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African Filmmaking

African Filmmaking: North and South of the Sahara

Roy Armes
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    African Filmmaking
    Book Description:

    African Filmmaking: North and South of the Sahara is the first comprehensive study in English linking filmmaking in the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) with that in francophone West Africa and examining the factors (including Islam and the involvement of African and French governments) which have shaped post-independence production. The main focus is the development over forty years of two main traditions of African filmmaking: a social realist strand examining the nature of postcolonial society and a more experimental approach where emphasis is placed on new stylistic patterns able to embrace history, myth and magic. The work of younger filmmakers born since independence is examined in the light of these two traditions.Features: *An overview of the socio-political context shaped by Islam and French colonialism.*A look at filmmaking in Africa before the mid-1960s.*An examination of the inputs of African and French governments into post-independence developments North and South of the Sahara.*A historical survey of the two major tendencies in African film production over the past 40 years.*A detailed analysis of the work of five talented young filmmakers, representative of those born since independence.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7923-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-xiv)
    (pp. 3-18)

    Filmmaking in Africa by Africans is fundamentally a postcolonial activity and experience, and nowhere is this more the case than in the two contiguous but variously colonised geographical areas dealt with in this book. The first area comprises the North African countries forming the Maghreb: Tunisia and Morocco, which both became independent in 1956, and Algeria, whose independence was achieved only after a long and bloody war of liberation in 1962. The second area comprises the states formed south of the Sahara from the two giant colonies of French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa, which were divided at independence...

    (pp. 21-35)

    The cinema reached Africa at much the same time as it spread across Europe and the United States. There were film shows in Cairo and Alexandria as early as 1896, in Tunis and Fez in 1897, Dakar in 1900 and Lagos in 1903. The initial impulse behind this worldwide spread was purely commercial: the desire to exploit to the full the commercial potential of what its inventors, like the Lumière Brothers, feared might be just a passing novelty. But as film narrative developed in length and complexity, the export of film took on a new significance. As Ferid Boughedir has...

    (pp. 36-52)

    This study is largely concerned with post-independence filmmaking in four adjoining areas astride the Sahara, all of which were colonised by the French up to the end of the 1950s or the beginning of the 1960s. Three of these – Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia – are independent states, and there is no critical problem in making general claims about them as unified contexts for filmmaking (though this is not to assume, a priori, that film production there constitutes a ‘national cinema’). To see the fourth area as a single unit is perhaps more controversial, since it comprises fourteen independent states in francophone...

    (pp. 53-64)

    Filmmaking south of the Sahara has long been a matter of concern for the French government. As a result, although we are dealing with films that often have a distinctly anti-colonial edge and a clear insight into postcolonial realities, it is impossible to understand the existence of these films without considering first the attitudes and policies of the former colonising power, France. A good starting point is the concept of ‘Francophonie’. The word itself dates from the nineteenth century, but its modern political sense of a union of those countries where the French language is used in government, commerce, administration...

    (pp. 67-86)

    One way of examining the issues raised by the development of African cinema in the course of the three ‘generations’ defined in the previous chapter would be to deal with them in terms of a simple realist/modernist dichotomy. There is much to be said for such an approach, but there are difficulties in applying terms with such distinct Western connotations to African culture, and the approach perhaps overemphasises differences, where continuities are also equally important. The approach adopted here is to consider African filmmakers in terms of the subject which concerns them all, that of their African cultural identity. As...

    (pp. 87-106)

    It is understandable that African filmmakers of the 1960s and early 1970s were largely concerned – after the long period of colonisation – to show Africa from an African perspective, to make their audiences see things anew by projecting the everyday realities around them onto the screen. In doing so, they were calling upon audiences to recognise their own social and historical situation. As the initial didacticism faded, the style of realism they adopted was close to that of the Italian neorealists, showing poverty in order to expose and create sympathy, rather than to incite action. In so far as there was...

    (pp. 109-121)

    The situation facing the new African filmmakers is very much akin to the predicament which Réda Bensmaïa, from a Maghrebian perspective, attributes to contemporary Algerian writers: ‘Under today’s postmodern conditions, it is not geographical or even political boundaries that determine identities, but rather a plane of consistency that goes beyond the traditional idea of nation and determines its new transcendental configuration’.³ To help define this new relationship between artists and their national context, Bensmaïa coins the term ‘experimental nations’, so named because ‘they are above all nations that writers have had to imagine and explore as if they were territories...

    (pp. 122-140)

    African filmmakers’ quest for autonomy in the 1980s is matched, notes Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike, by ‘compelling experimentation’, which ‘enables us to appreciate African cinema as innovative and diverse’. Instead of directly denouncing the Westernisation and corruption of postcolonial African elites in realistically depicted stories of contemporary life, they choose instead to re-examine the roots of African culture and to draw inspiration from African oral story telling. Manthia Diawara has argued that there are three reasons for the this shift to a precolonial past: to avoid censorship, to search for precolonial African traditions that can contribute to the solution of contemporary...

    (pp. 143-157)

    In one of his last articles on African cinema, written in 2000, Pierre Haffner posited the existence of three waves of African filmmaking (the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s–1990s).³ This present chapter argues that it is now possible to see the outlines of a new wave or generation, the first to be comprised entirely of filmmakers who, because of their date of birth, never experienced life under colonial rule. Filmmakers born since independence now make up about 15 per cent of the total number of francophone African filmmakers – and a far greater proportion of those currently active (they...

    (pp. 158-166)

    Mahamat Saleh Haroun was born in Chad in 1963. He moved to France and studied first filmmaking at the CLCF in Paris and then journalism at the IUT in Bordeaux. He worked for five years in print journalism and radio before returning to filmmaking, working from a base in Paris (through his company, Les Productions de la Lanterne) and becoming a key figure in the Guilde africaine des réalisateurs et producteurs. In the Guild’s first bulletin he defined his (and their) ambitions:

    Because a certain spirit of resistance animates us at the heart of the Guild, because we are conscious...

    (pp. 167-175)

    Dani Kouyaté (the name is sometimes spelt as Dany) was born in Bobodioulasso, in Burkina Faso, in 1961. Descended from one of the most celebrated families of griots, his father was the celebrated griot and actor Sotigui Kouyaté, who plays the leading role in Dani’s first feature. Within traditional Mande society, with its three-caste structure of nobles, artisans and slaves, griots were ranked in the middle category, alongside blacksmiths and leather-workers, as men of the word. In a society without writing, their role was the preservation of memory and mediation between people and power. Given their control of verbal expression,...

    (pp. 176-182)

    Raja Amari was born into a middle-class family in Tunis (her father was a civil servant and her mother designed children’s clothes) in 1971. She studied French literature and civilisation at the University of Tunis I, before going on to study film at FEMIS in Paris, from which she graduated in 1998. She currently divides her time between Paris and Tunis. Before making her first feature, she worked as a film critic for various Tunisian film reviews, contributing, for example, articles to the early issues of Cinécrits on filmmakers as diverse as Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Raymond Depardon...

    (pp. 183-190)

    Faouzi Bensaidi was born in 1967 in Meknès and, after completing his diploma studies of acting at ISADAC in Rabat, he spent a further period of drama study in Paris from 1990 onwards, first at the Institut d’Etudes Théatrales at the University of Paris III and then at CNSAD. He also did courses in various aspects of filmmaking at FEMIS in 1995. His long academic training allows him to be unusually articulate about the choices he makes when filming and the nature of his own mise-en-scène. But he also has wide practical and professional experience, having worked extensively in theatre...

    (pp. 191-200)

    Born in Kiffa, Mauritania in 1961, brought up in Mali, trained at the VGIK film school in Moscow thanks to a Soviet bursary, and resident in Paris since the early 1990s, Sissako is the archetypal filmmaker as exile. He is very much the product of the European exile that foreign film school training entails. Though he tells us he read the militant theorists Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire when he was young (quoting the latter in the commentary of Life on Earth/La Vie sur terre), his film tastes are very Westernised. Asked about the films that have influenced him, he...

    (pp. 201-214)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 215-224)