The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

28 May 2010

A Conversation with Angéla Aquereburu

(photo credit: Alexandre Ouya)

A Conversation with Angéla Aquereburu


Angéla, perhaps you could begin by talking about your “multiple identities”, if I may use this term, and how these identities have influenced you and your work.

In fact, my mother is Guadeloupean and my father is Togolese. I have lived in France for 15 years. I think that my diverse education has allowed me to develop a certain rigor, openness, and thirst for originality.

Your company, Caring International, well, the name is interesting. When was it founded and what are its objectives?

The company was created a year ago, in 2009. When I decided to create my company, I was looking for a name that reflected my personality. I give a lot of attention to the projects that I initiate…thus, “Caring”; and “International”, because I am a woman of the universe.

You and your husband work together, how do you conceptualize your projects, divide your tasks?

We work as a team on all of our projects, from idea to delivery. What is interesting about working in tandem is that since we are also partners in our private lives we are very frank with each other. We both are perfectionists and demanding, which can be difficult to live with sometimes, however these attributes are always constructive. We have learned to utilize our gender, cultural and personality differences as a source of strength.

You also navigate between France and Togo, is it mostly virtual traveling?

We live half of the time in Lomé and the other half in Paris. We navigate between France and Togo, literally and figuratively.

Your current project, Zem la série, what was the concept behind it…your process…the interest in a bilingual series?

At the present we have co-produced 26 4-minute episodes of Zem with Canal Overseas. The series was broadcast on Canal Overseas during the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. The next broadcast is scheduled on Canal+ Horizons in Africa, RTBF in Belgium at the start of the school year, and on Comédie in France this summer.

Moreover, we have plans to broadcast on VOD (Video-on-Demand) through the official website of the series to regions outside of Africa and France. The idea behind Zem was to offer to African and Western viewers a hip, quality program “made in Africa”. Besides, we wanted to show another side of Africa: a youthful, contemporary, attractive, witty Africa. This is how Palabres/Troubles came into being. In addition to reaching an African market we have our sights on Europe and North America as well. We have, therefore produced the French version “Palabres” and the English version “Troubles”.

The Zem series was a pilot that was initially launched on the Internet. How has New Media facilitated the production and broadcasting of your project?

At this time, in 2010, I think it is difficult to communicate without the Internet. Last year, we were able to introduce the Zem pilot to Internet users and test their interest. In my opinion, it is much easier to convince broadcasters to acquire a product that has already been tested and proven on the Internet. In fact, we are soliciting viewers who have an interest in the Palabres/Troubles pilot to become followers in order for us to reach our goal of 10,000 “fans”, which will allow us to produce other episodes.

Your future projects? Your dreams?

We plan to present a short film at the Cannes Festival in 2011 and, of course, we hope it is selected. A long-term goal is to create studios in Togo as a base, so that Caring International becomes in Africa what Warner or 20th Century Fox or Paramount is in the United States.

Translation from French and Interview by Beti Ellerson, May 2010

La Parole à Angéla Aquereburu

(crédit photo: Alexandre Ouya)
La Parole à Angéla Aquereburu


Angéla, peut-être, pouvez-vous d’abord parler de vos multiples identités—si je peux utiliser ce terme—et ses influences sur votre travail ?

En effet, ma mère est guadeloupéenne et mon père togolais. J’ai vécu 15 ans en France. Je pense que ces différentes éducations m’ont permis de développer ma rigueur, mon ouverture d’esprit et ma soif de nouveauté.

Caring International ... C'est un nom intéressant, depuis combien de temps la société existe-elle, quelle est sa mission ?

Quand j’ai décidé de créer ma société, je cherchais un nom qui reflète ma personnalité. J’aime prendre en main les projets dans lesquels je me lance..d’où le nom Caring..et puis International, parce que je suis une “world woman”. La société existe depuis un an maintenant.

Vous travaillez avec votre mari. Comment ça se passe entre vous par rapport à la conceptualisation et la réalisation des projets…de la répartition du travail ?

Nous travaillons toujours à deux sur tous les projets: de l’idée jusqu’à la livraison. Ce qui est intéressant dans notre tandem, c’est que comme nous sommes partenaires dans la vie privée, nous sommes très francs l’un envers l’autre. Nous sommes exigeants et perfectionnistes, ce qui est parfois difficile à vivre mais toujours constructif. Nous avons appris à utiliser nos différences de genre (homme/femme), culturelles ou de personnalités pour les transformer en force.

Vous naviguez entre la France et le Togo, est-ce que c’est surtout virtuel?

Nous vivons 50% du temps à Lomé et 50% du temps à Paris. Nous naviguons entre la France et le Togo au sens propre comme au sens figuré.

Zem la série, quel était le concept derrière ce projet…le processus…l'intérêt d'une série bilingue?

Zem est une série dont nous avons co produits 26 épisodes de 4 minutes avec Canal Overseas. La série a été diffusée sur cette dernière chaîne pendant la CAN et une prochaine diffusion est prévue sur Canal + Horizons en Afrique, RTBF en Belgique, à la rentrée scolaire et Comédie en France (cet été). Nous prévoyons également une diffusion en VOD sur le site officiel de la série pour les régions hors Afrique et France.

À l’origine de Zem, nous souhaitions offrir aux téléspectateurs africains et occidentaux, un contenu populaire premium made in Africa. Puis nous avons eu envie de montrer une autre Afrique: une Afrique jeune, moderne, belle, drôle..C’est ainsi que le projet Palabres est né. Nous visons non seulement le marché africain mais aussi les marchés européens et nord américains. Nous avons donc réalisé une version anglaise de Palabres, qui s’appelle “Troubles”.

Zem la série était un pilote lancé sur l’Internet, comment ce nouveau media a-t-il facilité la production et la diffusion de votre projet?

Je pense qu’il est difficile de communiquer en 2010 sans internet. Ce média nous a permis d’exposer le pilote de Zem, l’année dernière et de le tester auprès des internautes. À mon avis, il est plus facile de convaincre les diffuseurs d’acquérir un contenu qui a fait ses preuves sur internet. Nous sommes d’ailleurs à la recherche de fans autour du pilote de Palabres. Nous nous sommes fixés comme objectif d’atteindre 10 000 fans pour produire d’autres épisodes.

Quels sont vos projets futurs? Vos rêves ?

Notre projet est de présenter un court-métrage en 2011 au Festival de Cannes et qu’il soit sélectionné. Un autre projet à long terme est de construire des studios au Togo et que Caring International devienne en Afrique ce que sont la “Warner” ou “20th Century Fox” ou “Paramount” aux USA.

Entretien avec Angéla Aquereburu par Beti Ellerson, mai 2010.

26 May 2010

Safi Faye: Role Model | La Grande Référence



African Women in Cinema Collection
Safi Faye : La Grande Référence (en Français)

The tribute to Safi Faye at the 32nd Festival International de Films de Femmes (2-11 April 2010) demonstrates once again the important place she holds as pioneer in the history of women in cinema. Invited internationally to share her experiences in cinema, Safi Faye often reflects on the environment during that time, nearly forty years ago, in the early 1970s. She recalls the curiosity of her European colleagues in the midst of the “first African woman to dare to make a film."



In the April 2010 article, "Le 32e Festival International de Films de Femmes rend hommage à Safi Faye”, Claire Diao recounts the moving reception for Safi Faye, the guest of honor, among the other women who were also recognized, each receiving a rose. Safi Faye is introduced as “la grande référence” as she is welcomed on stage to a round of applause as she accepts a bouquet of flowers.



Included below are texts of English translations from French of two video clips of the visual documentation of the event, included on the DailyMotion FilmFemmes Channel.

The first text, Safi Faye, la grande référence, which includes the video-clip, is the English translation of the video-taped presentation of excerpts of the Gala event. The approximately five-minute clip is part of a longer video document. The begin and end time is as follows: 4 :19 - 8 :54.

The second text, Safi Faye's Cinema Lesson, which includes the video-clip, is the English translation of the 10-minute video-taped interview with Safi Faye entitled “Leçon de Cinéma de Safi Faye” (Safi Faye’s Cinema Lesson), which is part of the series “Leçon de Cinéma” (Cinema Lesson) a collection of conversations with the most emblematic women filmmakers of the last decade produced by the Festival International de Films de Femmes.

SAFI FAYE, LA GRANDE RÉFÉRENCE


Introduction

Whether immigration or travel between the two continents, Europe and Africa, the 32nd edition of the Festival International de Films de Femmes welcomes a number of films this year that reflect this fusion of two worlds. Saturday, the section “Trans-Europe-Africa” opens its doors in the presence of Safi Faye, who has honored us with the presentation of her film “Peasant Letter”.

Gala Trans Europe Africa

The filmmakers from the section, Trans-Europe-Africa : Alla Kovgan, Moira Tierney, Nadia El Fani, Christiane Chabi Kao, Lucie Thierry, Nicoletta Fagiolo, Pascale Obolo, Halida Boughriet, Safi Faye [she rises from her seat].

Participants : Tonikara is an association of African women from Mont Mesly [a suburb of Paris near Creteil, where the Festival is held]. Each year we participate in the festival in order to watch the films. My dream is to present a film at the festival one day.

Welcoming of Safi Faye

This evening is dedicated to Africa, to the African filmmakers, and our section Trans-Europe-Africa. For us, Safi Faye is an important role model. In order for African filmmakers to exist, to be able to show their films and lead a tough fight, they sometimes work in isolation, but they also have a great deal of courage, tenacity and talent.

Safi Faye:

Through my research I was able to understand the struggles and concerns of the people of the region from where I come, the peasantry, which are my roots. I pointed out the aspects most open to criticism regarding the conditions of my rural world, which culminated with the film Peasant Letter.

We made the filmed as a documentary, live, on the spot. We stockpiled bits of unused film and went out to shoot with these little bits of film that we found here and there, as well as from the Louis Lumière Film School from the film shot in 1973. Then in 1974 we realized that we had to create a story around the conditions of this rural life. Thus, we formulated the story of Coumba and Ngor. When we returned to shoot in 1974 we found that Ngor’s shirt was in tatters. So we went about repairing the sleeves. The film was rescued because it was shot in black and white. If it had been shot in color the flaws would have been visible. I had a technical crew at the Louis Lumière Film School eager to have an experience in Africa, and ready to follow me wherever I needed to go.

For each image, each shot, there was only one take. The horses and donkeys refused to obey in the presence of the camera. Therefore, nothing could be cut, as the scenes could not be shot twice.

This is the first time that I saw this film on a large screen and I am seeing again practically my entire family, who have since gone, they are almost all deceased. So this is an emotional moment. They were the people who supported me, who encouraged me—as a woman—to always be ready to work. I come from a matriarchal society, and well, I am a bit touched by all of this.

LEÇON DE CINÉMA DE SAFI FAYE | SAFI FAYE’S CINEMA LESSON


When I arrived in France I lived in the Latin Quarter. Lots of people asked me questions about Africa, for which I had no answer. Because, like you, I learned that Louis XIV was the greatest king of France and I learned the works of Baudelaire and Rousseau, and many others. I realized that I had to deepen my knowledge about Africa. And since all of the specialists were in Europe—Germany and France—all the Africanists were European—who taught me once again about Africa. I wanted to understand the influence of the spirits in indigenous African religions. Therefore, I based all of my studies in anthropology and ethnology on religion, which I call, “primitive” but I will not allow westerners to call it “primitive”.

Hence, at the Sorbonne we had the opportunity once a week—a practice which no longer exists—to use the film equipment, to touch, to explore, to even go through the motions of making a film. This experience allowed me to become familiar with the process, and therefore, I was not afraid to enroll in the Louis Lumière Film School. I knew nothing at all but I was no longer afraid of the imposing equipment. And since I was the first African woman to dare, I got into the school and learned filmmaking and cinematography. And even before completing the first year, I dare to make a film, in which I acted as well. And then people said: “Voila! Now a black woman makes films.”

People have always connected me with Jean Rouch. Jean Rouch was my French father. I met him in 1966, during the First World Festival of Black Arts when I was a young teacher. He told me that I was very charming and that he would like for me to act in his film. Since I was a teacher my father called to tell him that we could only shoot during the Christmas and Easter holidays. And for three years, during the Christmas and Easter vacations we shot the film and I traveled the world. But as I always say, there is the impression that Africans can do nothing without an overseer. Rouch never said that it was because of him that I am a filmmaker and neither have I made that assertion. People make up things, and Africa ends up being viewed in simplistic terms.

I have made many documentaries, docu-dramas, re-enacted, but never with a large mise-en-scène. Around these elements a narrative comes together, often a little love story that connects it. I chose the rural world because I am from the peasantry. My father went to school for a short time; my mother, never. These were the peasants who went to the city to work. My father came back to the village when he was 89 years old, my mother at 72. I wanted to highlight this world, which is the only sector that can actually make Africa self-sufficient, so that it can feed itself. We do not have industries or oil. Therefore, we must farm the land so that future generations of children may eat. I have underscored the rural problem in every way. I have been unrelenting because I am from the peasantry; I am not from the city.

People say all the time, “Safi, the documentarist, she makes documentaries, docu-dramas, (or whatever other new terms), but never fiction films.” I said to myself, well now I will see what this fiction really is. I began to write, search for innovative images—but I am still not convinced that this is fiction. I view fiction in the context of science fiction or war films. I wrote the script, I edited it, I sketched out the images, I asked others their thoughts. And after having completed Mossane, I am not yet persuaded that I have made a fiction film, because my imagination comes from what I have lived, the values that have been instilled in me, the education that I was given. And I think for an African it is very difficult to put a boundary between the fiction and the documentary.

Mossane was not conceived solely by me. If these beautiful images come out of an Africa full of misery and struggle it is because the greatest of German cinematographers, Jürgen Jürges, Fassbinder’s director of photography, read my story, liked it and filmed it. As we both had fourteen-year-old daughters, our love for them was transported onto Mossane. We had a mutual feeling of how we envisioned Mossane. I learned many things during the process. During two years before the shooting of Mossane we went to Senegal to study the lighting and the colors in order to be as close as possible to the story that I had written. I wanted the young girl to be the blackest of black, a blue black. She is so beautiful that the spirits, whose parents died very young, long, long ago, heard about the birth of the most beautiful girl in the world, and came back among the humans to take her away. Mossane did not commit suicide; Mossane followed her destiny. The ancestors came back in search for her, and took her back with them. I set out with this idea and that is what excited me, because I had never seen a visualization of the ancestors and I found an original image in cinema: the dead will return upside down.

Until 1996, I refused to go to festivals, I stayed to myself. People can watch my film and need not have me around. Because I have always felt that a film belongs to the public. It is a bit anguishing for me to be here. One need not explain her conceptualization, her process. The film—either one likes it or not. The story—you like it or you don’t.

Translations of the video clips from French by Beti Ellerson

20 May 2010

African Women in Cinema: Experiences in Video Sharing and Vlogging


The emergence of online video hosting, sharing and vlogging marks a new era in African film spectatorship, reception and diffusion. The phenomenon is in its early stages, but video sharing sites such as YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo, Yahoo Video, among others, are increasingly adopted by African filmmakers and African film distributors as a tool for visual exchange and communication.



Monique Mbeka Phoba had this to say about the impact and potential of video sharing on African cinema during our recent conversation:
This kind of virtual interactivity led to a film about the first Black African soccer team in the 1974 World Cup [Entre la coupe et l'élection/Between the Cup and the Election, Monique Mbeka Phoba and Guy Kabeya Muya, 2008]. We put a preview trailer on the Internet and received responses from all sorts of people interested in such a film, especially at the eve of the World Cup to be hosted by South Africa. This demonstrates the important role that the Internet may play in the production and promotion of films, which was not the case some years ago. It was the result of showing the trailer through video sharing that people were aware of the existence of the film—a very effective promotional tool. (1)

Thus making use of video sharing to showcase work in progress and to promote it for potential funding purposes has great potential. Traditionally, independent film and video practitioners presented their work in progress during private screenings among colleagues and friends, a practice that facilitates constructive feedback and discussion. These screenings have extended to on-line video-mediated sites such as YouTube and DailyMotion, which permit viewers to make comments directly on the site, therefore encouraging dialogue and productive critique. Perhaps this type of interactive exchange is more widespread on Facebook, which ensures an active audience of friends and “fans” providing spontaneous reactions and responses to the work.

Angela Aquereburu launched her Togolese TV series, Palabres, in French and Troubles, in English, on the Internet. Her audiovisual production company Caring International, which she created with her husband, launched the CaringInternational Channel on DailyMotion which videocast Palabres as a pilot. It continues under the title Zem La Serie with the shows, Réseau and Le Rapatrié, both running a little more than two minutes. Asked during an interview with Grioo.com how Internet users may assist in the diffusion process, she replied that the more people who view the series respond positively, the better the chances of getting it picked up by a television channel. Here again, the benefits of video sharing as a marketing strategy.

In addition to video sharing websites, many African women filmmakers include film excerpts and entire short films on their own websites, such as Dami Akinnusi, Cheryl Dunye, Izza Génini, Fatou Kande Senghor, Salem Mekuria, and Zanele Muholi. In many cases the websites are extensive, elaborating on future projects, and expounding on their philosophy as artists. Wanuri Wahui’s blog goes beyond reflections on her films, extending to her experiences while traveling, living, and working. Dami Akinnusi features a vlog on her website, in addition to featuring her films, she gives reflections on aspects of her life experience, such as the 7:48 mn visual piece entitled, “Finding Inner Peace”.

Another trend that is becoming increasingly popular, is the creation of a website to promote a newly released film on which the trailer of the film and other details about the filmmaker, crew and distribution are featured, for instance, Amma Asante’s A Way of Life, Florence Ayisi's Zanzibar Soccer Queens, Wanuri Wahui’s From a Whisper, Lupita Nyongo’s In My Genes.

Film distributors have also come on board using video sharing networks as a means to broadcast the trailers of the films in their collection, such as Women Make Movies and California Newsreel. Moreover, distributors such as La Médiathèque des Trois Mondes and The African Film Library offer Video on Command (VOD), undoubtedly the platform of the future.

Film festivals definitely recognize the value of the online media trend of video sharing. Within a week after the close of the Festival International de Films de Femmes, an impressive collection of video-taped interviews, panel discussions and events were uploaded on a DailyMotion channel created to showcase the 32nd edition of the festival, during which African women were especially visible. The honor was to Safi Faye, a pioneer in African cinema for nearly forty years. Dyana Gaye was featured on the YouTube Dubai Film Festival Channel among the many filmmakers who were interviewed during the festival in 2009.

An integral part of Rokhaya Diallo’s Les Indivisibles website is “Individeos et +”, short animated cartoons depicting subtle racism acted out on a daily basis. In addition, a vlog page featuring video interviews of a diverse group of French people, from different ethnicities and walks of life: a sociologist, singer/actor, filmmaker and rapper. The comments page includes an extensive list of testimonies in response to the cartoons and video-interviews, often personal and touching, regarding experiences of racism (reverse racism), anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, class-ism, regionalism and many of the other isms that are hurtful and insensitive. “Les Indivisibles: French, with no comment” is a group of activists whose goal is to deconstruct—with humor and irony—ethno-racial prejudices, and above all, those which deny or devalorize the French identity of the non-white French.

The research for this post inspired me to launch the African Women in Cinema Vlog hosted by YouTube and DailyMotion, as well as to incorporate the vlog concept in the Blog itself. In the future I will feature video-interviews and video clips for discussion and critique.


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