The curtain is opening once again for a film festival aimed at connecting people from the Prairies with African culture.

Five years ago Ben Akoh wanted a way to connect people in the prairie provinces with the growing African community.

"One of the most incredible parts of this is we come from different backgrounds, and that is what makes Canada really beautiful. The mosaic that we have in this beautiful country is just incredible but oftentimes we just don't get to know each other that much," Akoh says, hoping to give people a glimpse at African culture.

Akoh used film to do this, creating the African Movie Festival in Manitoba. He says there is a huge difference between Hollywood-style film and African film, saying in Hollywood they are bigger-budget with lots of effects and African film rely on the story.

"The stories connect you to the real day-to-day lives of people and their experiences."

Not only does AM-FM showcase these stories, but they also help people share their own.

Student filmmakers from Winnipeg will be featured at this year's festival. They all took part in AM'FM's masterclass teaching youth, focused mostly on teaching Black inner-city youth how they can tell their stories.

"There is someone that is interested in their story, someone that is interested in sharing what they have to say in the film, and in giving them the opportunities they need to succeed in this life."

In his own experiences, Akoh has found similarities in African and Indigenous cultures when he did some of his graduate work in Oxford House with Bunibonibee Cree Nation.

"It's amazing how those cultures of respect of togetherness, or spirituality, of courage and things like that, are very similar to the kinds of upbringing and socialization that I had as a kid in Africa."

He says there are similarities in the different cultures, but they often don't get talked about. He wants those kinds of conversations to come up out of people's basements at home to the surface, talking about them together. 

AM-FM runs from Friday to Sunday night at the Gas Station Arts Centre