to be BIPOC (Black / Indigenous / Person of Colour).
The events have primarily attracted young people aged 16 to 25.
"Our principle is that every screening is free, so attendance is never a question of money", Fiona Musanga says.
The outdoors screening at the Aurinkolahti beach in Vuosaari was a particular success. Alice Mutoni had been looking for helping hands to organise a large-scale event and discovered Pop Up Kino Helsinki, a film club that organises open screenings in the city.
"They were immediately interested in collaborating."
Pop Up Kino Helsinki found funding for the event through Arts Promotion Centre Finland, so Mutoni, Teklai and Musanga were able to focus on the content.
Many of Ubuntu Film Club’s evenings have been the result of collaboration with different groups. Ubuntu traveled to Tampere by invitation of the feminist and anti-racist organisation Fem-R. The urban DIY cultural initiative Free City of Kalasatama hosted Ubuntu and the Think Africa NGO for a film screening and a PoC Open Mic session at the indoors Olohuone space.
"It was a lovely mix of a film screening and creativity in a safe space that visitors found inviting. It was beautiful", Musanga reminisces.
Ubuntu wishes to create an atmosphere where everyone is empowered to speak.
"You don’t need to be an expert nor use academic language in order to express your opinion. People can avoid taking part in a conversation if they don’t know how to speak in a certain way. This can be a marginalising experience", Teklai says.
A new direction in life
Organising film evenings has brought the women a stronger sense of agency and confidence in their everyday lives in Helsinki.
"I used to feel all the time that I wanted to move abroad, but once I started organising Ubuntu events, I felt really at home in Helsinki", Mutoni says.
"We have had the chance to explore Helsinki and its spaces. There are many venues here, but sometimes they are out of sight like hidden gems, and people don’t necessarily know about them", Musanga says.
As a student of Community Education, Rewina Teklai has understood just how important it is to have events aimed at different audiences.
"While there are many kinds of open events, many of them are created by existing communities and it is daunting to join as an outsider.
The community of young people of African origin has become tighter in the process of founding Ubuntu Film Club, but there is still potential for it to grow even stronger.
Young people have often not seen their parents set strong examples when it comes to professionally hosting events or finding spaces for instance for artistic projects."
Given their success so far, the motivation of Alice Mutoni, Rewina Teklai and Fiona Musanga has only grown stronger.
"I want to take part in change and to develop communities. And when we head to, for example, Kontula in East Helsinki with Ubuntu, we are also changing the perception of a district that has had quite a bad reputation for no reason at all", Musanga says.
The film club has brought much more to the lives of all three than they expected.
"Through Ubuntu Film Club, I have a purpose. Previously I didn’t know what I would want to do as a grownup. Now I know that I want to be a cultural producer and organise community-driven things for people", Mutoni says.
The women find it sad that Ubuntu has not been able to have monthly meetings in the past months due to the Coronavirus, and the two-year anniversary was also cancelled.
"Next autumn we will surely host an outdoor screening again, it was so lovely last time", Mutoni promises.