DER Documentary

Colours of the Alphabet

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directed by Alastair Cole
produced by Nick Higgins
color, 80 min, 2016
in Soli, Nyanja, Bemba, English
with English subtitles


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“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” — Nelson Mandela

Colours of the Alphabet tells the story of three children and their families over two school terms, and asks the question: does the future have to be in English?

The official language in Zambia is English, but there are seven national languages and 72 ethnic languages spoken in the country. How does anyone communicate in this living Tower of Babel? This lyrical and beautifully-filmed documentary is an eye-opening tale of the relationship between children and language from those first apprehensive days at school to the playground excitement at the end of term.

In a world where nearly 40% of the population lack access to education in their own language, Colours of the Alphabet is an affectionate and humorous portrayal of childhood innocence, misplaced hope, and the role of language as a means of binding a nation together - with multi-coloured subtitles to reflect the multilingual reality of the classroom.

“Poignant, touching and very amusing. ★★★★” — Across The Arts
“Lyrical, beautifully filmed... an inspiring, bittersweet documentary about language, communication and national identity.” — Glasgow Film Festival


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Glasgow Film Festival 2016 Glasgow (Official Selection), UK, 2016 (Home Premiere)
Watch Africa Wales Film Festival Cardiff, UK, 2016 (Wales Premiere)
AfrikaEye Film Festival Bristol, UK, 2016 (England Premiere)
Lusaka International Film and Arts Festival 2016 Lusaka, Zambia, 2016 (Africa Premiere)
Grierson Awards - Best Newcomer, Shortlisted, London, UK, 2016
Mother Tongue Film Festival Manchester, UK, 2017
One World Film Festival Prague, Czech Republic, 2017 (continental European Premiere)
World Film Festival, Tartuu, Estonia, 2017
Addis International Film Festival, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2017
Human Rights Nights Film Festival, Italy, 2017

Cinema Screenings
UK: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Oban, Portree, Lochmaddy, Stornoway, 2016
Zambia: Fresh View Cinemas, 2017

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