As the fifth edition of the Africa in Motion Film Festival (21 Oct to 5 Nov) goes into full swing, it is a great occasion to profile its founder and director, Lizelle Bisschoff of South Africa.
Lizelle founded the festival in 2006 while studying for her doctorate in African cinema. She earned her PhD in 2009 from the University of Stirling (Edinburgh), her dissertation entitled: Women in African Cinema: An aesthetic and thematic analysis of filmmaking by women in Francophone West Africa and Lusophone and Anglophone Southern Africa. At the same time scholar, she is also activist and advocate, wanting to “do something more practical to increase accessibility”.
In addition to a host of Internet venues to promote the festival, a short conversation with Lizelle on video is indicative of her intention to maximize the visibility of the festival and by extension African cinema. Lizelle talks about her passion for African cinema and scholarship and her commitment to promote African experiences through film.
The aim of the festival is to overcome “the under-representation and marginalisation of African Cinema, we believe that the best way to learn about Africa is to listen to African voices and to view representations created by Africans themselves.”
Sites promoting the festival include a Website, Internet TV channel, Youtube channel and Facebook page.
Lizelle Bisschoff’s Dissertation abstract:
This study focuses on the role of women in African cinema – in terms of female directors working in the African film industries as well as the representation of women in African film. My research specifically focuses on francophone West African and lusophone and anglophone Southern African cinemas (in particular post-apartheid South African cinema). This research is necessary and significant because African women are underrepresented in theoretical work as well as in the practice of African cinema. The small corpus of existing theoretical and critical studies on the work of female African filmmakers clearly shows that African women succeed in producing films against tremendous odds. The emergence of female directors in Africa is an important but neglected trend which requires more dedicated research. The pioneering research of African-American film scholar Beti Ellerson is exemplary in this regard, as she has, since the early 2000s, initiated a new field of academic study entitled African Women Cinema Studies. My own research is situated within this emerging field and aims to make a contribution to it. The absence of women in public societal spheres is often regarded as an indicator of areas where societies need to change. In the same sense the socio-political and cultural advancements of women are indicators of how societies have progressed towards improved living conditions for all. Because the African woman can be viewed as doubly oppressed, firstly by Black patriarchal culture and secondly by Western colonising forces, it is essential that the liberation of African women includes an opportunity for women to verbalise and demonstrate their own vision of women’s roles for the future. The study analyses a large corpus of films through exploring notions of nationalism and post/neo-colonialism in African societies; issues related to the female body such as health, beauty and sexuality; female identity, emancipation and African feminism in the past and present; the significance of traditional cultural practices versus the consequences and effects of modernity; and the interplay between the individual and the community in urban as well as rural African societies. Female filmmakers in Africa are increasingly claiming the right to represent these issues in their own ways and to tell their own stories. The methods they choose to do this and the products of their labours are the focus of this study. Ultimately, the study attempts to formulate more complex models for the analysis of African women’s filmmaking practices, in tracing the plurality of a female aesthetics and the multiplicity of thematic approaches in African women’s filmmaking.