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.


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Director/Directrice, Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema | Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinéma

28 February 2011

Sarah Bouyain: Notre étrangère/The Place in Between

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition - Fiction Feature Film
Sarah Bouyain, mixed-race of French-Burkinabé parentage was born in Reims,  Marne. After acquiring a university degree in mathematics she entered the l’école Nationale supérieure Louis Lumière (“École de Vaugirard”). Two years later, she worked as assistant camerawoman on different films as well as advertisements and also worked as image intern for the film Léon by Luc Besson.

Her documentary Les Enfants du Blanc was released in 2000 and the book of short stories Metisse façon, published in 2003. She has also written articles mainly focusing on the theme of mixed-race and exile for Africultures, Presence Africaine and Codesria.

Excerpt from a filmed interview with Sarah Bouyain at Venice Days during the International Film Festival of Venice 2010. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson.

I am mixed-race, my father was Burkinabé and my mother French, and in fact, I am the granddaughter of a mixed-race woman.... Therefore, I have a dual mixed-race heritage which is where my affinity for Burkina derives. My father lived in France with the intentions of returning to Burkina. I grew up hearing him talk about Burkina all the time with the eventuality of returning there in the future. This has influenced me very much and that is the social location of my work. However, I have a difficult time with this specificity of Burkina. I would prefer to say Africa, though Africa has a certain mythical quality, and everyone does not perceive this myth in the same way, some think of tigers and giraffes and others something else. There is something mysterious about this world of Africa that can be somewhat frightening at times. People project a certain fantasy that is not very positive. Perhaps I reflect a certain fantasy that comes from my father's eternal fantasy of returning. The country interests me. I am also interested in how one lives between two places. And I imagine my next film will also deal with this subject.

Synopsis of the film, Notre Étrangère

After the death of her father, Amy, a young mixed-raced woman leaves Paris to go to Bobo in Burkina Faso to find her mother from whom she was separated at eight years old. But only her aunt lives in her childhood home.  Amy goes from one family foyer to another, at the same time comforting it is also stifling. Moreover, she encounters a city in which she no longer has a point of reference.

For several years now, her mother Mariam is but an illusive shadow living on the margins of society. She recently meets Ester, the manager of a company in Paris where she is the office cleaner. Ester wants to learn Dioula, Mariam's maternal language. Gradually these two lonely women appreciate each other.

Notre Étrangère (2010) by Sarah Bouyain


26 February 2011

Fatma Zohra Zamoum: Le docker noir Sembene Ousmane (The Black Docker)

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition: Documentary

Fatma, could you first talk a bit about yourself...filmmaker, writer, professor, intellectual, multi-talented artists...
Thank you for your interest in the documentary. I will speak about myself...Born in Algeria; I have lived in France for more than twenty years. I generally do fiction films but if there is a visual challenge in a documentary I am also interested in doing it. I also write novels but the need is less—two novels to date, and plans for a third one this year, I hope. Presently, I am in post-production for my latest feature film, "Combien tu m'aimes" (How much do you love me) shot in November and December in Algiers. In addition, I teach at university but mainly to not be cut off from the discipline and to stay informed. And above all to stay connected with art history, which is my pet subject. And also, it allows me to not have to be in a state of uncertainty when preparing a film (it's a long story...)

What inspired you to make a film about Ousmane Sembene?

I went to Ouagadougou for the first time in 2007 hoping to meet Sembene but he did not come that year because he was sick and died shortly after. Since I could no longer honor him directly, I decided to make a film. The Guild of African Filmmakers, who also wanted to pay him a tribute, initially supported this decision, but things did not come together in time. Sembene had an exemplary career and he deserves to be recognized, of course as a person, but also as an artist committed to the ideas of his time. Besides, he was never one to back down.

What has been the audience response to the film?

It was a discovery for most. Despite his body of work, in the end, few actually knew him. I had the opportunity to present the film at the Pan-African Festival in Algiers, truly a preview since it had only been completed a week before, and the audience was charmed by the film itself, but also by the complexity of the subject.

Interview by Beti Ellerson (February 2011)


In 1956 a docker in Marseille writes a novel called Le docker noir...

From this initial creative act, this man will become a writer and a filmmaker: He is Sembene Ousmane.

And by the sweat of his brow, he will earn for himself an esteemed place in the world of arts and letters, publishing a dozen novels and producing some ten films—a fascinating and complex body of work with a focus on social, moral and historical issues (illiteracy, the inner workings of colonial domination, religion, relations between women and men, the world of work...).

Sembene Ousmane who died in the month of June 2007, took with him the mystery of a man, but his work remains. This film documentary presents a portrait of a man spanning a forty-year career. And while a universal œuvre, it is deeply rooted in the history of his country, Senegal.

Fatma Zohra Zamoum: Le docker noir Sembene Ousmane

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Compétition officielle des films documentaires

Fatma, d'abord, parlez un peu de vous-même...en tant que cinéaste, écrivaine, professeure, intellectuelle, artiste polyvalente...

Merci de votre intérêt pour le documentaire. Je vous parle de moi.... née en Algérie et vis en France depuis plus de vingt ans. Je fais des films de fiction normalement mais s'il y a un enjeu d'image dans un documentaire cela m'intéresse. J'écris aussi des romans mais la nécessité est moindre, 2 romans à ce jour et le projet d'un troisième pour cette année j'espère. Actuellement je suis en post-production de mon dernier long-métrage "Combien tu m'aimes", tourné en novembre et décembre à Alger.  J'enseigne également à l'université mais essentiellement pour ne pas couper avec la discipline de travail et d'information. Et surtout pour ne pas perdre le lien avec l'histoire de l'art qui est mon dada. Cela permets aussi de ne pas être dans l'expectative quand on prépare un film (c'est long....).

Qu'est-ce qui vous a inspirée pour faire un film sur Ousmane Sembene?

Je suis allée pour la première fois à Ouagadougou en 2007 et j'espérais rencontrer Sembène mais il n'est pas venu cette année-là car il était malade or peu de temps après il est décédé. Je ne pouvais donc plus lui rendre hommage en direct, j'ai décidé de le faire par un film.  Cette décision a été soutenue au départ par la Guilde des réalisateurs africains qui voulaient également lui rendre hommage. Mais les choses n'ont pas convergé en temps. Je trouve que le parcours de Sembène est exemplaire et qu'il mérite d'être connu en tant qu'homme mais aussi en tant qu'artiste engagé dans les débats de son époque. D'ailleurs il n'en a évité aucun.

Quelles sont les réactions du public sur le film?

Découverte, d'abord découverte car malgré l'oeuvre de l'artiste peu connaissent finalement. J'ai eu l'occasion de le présenter au Festival Panafricain à Alger, vraiment en avant-première car il était terminé depuis une semaine et les spectateurs ont été charmés par le film lui-même mais aussi par la profondeur de sa démarche.

Entretien de Beti Ellerson (février 2011)


En 1956, un docker à Marseille écrit un roman intitulé Le docker noir… 

A partir de cet acte inaugural de création, l’homme va devenir écrivain et cinéaste : c’est Sembene Ousmane.

Il va se forger, à la force du poignet, une place de choix dans le monde des arts et des lettres, en publiant une dizaine de romans et en réalisant une dizaine de films. Une œuvre passionnante et complexe, tournée vers des problèmes sociaux, moraux ou historiques (l’analphabétisme, les mécanismes de domination coloniale, religieuse, entre hommes et femmes, dans le monde du travail...). 

Sembene Ousmane est décédé au mois de juin 2007, il emporte avec lui son mystère en tant qu’homme, mais son œuvre demeure. Ce film documentaire propose de faire le portrait de l’homme à travers une œuvre qui se déploie sur quarante ans, une oeuvre universelle et pourtant profondément enracinée dans l’histoire de son pays, le Sénégal.


25 February 2011

Iman Kamel: Beit Sha'ar (Nomad's Home)

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition: Documentary

Iman Kamel had this to say when I asked her about her experience making the film Beit Sha'ar

The film took almost five years to make. It had to do with the fact, that Sinai, where the Bedouins have settled, is a military area and filming is strictly prohibited. So when we finally decided to do the filming I went with a small camera, only with my camera women and worked on a very small scale. But when we arrived, we were confronted with the taboo of filming the Bedouin women. Although Selema my main protagonist agreed on the filming process, there was a lot of anxiety about our filming from the women around her, and we had to be very patient. The women and girls told me their stories but we did not film them.  And step by step, the veils fell. But filming was a very sensitive process, where my own story in the mirror of the encounter with Selema the Bedouin became increasingly clear. It is very evident that my story is also part of this film.

“So I sat on the sand and started to knit, and there is sand coming into it, and the warmth of the sun. I felt I am making a pullover, not from the wool alone, but from the whole Sinai. My sufi-wool house on my body, the whole desert Sinai in my house.” Iman Kamel

With the film Beit Sha’ar | Nomad’s Home, I pay homage to the Bedouin women of the Sinai Peninsula – many of whom I have come to know personally over the last twenty-five years. Though Bedouin society is very welcoming and protective to those in its circle, it does not easily assimilate strangers into its midst. Due to a long history of harassment by the Egyptian government and prejudice of the Egyptian people against them, Bedouins mistrust the Egyptian authorities and people. When I first became acquainted with the Bedouin as an Egyptian woman, I was enchanted by how much they welcomed me, allowing me to take an active part in their lives; and thus an enriching exchange between my life and their lives began. This long-lasting conversation became most profound with the tribeswoman Selema Gabaly and it is the contemplation of this interaction with Selema that forms the basis of the film.

As her family name indicates, Selema Gabaly was born in the mountains (‘Gabal’) of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. She was the first woman in her tribe to break with tradition by finishing her school education and then starting to work by managing a handicraft project involving almost every woman in her tribe, the Al Gabalya. These facts alone make her a pioneer for the rights of the Bedouin women in Sinai – rights she has had to fight for and defend almost her entire life since she was a young girl.

But I am not a Bedouin. I was born in the city of Cairo. I am an Egyptian filmmaker from a family of artists. A non-conformist character who left Cairo as a young woman seeking new horizons. Though I am now living in Berlin I am also content to call everywhere that I go ‘home’.

Connecting with Selema was an inevitability for me. Since the age of sixteen I had been visiting Sinai, and considered it to be my home in Egypt, far away from the chaotic city. When I first met Selema there in 2004 she was 32 years old. After that initial contact 5 years ago, I kept visiting her throughout the years - magnetized by her powerful character. As a result, a trustful friendship built itself up between us and she let me accompany her to her family house and on her tours to the Bedouin settlements in the region – places that are normally completely closed-off to outsiders.

In 2008, when I subsequently came to Sinai with my camerawoman to document Selema’s extraordinary life, her life had been again transformed: She had married a rural Egyptian man - outside of her own Bedouin community - and was in the process of defending her decision to marry in such a manner and to not be excluded from her community by breaking this taboo. At the time, her uncles and the patriarchs of the tribe were not accepting for her to marry outside of the tribe. They felt there was the danger of their families mating with an Egyptian; and they considered him as the “enemy”. Because of this, Selema was experiencing a lot of rejection from the other families and her handicraft project was at risk of falling apart…

But the bond built up over these years between all the women who had been working with Selema was stronger than the disgrace of the broken taboos, and soon the women began to stand behind Selema’s marriage and supported her work.

BEIT SHA’AR | NOMAD’S HOME is the story of how I met Selema; a document of the Bedouin women of her tribe and a poetic contemplation of how two women living totally different lives far apart can maintain a spiritual bond. Through this film I have come to discover that Selema and I share a lot in common. We are bound by one passion: that of being a nomad in today’s modern life, seeking to journey towards the unknown – yearning to be enriched by new discoveries.

Images Credit - Ute Freund

24 February 2011

Dyana Gaye: Un transport en commun/St. Louis Blues

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition: Short Fiction Film

Dyana Gaye studied film at the Université Paris 8 de St. Denis. Laureate of the Louis Lumière-Villa Médicis Hors les murs Scholarship, she made her first film Une femme pour Souleymane, receiving the attention of several festivals, followed by Deweneti which was distributed widely and among the many honors, was nominated for the 2008 Césars Award. She presented the musical comedy Transport en commun at the World Festival of Black Arts, 10-31 December 2010. 

Interview with Dyana Gaye by Fatou K. Sene for Wal Fadjri translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson

Wal Fadjri: Why a musical comedy film?

Dyana Gaye: This is the genre that gave me the desire to make films. The musical comedy film genre is very distinctive, very ancient. I took the opportunity to initiate this type of film in Senegal, to bring together different ideas.

Where did you get your inspiration to do a musical comedy?

From the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, of the 1930s. I grew up on classic Hollywood musicals—the film, The Band Wagon by Vincente Minnelli, and so on. I also like the films of my generation, the 1980 productions such as the Blues Brothers. When I started watching movies, these are what attracted me right away, musicals also, because I studied dance and music. The musical comedy is a way for me to combine all of my ideas, whether it’s dance or music, cinema allows me to bring it all together.

The performers in the film were they musicians or actors?

All the voices in the film are those of the actors. I give a pat on the back to all of them, who for the most part are not professional actors, singers or dancers. It was a genuine learning experience. It was a very difficult project given the means we had to work with, but it was the willpower and energy of each person that made it happen. The musical comedy is rather demanding. We shot the film in the middle of the Grand Magal of Touba. The shoot was harsh and complicated but with lots of fond memories.

It is not a common genre in Africa, how were you able to join all the songs together?

We rehearsed for three weeks before the shoot. The music was already recorded in Paris with a large string orchestra, cosmic orchestra and a jazz big band. I brought the recordings to Senegal and the actors mimicked the music.

What was your inspiration for the script?

At the beginning, I did not think necessarily of a musical. Rather, what I was interested in telling was a story about a trip in the bush taxi that I often took to go to Saint Louis or to Ziguinchor. When I traveled in a bush taxi I often took notes in my tiny journal about the people that I met, about the situations that I encountered. From these notes I wrote the script, though I realized that in these cars people sitting next to each other, could not necessarily look at one another. I had to recreate these scenes by adding sound and voice. One thing led to another, eventually becoming a musical meeting space. 

When did you start thinking about the idea for the film?

Some time ago during the trips I made since I was very young. I started going to Senegal at the age of five years old with my parents. I have always traveled in bush taxis. It is the accumulation of these different memories that is the basis for the story. It is also a reflection on the possible encounters while using public transportation, not only in Senegal. I have a journal of my trips by metro and bus in Paris. I am very interested in the situations where people who do not know each other nor speak to each other, have something in common—the same route. Sometimes you speak to the person next to you; sometimes you go the entire trip in silence. The idea was to bring about a situation where the passengers come together, allowing them to talk about themselves at a certain moment and that is why I chose singing.

Did you deliberately choose to reveal slices of the lives of your characters?

This is the humdrum of life. That’s how it is when you take public transportation; each comes with her life, his past, the direction she is taking, his future. It is with the contact of others that our lives evolve, that we move ahead. For me it also symbolizes the journey. I wanted the film to look towards the future, which is why there are a lot of young people, except for the driver and the hair salon owner. It is to show that all of these people have aspirations. It is also a way of celebrating the Senegalese youth who have a very fighting spirit. I wanted to underscore that in the film, that they are taking charge of their own destiny. These are emancipative voyages, rites of passage. For instance, the character Malick will emigrate to Italy, etc. These are slices of life and also a way to see and hear the everyday experiences of the Senegalese no matter their age or circumstance.

What are your present projects?

I am working on a feature film that deals with the problem of immigration, because I am interested in these rather delicate topics. This particular one is from a woman’s perspective. Those who come back to their country or who leave it, what are they taking with them, what are they bringing back? I will pose these questions about identity, about memory.

Image credit ©SNES

23 February 2011

Tsitsi Dangarembga: I Want a Wedding Dress

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition - TV/Video Fiction

Intellectual, writer, filmmaker, producer, culture critic, Tsitsi Dangarembga created the film production company, Nyeria Films based in Harare in 1992. Founder and director of the International Images Film Festival for Women, she is also a member of Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe.

Synopsis of the film, I Want a Wedding Dress

I Want a Wedding Dress is the story of young Kundisai Sande, who desperately wants to get married but finds herself in a sexual network with disastrous consequences. Her boyfriend Teri deserts her, only to find himself in the same sexual network. Mahachi, the successful, promiscuous businessman who seduces Kundisai, brings infection to the marriage bed. In the midst of their misery, the players in the sexual network come to realise that only love can conquer all.

Tsitsi Dangarembga talks about her evolution as writer to filmmaker and her experiences working in both media.

For me the important thing is to communicate.  If I feel I want to say something, then I want to say it.  It just depends on what the situation is, maybe what the idea, what the context is, as to whether that comes out as a play or a poem, a novel or a cinema script.  I decided I would go to film school and that is what I did, really.  I didn't go to film school with a sense of changing medium.  I discovered that when I got there.  I realized that it was quite different from anything that I had done before and I really realized that I needed to focus on that because I had a background in poetry, drama and prose.

I am very happy with that skill especially because I think it reaches more people more easily. To understand a film you don't have to be educated to the same extent where you do when you have to pick up a book.  I write in English so if I am thinking of a Zimbabwean public it would have to be people who can read in English and that isn't everybody.  Whereas even if a film is in English, I think if it is made well enough, a person can probably understand what is going on.

I think that both media have their advantages for me...I am very happy with having the options, different ways in which I can talk to different people and different ways in which I can express things.  Because I do not think that any story is ideal to any medium.  I think that particular stories are more readily communicated in particular ways.  For example, you have community theatre which is a wonderful way of communicating the problems of a small closely knit group, a community.  Which may not be the best kind of material for a film.  Or other kinds of drama.  So I am glad to have expanded my repertoire of communication skills.

As far as marrying literature and screenwriting and the production of films, I don't think they need to be married at all.  What actually happens is that in their individuality they compensate.  Because while I enjoy the intensity and the seclusion of writing, whether it’s prose, whether it’s a screenplay, I don't like to have to live like that all the time. So by the time I spend some time in seclusion writing something, the social animal needs to get out and be with people and so it really is good for me to have a film project where I can go out and spend lots of time interacting intensely with people.  So they compensate very well but I think that they are quite well compartmentalized now.  And I don't have to worry about interference.  It's not that I have to think about writing prose when I sit down and write a screenplay, and it's not that I have to think about developing the prose when I sit down to write literature so that's an interesting development, but it has been a struggle.

When I am writing a screenplay I don't think about the technicalities, I think about the story I want to tell about in these pictures and I write those pictures down. When I go back to producing it then I think, "oh my goodness how am I going to do that? Is that possible or not?"  But I do not let that censor me during writing and I think that is very important, actually. I think it is a problem that many people who work in the film business experience in that you do know these things and they do tend to interfere with the creativity.  But I think it is part of learning the skill of screenwriting, not to let it interfere, and to be able to write down the story as it comes and then know that turning this story into a film with all the technical problems is something that will happen latter.  But it doesn't happen while you are putting that story on paper.


Tsitsi Dangarembga: Filmmaker, Writer, Cultural Activist

Towards a Critical Debate: Nyaminyami Amaji Abulozi (Nyaminyami and the Evil Eggs), a film by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga Reflects on the First Decade of the International Images Film Festival for Women

21 February 2011

Éléonore Yaméogo: Paris mon paradis/Paris My Paradise

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition - Documentary
Paris mon paradis: Une Burkinabè à Paris by Claire Diao for Africine. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

She arrived in France with her head full of dreams. But her eyes saw something very different. Éléonore Yaméogo, young Burkinabè filmmaker having recently completed her studies at the Burkina Faso-based film school, l'Institut Supérieur de l'Image et du Son de Ouagadougou, started a project in 2008 with as many risks as ambitions: to debunk the myth of Paris as the Eldorado maintained, by many African immigrants.

Initially captivated by the French capital, the opening scenes of the film remind us of the typical stereotypes: accordion music and street performances, overflowing fountains and brightly lit façades.  Éléonore Yaméogo recounts how she quickly discovers the other side of this picture. In these symbolic Parisian spaces such as Château d'eau or Sacré Cœur, street vendors hawking roasted corn on the cob or fabricants of wire bracelets, are occupations with scarce income on which they try to survive. And while the numerous expatriates maintain the illusion of success back home, those in Paris mon paradis testify to the contrary. 

From the young Burkinabè actress Bintou who gives up her job in a theater troop to try her luck in the Parisian capital, to Chaba a house painter from Casamance who has lived from hand to mouth for the last ten years in an amusement park and abandoned apartment building as his only home, he is only one step away from.... They dream of a better life in France although their situation, undocumented, jobless black people, offers them the opposite. Such as Traoré, valiant retiree of the French state, who waits on a mattress on the floor for worker's compensation benefits from an accident on the job, which he has yet to collect. Or Ansoumane Sissoke, spokesperson for the Committee for the Sans-Papier of Paris, who makes demands for the rights of immigrant workers.

For the viewer who does not expect this vision of France, these images are striking. To a Parisian who regularly navigates the streets of the capital, they are commonplace. How many bana banas (Senegalese street vendors) in tourists spots? The undocumented who are often on strike in the streets? The touts in front of the beauty shops? Éléonore Yaméogo asks as her camera scans the faces of the passersby: "But in order to succeed, how many failures?" We think back to Med Hondo shouting "black invasion" in Soleil O or the character of Innocent in the graphic book Aya de Yopougon who realizes that his brothers are not the same as in France. Or still, the shame of Otho in Aprés l'océan, who returns home without a cent.

The testimonies discovered in Paris mon paradis are striking in their truthfulness and their emotion. Chaba fights to prevent his brothers from trying to pursue the dream of immigration that led one of them to be expelled from Belgium. Bintou, in a beautifully-filmed scene in Ouagadougou, wonders about this happiness that she went to get in France while she was happy in Burkina Faso. Traoré affirms that when he finally collects his worker's compensation he will be out of Paris within twenty-four hours. And Éléonore Yaméogo, the first Burkinabè to have benefited from the "controlled" immigration policy of the French government, questions from a fresh perspective as an African, about the widening gap between the dream of some and the disillusionment of others. 

20 February 2011

Annette Kouamba Matondo: On n'oublie pas, on pardonne/We don't Forget, We Forgive

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition - Documentary

Annette Kouamba Matondo, from the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) is a journalist and avid blogger. She has directed two documentaries, De quoi avons-nous peur?/What Do We Have to Be Afraid Of? and On n'oublie pas, on pardonne/We Don't Forget, We Forgive.

Synopsis of the Film, On n'oublie pas, on pardonne (2010)

By portraying Sylvie Diclos Pomos, a Congolese artist who is an actor, a director and also a writer, the film director questions the issue of writing. To write so that one may remember, since people have a tendency to forget, to write as a devoir de mémoire. And also, writing as a way of escaping into a better world, escaping from a reality that is sometimes cruel. These issues all relate to the "Beach case" that had extensive press coverage in Congo, after a trial ending with all alleged culprits being acquitted.

19 February 2011

Marie-Louise Asseu: Les infidèles/The Unfaithful

Excerpt of an interview by Samuel Njakwa of Oka Bol during which Marie-Louise Asseu talks about what inspired her to make her first film. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson
My name is Marie-Louise Asseu, I am better known by the nickname Malou, I am an actor, director of the Limalé Festival of Côté d’Ivoire and hereafter, filmmaker. The fact that I have acted for a long time—I am actor for the theater—I came to the screen having rubbed shoulders with other directors at the national television. I thought that to be part of a profession is to involve oneself in whatever works in one's favor. I am an actor and festival director, it was necessary to add another string to my bow in order to satisfy my curiosity. So, I asked some directors if they would support me.

Synopsis of the film, Les infidèles/The Unfaithful

In Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in the life of a couple where the wife is so devoted, everything seems to be going well. Though not completely since the husband is rather frivolous, collecting one mistress after another. Even the devoted wife's best friend runs the risk of falling into the trap of this predatory husband. This merry-go-round will reach a crucial threshold! So crucial that craziness eventually invites itself into the couple's life.

Marie-Louise Asseu passed away on 7 December 2018 after suffering from a stroke two weeks before. She was 50 years old.

18 February 2011

Aïda Mady Diallo: Karim and Doussou


Aïda Mady Diallo spent her childhood in France, her adolescence in Mali and studied at university in Uzbekistan on a scholarship. Trained as an agricultural economist, she has lived in Mali since 2003, where she works for an Internet service provider.  She has also written two novels, Kouty, mémoire de sang [Kouty, memories of blood] and No Title, both in 2002.

Synopsis of the film, Karim and Doussou

Karim and Doussou, husband and wife, are a typical Malian couple. They represent contemporary society with all the faults and qualities that anybody may possess. They have bouts of jealousy, greed, lying, deceit, dirty tricks when they feel the need. They are also capable of showing courage, mutual aid, perseverance, and compassion when necessary.

17 February 2011

Awa Traoré: Waliden, enfant d'autrui/Children of Others

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Panorama Documentary

Awa Traoré from Mali has a degree in sociology and in 2008 earned a Master's in Documentary Filmmaking at the University of St. Louis. La Fille au foulard was her film de fin d'études.

Synopsis of the film Waliden, enfant d'autrui:

In Mali as in many other African countries, the custom of traditional adoption is a wealth that strengthens family bonds. Children were sent away to live with relatives who took them into their family and raised them, feeling a sense of honor. Today, people have different attitudes and these beliefs have been lost. Adoption may become a nightmare for the child, which was the case for the director of the film for ten years.

With this film, Awa Traoré brings to light what has remained unspoken for a long time: the life of a Waliden, the ill-treatment of a child from a traditional adoption.

She has this to say about the film Waliden, enfant d'autrui:

When I look to understand certain things, I return to my village in search of Kotama, the old family griot. This time, lying in his hammock in the courtyard in N'Goa, my griot talked to me about the custom of traditional adoption, its social benefits in the past, and its consequences in contemporary Mali. The words of old Kotama take me back to the painful memories of my adoption, my own story and that of thousands of African children.

Collection Lumière d'Afrique 01 (Africadoc)

16 February 2011

Marie Laurentine Bayala: Jusqu'au bout

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Panorama TV/Video

Marie Laurentine Bayala, at the forefront of New Media development in Burkina Faso, graduated from the Université Gaston Berger de Saint Louis in Senegal with a diploma in Cinema Documentary Studies. She was invited to speak at the second forum of InnovAfrica in December 2010, is a contributor to the online Technology of Information and Development Portal, an avid blogger at NetLog and is at the head of the dynamic online TV Wagues, among many other activities, notably, research and organizing. She was the president of the organizing committee for the first Rencontres Sobatè in 2010, a festival dedicated to the African film documentary held in Burkina Faso. Marie-Laurentine presented her research on the documentary and North-South Cooperation, "Cinéma documentaire du Nord et du Sud: quels types de coopération?" at the colloquium of the Groupe Étude Cinéma du Réel Africain at the Université Gaston Berger de Saint Louis in Senegal.

Synopsis of the film Jusqu'au bout (2010)

Saskia, a young filmmaker sets out to make a documentary film on battered women. This decision comes after receiving a call from her distraught sister. The film confronts an established social order of male chauvinism on the one hand, and the submission and resignation of women on the other.

Image credit Semfilms

15 February 2011

Jenna Bass: The Tunnel

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Panorama TV/Video 

Jenna Bass is a director, writer, photographer, aspiring explorer and retired magician living in Cape Town, South Africa.

Synopsis of the film, The Tunnel

The story, set in 1980s Zimbabwe during the 5th Brigade massacres, follows young Elizabeth as she uses her skills as a storyteller to save her village and solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. It not only aims to raise awareness about the human rights abuses inflicted by Robert Mugabe at the time but, through the medium of cinema, provide a way to confront the suffering of the past so relevant to many African people.

The Tunnel (2009) by Jenna Bass

Text and Images from The Tunnel Movie Website

14 February 2011

Jane Murago-Munene: Monica Wangu Wamwere, The Unbroken Spirit

Awarded First Prize for Best Documentary

Veteran filmmaker and producer Jane Murago-Munene produced her first film, The Tender One in 1979 during the first United Nation International Year of the Child. It was this UN project that made her realize her interest in documentaries as they “give you a chance to tell things as they are and a chance to go deeper into issues than you would otherwise do”. Founder of CineArts Afrika in 1990, she is also chairperson of the Kenya National Film Association and Eastern Africa regional secretary of FEPACI (the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers).

The film, Monica Wangu Wamwere, The Unbroken Spirit:

Monica Wangu Wamwere, Unbroken Spirit recounts the indefatigable efforts of Mama Koigi, mother of human rights activist and politician Koigi wa Wamwere, who was detained as a political prisoner in Kenya. She participated in the 1992 Mothers' Hunger Strike, a campaign to release political prisoners, and is a member of the Release Political Prisoners pressure group.

Trailer of Monica Wangu Wamwere, The Unbroken Spirit

Image Source: Jane Murago-Munene from Capital Talk
Image Source: Film poster from BAM

Link from African Women in Cinema Blog

Biographical text published on the 13 October 2010 Blog post: Jane Murago-Munene: Entrepreneur of the Cinema Arts in Kenya 

13 February 2011

Meriem Riveill: Tabou/Taboo

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition: Short Fiction Film

Born in Algiers, Meriem Riveill grew up in Tunisia where she completed her baccalauréat. She later settled in Paris where she studied filmmaking and scriptwriting. Her filmography includes Les Beaux Jours (2005) and her latest work Tabou/Taboo (2010).

Synopsis of the film Tabou

This 15-minute short fiction film recounts the scourge of child rape through the recollections of 18-year-old Leila who recalls a night during Ramadan. Her voice will finally be freed to acknowledge the trauma that she endured during her childhood.

12 February 2011

Hawa Essuman: Soul Boy

FESPACO 2011 WATCH:  Official Competition - TV/Video Fiction

Ghanaian-Kenyan filmmaker Hawa Essuman's foray into the moving image started as a trainee director for the television series Makutano Junction, by the second season she was the assistant director. She quickly gained the confidence and experience to venture into film and in 2009 completed Lift and Selfish.  Hawa directed Soul Boy under the tutelage of German director Tom Tykwer who initiated the film workshop from which the film evolved. 

During an interview at the Göteborg International Film Festival's world premiere of Soul Boy, she reflected on her source of inspiration and how film contributes to making the world a better place.

Below is a transcription of excerpts of the interview by Neta Norrmo of Aveny Production.

Humans [are my biggest source of inspiration]. I love human interaction and human relationships and how we absorb stories, conversations. How we look to better ourselves. I really enjoy that and how we question ourselves. I like the questioning and the curiosity of the human mind...

Film shows us who we are at that time and we are constantly changing and constantly moving forward. The film that I make today will inform us as to who we were then. It is a 3D snapshot of who it is we were at that time. And the film that's made after that will show us who we are then. That is what it is for. It is very informative. It's like any other piece of art in that respect. That you get to play over and over...
I've always been a fan of magical realism stories so to have the opportunity to direct a film that was set in that context was very exciting for me...

Synopsis of the film Soul Boy

Nairobi, Kenya. 14 year-old Abila lives with his parents in Kibera, one of the largest slums in East Africa. One morning the teenager discovers his father ill and delirious. Someone has stolen his soul, mumbles the father as he sits huddled in a corner. Abila is shocked and confused but wants to help his father and goes in search of a suitable cure.Supported by his friend Shiku who is the same age as him, he learns that his father has gambled his soul away in the company of a spiritual woman.

The teenager doesn’t want to believe it and sets about looking for the witch. When he finally discovers her in the darkest corner of the ghetto, she gives him seven challenging tasks to save his father’s lost soul. Abila embarks on an adventurous journey which leads him right through the microcosm of his home town.

Soul Boy (2009) by Hawa Essuman


11 February 2011

Apolline Traoré: Le Testament/The Will

©ATIC /Sahelis Productions, 2010
FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition: TV/Video Series

Excerpt of interview with Apolline Traoré by Artiste BF regarding her film Le Testament. Translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson

I was born in Burkina Faso but I spent my childhood in other parts of Africa and in Europe since my father worked at the (UN) FAO, so I moved around a bit.  For 10 to 12 years I studied in the United States. After obtaining my Master's in cinema, in 2001 I returned to my country to present my first short film, The Price of Ignorance, which won the Jury Prize at FESPACO. I have settled back in Burkina Faso since 2005.

The idea of the story came after viewing a television program on TF1.  However, I cannot say what actually inspired me. On the other hand, I had the idea of creating something around the theme of the "Will" without actually knowing how I would approach the subject so the message gets through. I chose the theme because I realized that in Africa, the practice of a father leaving a will to his family is not prevalent. This is unfortunate, a pity even, that people rarely consider it or not at all. It's true that families are torn apart even when a will exists; but there is at least the advantage of being able to sort out certain legal issues.

Synopsis of the film, Le Testament (The Will)

At the completion of the construction of his dream house, Sidiki Kam, a rich businessman in his mid-fifties learns that the end of his life is near. He decides to draw up a will with very precise instructions regarding the settlement of his estate. This document could change the course of the lives of his family.

10 February 2011

Mariama Sylla Faye: Tirailleur Marc Gueye, ma plume, mon combat

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition - Documentary

Mariama Sylla Faye, a product of Senegalese cinema beginning at the age of seven years old, spent a great deal of time in the world of film as her mother worked at the film bureau. In the 1970s she watched the films that her mother projected on a white sheet in the family courtyard. Ever since she has had a passion for cinema. Since 1996 Mariama has worked as a filmmaker and producer, and in 2003 she decided to create the production company Guiss-Guiss Communication, which has produced five films and three are currently works in progress.

Synopsis of the film: Tirailleur Marc Gueye, ma plume mon combat

Marc Gueye, a veteran of the Indochina War from 1953 to 1955, in complete secrecy, writes on empty cigarette packets about his real-life experiences and the horrors of the conflict. And carefully hides them away.

At the end of the war, he collects his writings in a manuscript. It took thirty-seven years before he saw his book published. Until this day there has never been a written text by an African veteran of the Indochina War about these courageous black troops. His memoir (devoir de mémoire) is a lesson for the younger generation. Now seventy-seven years old, Marc Gueye has not lost his fighting spirit.

The film reveals a soul glowing of generosity and wisdom, fundamentally opposed to war. This deeply optimistic man defines himself as a writer soldier.
Text and image from Guiss-Guiss Com
French to English translation by Beti Ellerson


09 February 2011

African Women in Cinema Confront FGM

Collé confronts the exciseuses in Moolaadé by Ousmane Sembene
Since the emergence of an international campaign to confront the practice of female genital cutting, African policymakers, feminist groups, grassroots organizations, and cultural producers have developed initiatives to raise consciousness about its harmful effects, especially as it relates to the health and bodily integrity of the woman and girlchild. On 6 February 2003, during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC), First Lady Stella Obasanjo of Nigeria made an official declaration on "Zero Tolerance to FGM." Soon afterwards, the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation was adopted by the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights and thus, the UN-sponsored awareness day of 6 February.

African film professionals have been visible in this effort, both filmmakers and actresses, women and men. Perhaps the most recent film, Moolaadé (2004) by the pioneer of African cinema, the late Ousmane Sembene from Senegal, is emblematic in many ways. One of the most important voices of African cinema used what would be his last film as a cri de coeur. He states: It is not about whether one is for or against the eradication of excision. It is that women in the village do refuse. And this refusal is an act of courage. To stand against a group is sheer madness. But to mobilize the others, that is courage. Daily struggles, one step, then another, then another. This is what brings about the evolution of attitudes. (Référence Sembène (2002) by Yacouba Traoré)

Moolaadé is significant as well for its inclusion of two women who in their private lives advocate for the eradication of the practice. Fatoumata Coulibaly, the embodiment of courage and rebellion in the role of Collé, the heroine, and Naky Sy Savane, as Sanata, the griot. In the 1998 film, La Jumelle by Lanciné Diaby, Naky interprets the role of Awa, a mother who takes her daughter's life rather than have her submit to excision. Her perspectives on female excision add an important viewpoint to the discourse on African women's participation as cultural producers in the eradication of a practice they view as harmful to women and girls.  She had this to say about her role in the film: Believe me it was a great pleasure for me to play such a role because there are certain things that we cannot say in Africa.  For instance, the fight against excision, we cannot talk about it, we must each fight in our own way, and as best we can.  For many years, I have been fighting against this practice for my daughter, because she risks being excised... We did not know where to go. (In Sisters of the Screen by Beti Ellerson). Aware that the practice continues in France among the immigrant population, as director of Groupe femmes pour l'abolition des mutilations sexuelles of Marseille, Naky continues the fight that she led in her country, Côte d'Ivoire. At the intersection of advocacy, activism and cultural production, she wrote a play about "all the types of violence endured by all women": "Femmes déchirées" (Women Torn Apart), reflecting on the piece in this way: "traditionally, excision and forced marriage often go hand in hand and since they are cultural issues, one must use cultural tools to deal with them." (Violences coutumières: Une blessure qui ne va jamais guérir).

For Fatoumata Coulibaly, who interprets the role of Collé, the formidable heroine of Moolaadé, the film is a reflection of her own life. Having been excised herself, since 1994 she has been actively involved in a woman's association that fights against excision. Similar to the theme of the film, she attempts to raise the consciousness of village dwellers--the village chiefs and excisers alike. As a young radio announcer in the early 1980's she was one of the first women to talk about the harmful effects of excision on the air. After her debut role in Guimba (1994) by Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Fatoumata has hosted the television show "Bee Kunko Do" (This Concerns Everyone). One theme of the week: Excision. The subject always comes back. One day, after meeting Kadidia Sidibé, président of AMSOPT (Association Malienne pour le suivi et pratiques traditionnelle/The Malian Association for the Monitoring of Traditional Customs), Fatoumata began her fight for the excised mothers who die in childbirth and the excised girls who die from hemorrhaging. At present, she has taken on other causes as well, her computer is her weapon. (See: Une star contre l'excision)

Chadien filmmaker Zara Mahamat Yacoub uses her camera to raise the consciousness of her viewers and to advocate against the practice. After the release of Dilemme au féminin in 1994, she paid a heavy price for her self-defined role as communicator, whose duty is "to inform people and to make them aware of the problems that need attention." Condemned by the Imam's Council on Islamic Affairs, a fatwa was issued against her. While her objective was to present a balanced view of the pros and cons of the practice, it was not excision itself that came under the wrath of the Muslim authorities, but rather that, in presenting the actual procedure, the nude body of a Muslim girl was shown publicly. Though she proceeds with caution, Zara continues as activist, campaigning to raise consciousness about the psychological and physical consequences of female genital cutting.

Whether behind the camera or in front of it, African women understand the importance of culture, of cinema, as a tool, a weapon to combat against customs and practices that have a negative impact on women and all members of society.