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.

30 April 2011

Fanta Régina Nacro: Tigre Tigresse (Tiger Tigress)

Fanta Régina Nacro
Vues d'Afrique 2011 Watch: Digital Series Category
Fanta Régina Nacro (Burkina Faso) Tigre Tigresse -Tiger Tigress (17 mn)

Fanta Régina Nacro was born in 1962 in Tenkodogo, Burkina Faso. She entered into the world of cinema through the great gate. This desire for cinema lead her to INAFEC of Ouagadougou, the mythical African film school in which several generations of African filmmakers attended. There she received her first degree in audiovisual science and techniques. In 1986 she earned a Master’s Degree in Film and Audiovisual Studies at the University of Paris IV and in 1989 she received a diploma in filmmaking at the Sorbonne. In 1993, she founded her own production company, Les Films du Défi, located in Ouagadouogou. She currently is studying for a doctorate in Education.

Fanta Régina Nacro is among the celebrated filmmakers who are part of Scenarios from Africa, a community mobilization, education and media process about HIV/AIDS carried out with and for young people. Scenarios from Africa gives children and young adults an exciting opportunity to educate themselves and others about HIV/AIDS by inviting them to participate with internationally acclaimed directors in the production of a growing collection of short films.


The Making of Tiger Tigress by Fanta Nacro


“Tiger, Tigress” is a provocative comedy that takes a critical look at some of the things that make women vulnerable to HIV infection. A truck driver named Morpheus, who has a woman at every truck stop, suddenly finds himself in a world turned upside down: a world in which women reign supreme in society and call all the shots. The story is based on an idea written by Marlène Amégankpoé, aged 21, of Benin, during the last Scenarios from Africa scriptwriting contest. 

Tiger Tigress (2010) by Fanta Nacro


Links

Fanta Nacro Website (no longer active)

29 April 2011

Aminata Diallo-Glez: 3 femmes, 1 village (3 women, 1 village)

©Aminata Diallo-Glez
Vues d'Afrique 2011 Watch: Digital Series Category
Aminata Diallo-Glez (Burkina Faso) 3 femmes, 1 village, 3x26 mn (2009)

Text translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson

Franco-Burkinabé Aminata Diallo-Glez was born in 1972 in Dori, Burkina Faso. It was in the theater that she began her acting career: six years in the Fraternité de Jean-Pierre Guingané Theatre in Ouagadougou, coordinator of the theatre school of the Union des ensembles dramatiques of Ouagadougou and in 1996, co-creator of the company Les bon contes font les bons amis (good stories make good friends), which organizes storytelling presentations in Ouaga. In the cinema she played roles in Puk Nini by Fanta Régina Nacro and in Le pardon by Antoine Yougbaré. But it was in television that she achieved celebrity with the sitcom A nous la vie directed by Dani Kouyaté, and particularly in Kadi Jolie directed by Idrissa Ouédraogo. Looking for a way to realize her goal, in 1999 she co-founded and is currently director of Jovial Productions, which also co-produces Kadi Jolie.

3 femmes, 1 village
Synopsis of Three Women, One Village:

Brotherly adversaries, the village chief, the priest, and Ladji squabble with each other as they deal with the daily problems of Kikideni, a little West African village in the middle of nowhere. But behind these great men the women keep watch: quietly, they unravel the mess. After the series "3 men, 1 village", they take control of the plot in "3 women, 1 village."

"It is a retort to the series "Three men, one village". The plot has not changed, nor have the actors, only this time, the women are in the forefront. Beyond the fact that it is a comedy, there is a message to galvanize women to take responsibility for themselves. I have a lot of respect for women who dare, who take charge." Aminata Diallo-Glez in an interview with Issa Sanogo



28 April 2011

Anne-Elisabeth Ngo-Minka: Le prix du sang (The price of blood)

Vues d'Afrique 2011 Watch: Short Documentary Category
Anne-Elisabeth Ngo-Minka (Cameroon) Le Prix du sang (26 mn)

Anne-Elisabeth Ngo-Minka graduated from Université Gaston Berger of St. Louis in Senegal in 2010 with a diploma in documentary filmmaking. Le Prix du sang was her graduation film.

Synopsis of the film Le Prix du sang
The Prix du sang (2010) addresses the issue of female virginity, a subject which remains more or less taboo despite the evolution in our society. "What is the real importance of proof of virginity, what is the 
meaning of blood? And why?"

Some reflections by Anne-Elisabeth Ngo-Minka:
Because I didn't bleed during my first sexual relationship, my companion accused me at the time of having lied when I told him that I was a virgin... And when I was in Senegal, one of my friends told me she had the same experience. My film questions a concept, even an abstraction: virginity! How is it perceived? To represent it, I utilize symbols and voices... And because this issue is at the core of several religions, I examine the tenets of Islam and Catholicism, and tradition and science as well.

27 April 2011

Siga Diouf: Mame Ngor, Un talibé pas comme les autres/A talibé like no other

© Ardèche images association
Vues d'Afrique 2011 Watch: Short Documentary Category
Siga Diouf, Mame Ngor, Un talibé pas comme les autres/A talibé like no other (23 mn)

Siga Diouf (Senegal) without doubt is among the young African documentarists with a promising future. Her first film, Mame Ngor, un talibé pas comme des autres, made in 2010, was the graduation film at the Université Gaston Berger of St. Louis in Senegal.

Synopsis of the film, Mame Ngor, Un talibé pas comme les autres

Saint-Louis, Senegal has always had a reputation for its renowned Daaras, (Koran schools) and the teachings of its great marabouts. This explains the reason why young talibés (students) leave their families to dedicate themselves to the study of the Koran. Most of them must beg in order to live while studying. However, a few of them, such as Mame Ngor, manage to break away from this tradition.

26 April 2011

Fatma-Zohra Zamoum: Z'har/(Un)Lucky

Vues d'Afrique 2011 Watch: Long and Medium Documentary Category
Fatma-Zohra Zamoum, Z’har/(Un)Lucky (78 mn)

Fatma-Zohra Zamoum studied at the l’Ecole supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Algiers, after which she obtained a diploma in filmmaking in 1995 at the Sorbonne. Since then she divides her time between her two passions: painting and cinema. Sometimes painting is eclipsed by the greater role that filmmaking often takes, for which she finances herself and writes her own scripts. She is also the author of several works about painting.

"A distanciation between fiction and reality" by Amine Idjer, published in February 2011 in Liberté-Algerie.com. Translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson

Released in 2009, the film lays out a double history. The first is a fiction recounting the journey of three characters with a different fate in a taxi en route from Tunis to Constantine. The second is a documentary, a kind of "making of" tracing the film crew's location search in Tebessa, Setif and Constantine. This overlapping of stories is not by chance, but rather as Fatma-Zohra Zamoun makes clear, "by obligation". Because of her inability to raise the needed funds, she chose this option which she took on as a challenge. What was to be a classic road movie with a departure and an arrival became "a distanciation, a mixture between fiction and documentary," she declared.

And it was this impossibility to shoot on location which gave this new form to the film. "This form was the obvious solution which followed the question, how can this film be completed?", she explained. At first, of course, this method throws off the spectator, but after a few minutes the director brings us into her universe. The documentary component allows the viewer to travel, following the film crew from location to location, whereas the fiction, "reminiscent of the violence of an Algeria which does not look very much like us", concentrates on history and individuals.

It is a complimentarity of sorts, a double dialogue without one affecting the other. Addressing societal problems, the film is one of contrasts: the artificialization of fiction, at the same time the "making of" becomes the film.

25 April 2011

Leyla Bouzid: Un Ange Passe/An Angel Passes

Leyla Bouzid © Doc à Tunis 2010
Vues d'Afrique 2011 Watch: Short Film Category
Leyla Bouzid, Un Ange Passe/An Angel Passes (15 mn)

"Leyla Bouzid a budding filmmaker continues to learn" by Olfa Belhassine published 11 Avril 2010 in allafrican.com. Excerpt of the interview translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson.

In 2006, only 22 years old at the time, Tunisian Leyla Bouzid was one of the discoveries of the Rencontres photographiques de Ghar El Melh. Her black and white images evoked the festive and laid-back atmosphere of the young people attending the Jazz Festival of Tabarka. Their presence of movement were reminiscent of a film sequence. Within a world of sensuality as well, Leyla Bouzid practically grew up in the midst of the film shoots of her father Nouri Bouzid. In 2010, she presented her first documentary film, Sbeh El Khir at Doc à Tunis. 

We have not heard from you since your participation at Rencontres photographiques de Ghar El Melh in 2006 and during the same period with the project: 10 courts...10 regards‚ (10 films, 10 perspectives). What have you been doing since then?

After Sbeh El Khir and 10 courts... 10 regards, my desire for filmmaking was confirmed. I enrolled in a course in a production company in France and I also worked a bit on several short films in France and Tunisia. During this time I studied modern literature at the Sorbonne in preparation for the next entrance examination at Fémis-l'Ecole nationale supérieure des métiers de l'image et du son (the state film school of France). It seemed essential for me to master writing and to come to filmmaking with this experience. It is a very long exam. I entered the school in 2007 with a specialization in filmmaking and will finish in 2011.

While Fémis offers an academic degree, the curriculum is almost exclusively based on practical experience. Thus, for someone who wants to do filmmaking, it is a laboratory; a place which provides its students the means to make films--short film/exercises--in a very favorable environment. Of course there are constraints, yet they provide at the same time the possibility to find unexpected solutions. It is important to have the opportunity to try one's hand at diverse endeavors, to have critical feedback and analysis in order to advance. In the end, it is a bit like an internship, one learns on the job.

What are your dreams?

...I dream of continuing to make films, leading to new projects, always continuing to learn. In short...to continue pursuing beautiful cinematic experiences.


Synposis of the film, Un ange passe
Farah and Ludovic, a happy franco-tunisian couple must get married in order for Farah to get her residency papers, putting a strain on their relationship.

22 April 2011

Vues d'Afrique 2011 Watch: Women at the 27th Edition


Women are represented in all categories at the 27th Edition of Vues d'Afrique International Film Festival. The festival runs from 29 April to 8 May 2011 in Montreal, Canada. During the next week, the Blog's VUES D'AFRIQUE WATCH will feature the women whose films are included in the official selection. Below is a listing by category of the filmmakers and their films.

Feature Film
Sarah Bouyain (Burkina Faso) Notre Étrangère/The place in between (2010) See profile on the 28 February 2011 post

Short Film
Leyla Bouzid (Tunisia) - Un ange passe/An angel passes (2010)

Long and Medium Documentary
Eléonore Yaméogo (Burkina Faso) Paris mon paradis/Paris my paradise (2011) See profile on the 21 February 2011 post
Fatma-Zohra Zamoum (Algeria) Z'har (2009)

Short Documentary
Siga Diouf (Senegal) Mame Ngor, Un talibé pas comme les autres/A talibé like no other (2010)
Anne-Elisabeth Ngo-Minka (Cameroon) Le Prix du sang/The price of blood (2010)

Digital Feature Film
Caroline Kamya (Uganda) Imani (2010) See Profile on the 07 September 2010 post

Digital Series
Aminata Diallo-Glez (Burkina Faso) 3 femmes, 1 village/3 women, 1 village, 3x26 min (2009)
Fanta Régina Nacro (Burkina Faso) Tigre Tigresse/Tiger Tigress (2010)

Regards au féminin: Valérie Kaboré by Issaka Compaoré (2010)

20 April 2011

CinémAction: Women of Cinema and Cinemas of Women

CinémAction, the French-language online magazine devoted to African cinema dedicates its April 2011 edition to African women. Under the title “Femmes de Cinéma et Cinémas de Femmes” (Women of Cinema and Cinemas of Women) this issue features diverse themes with a focus on women. The French to English translation of the editorial below gives the English-language reader a preview of the content. 

Editorial: And Cinema Made Woman…

Time and time again at the end of conferences and meetings, there is the same regret: that women are more or less relegated to the background in most areas of decision making in the public sphere. And cinema, unfortunately is no exception. Because, as Penda Mbow states, “after more than a hundred years of world cinema, fifty years of African cinema, and thirty years of television in Africa, African women certainly like to be seen in films (...) but their absence behind the camera stands out even more.” Yet they lack neither potential nor creativity. Certain prejudices are the main obstacles to the development of their talents. But times are changing. The success of the film Paris à tout prix (Paris at any cost) by Cameroonian Joséphine Ndagnou or the awards received by Moroccan Zakia Tahiri for her film Number One, proves this.

The creation of Journées cinématographiques de la femme africaine de l’image (JCFA), an annual Burkina Faso-based event showcasing African women in film, in 2010, and the enormous success by women at the last FESPACO reinforce the optimism that African women in cinema are becoming increasingly visible. 

As seen by the quality of this dossier, we continue to celebrate women. In honor of the Maghrebian filmmaker Zakia Tahiri we take you to North Africa. With Eliane Gubin we look at her book, “A century of feminisms”. We also talk with Narcisse Wandji, founder of the International Festival of Women (Mis Me Binga). In addition, if you are wondering how to make a film with limited funds, you may find the response under the category “Pratique”. Also the website of the month, www.universal-soundbank.com/ and the logithèque (software and program corner) will assist you in this regard. Is [CinémAction] worth returning to each month? Please let us know. Perhaps next month the readership will be even more numerous.

Contents

1. Editorial: Et le cinema créa la femme…
    - Le cinéma africain aux couleurs de femmes 
    - Aux premieres heures du combat
    - Bilan contrasté
    - Le Temps des distinctions
    - Reflechir, s'univr et agir
2. Portrait de Femmes…Pour être la Number One! Zakia Tahiri
3. Indices: Le cinema africain peut-il se féminiser?
4. Dossier: 10 Ways to Help Women Thrive in Filmmaking
5. Dans les coulisses du cinemas de femmes: Dr. Annette Angoua, Directrice de l’Institut des Beaux-Arts (IBA) de Nkongsamba Cameroun
6. Perspectives: Ce que femme veut
7. Le mot: Féminisme
8. Paroles: Naricisse Wandji Ngassa: Fondateur du Mis Me Binga

19 April 2011

Najwa Slama: Tiraillement (Pulled Between Two)

Tunisian Najwa Slama, laureate at the 13th Festival Cinéma d'Afrique d'Angers (12-17 April 2011) won two awards, Best Short Film and Jeune Public Short Film, for her film Tiraillement.

Kamel Ben Ouanes profiles Najwa Slama and reviews the film Tiraillement in an article published on 14 October 2010 (Jet Set Magazine). Translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson.

A television producer and director before making her debut film, Tiraillement (2010), Najwa Slama had to first become familiar with film production before yielding to the temptation of making a film. The desire to take the plunge had always lived within Najwa Slama, perhaps her work with Canal Horizon as television director followed by the creation of her production company Digipro, was in fact, a preparation for filmmaking. Though it was a dream that stayed with her, the two main obstacles that constantly surfaced as an excuse for the delay was finding the time and a meaningful story. Though we know that these so-called impediments are in truth, mere excuses invented to indefinitely postpone the decision to tackle the project. Now, the maturation process has come to completion. Najwa Slama has finally left her discreet role as producer to address the public directly, delivering a work that captures the complexity of reality with a consummate technical and intellectual mastery.

Rather than rehash the classic love triangle, Tiraillement subverts its archetypal mechanism. Though the personalities of the two sisters are very different—one is liberated, the other veiled—they never yield to feelings of rivalry or jealousy against the fickleness of the young man—lover of the first with desires to marry the second. Quite the contrary, like a twin matrix, the two sisters appear rather like two sides of the same being. The interchangeability of their intense closeness completely neutralizes the dialectic of the mask and face. So that the young man, deciding to abandon the liberated woman in favor of the veiled sister, will not only be dismissed by both, but worse, he will be the object of their caustic derision. The apparatus of an amorous rivalry is neutralized. The disruption of the love triangle is not structured around a religious-secular or puritan-easy virture binary, but rather Najwa Slama is interested in the comedy of men and their sad fragility, which evolve into a regressive and reactionary façade. The film confronts the intelligent complicity of women and the ridiculous ingenuity of men. In this case, if the theme of the veil informs the characters' reactions, it is a sign of the times, a stealthily moving symbol of our epoch. For Najwa Slama's film makes every effort to dig deep into the strata of our contemporary society to unearth the inert in the midst of stunning change. In other words, in pursuit of the true nature of relationships between men and women behind the posturing and decoration laid out in the comedy of manners. Of course, this comedy requires the establishment of a specific ideological and narrative device: the television (puritan or liberal) enslaves, alienates and indoctrinates; boys are torn between the need of hedonistic pleasures and the need for traditional conservatism. And, finally, the veil worn by the sister cannot suppress her femininity and her natural need to be desired.

All of these plot devices demonstrate that Najwa Slama's approach draws from immediate reality, not to define or question it, but rather that it may embrace a cinema that is seen essentially as a seriously playful picture of everyday life. Where the woman wearing the veil is shown in the guise of a lascivious dancer and where the macho seducer is reduced to a mere buffoon. Or better yet, where amorous passion is a prelude to eternal discord between people. Nawja Slama unmasks all these social stereotypes and at the same time debunks the established code of illusion. Which indicates how much cinema, a mirror of its time, sharpens the eye and enlightens the mind.

16 April 2011

Call For Films: International Images Film Festival For Women (IIFF) 2011, Harare

PRESS RELEASE

BACKGROUND TO THE FESTIVAL
The International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF), the only annual women’s festival South of the Sahara, this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ) is inviting you and your organization to make IIFF 2011 a special celebration for the festival, its beneficiaries and the women activists who run it. IIFF was founded in 2002 by WFOZ in response to the proliferation of beauty contests at that time in a bid to unpack the notion of women as beings to be observed through the male gaze. Under the theme Women With Goals, this year, the festival takes place from November 18 to 26 in Harare and from December 1 to 3 in Bulawayo. WFOZ invites you to celebrate with them their biggest achievement of a decade of film screenings where the lives of mothers, sisters and daughters have been portrayed in a positive and enriching way as IIFF turns 10. 


INTERNATIONAL IMAGES FILM FESTIVAL FOR WOMEN 2011
The theme for this year’s festival, Women With Goals reflects the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals (M.D.Gs). As women cannot be removed from the development equation and are not only limited to goal number 3, the theme explores the goals women set for themselves and for society, challenges they come across and gaps that need bridging as far as those goals are concerned. 

Questions we are asking are: Can women achieve these goals, what prevents them from achieving these goals, how these obstacles can be overcome and how society reacts to gains made by women.

Finally, the theme celebrates the success stories of those women who have set and attained their goals as an encouragement and challenge to other women to take action. These are women who do not believe in lip service but believe in walking the talk.
While the film should have all the attributes of good cinema, including good production values and engagement values, it should also show some analysis of the woman or women featured.  Production date is irrelevant, but the film must have a woman in leading role.

Should you wish to participate but not be in a position to make a recommendation concerning a film, IIFF would be happy to undertake a search and provide a film to be approved by your mission.  IIFF would only ask that the mission covers the costs of bringing the film to Zimbabwe and returning it to its origin.

FORMATS
35 millimetre feature films are automatically admitted into the main competition. The awards are especially designed by famous Zimbabwean artiste Glen Cable, popularly known in the arts circle as Funkie Loader whose depictions of women in iron appear to leap and embrace the world in exuberance. Betacam SP and DVD features, shorts and documentaries are also programmed in other categories. 
PUBLICITY
To ensure that your film receives the audience it deserves, and for inclusion in the festival catalogue, we request you to send as soon as possible a press kit which should include a short synopsis, technical details, major cast and crew list and stills from the film.  To raise the profile of your entry further, posters would be appreciated.

Finally, all diplomatic missions sponsoring films are mentioned in our catalogue.  All missions and organizations supporting the festival in cash or additional kind are acknowledged with their logo in our catalogue and any other publications that may be produced from time to time.   

SCHEDULE
The festival is scheduled for November 18 to 26, 2011 in Harare and December 1 to 3 Bulawayo.

PARTICIPATION
In addition to sponsored films, we are also appealing for donations in cash or kind to continue the success of the festival.  Our budget itemises the areas in which contributions may be made in cash or kind.  This budget will be sent to you upon request should you be interested in contributing beyond the sponsorship of a film.

Please send enquiries to:
The Festival Director, IIFF, Box BW 1550, Borrowdale, Harare.
Tel:  04 - 862355, cell:  0712 401 104/ 0712512552, email: wfoz@mango.zw                                                                                           

15 April 2011

Ariane Astrid Atodji: Koundi and National Thursday

Ariane Astrid Atodji at the
Dubai Film Festival 2010
©Zimbio
An article by Mathurin Petsoko published 06 April 2011 in Journal Du Cameroun.com. Translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson

Thanks to her film entitled Koundi et le jeudi national/Koundi and National Thursday, Cameroonian Ariane Astrid Atodji was an honor to her country.
From 24 March to 5 April 2011, the 33rd Festival International des films documentaries was held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Unlike past years, the presence of African films was scarce at the Festival Cinéma du Réel. "We received very few African films” regrets Javier Packer-Comyn, the director of the Festival. “Productions are becoming increasingly rare. Other festivals in France put a great deal of effort into African cinema, but overall, African film production is diminishing.” A fortunate exception, Koundi et le jeudi national, by Ariane Astrid Atodji.

In her first film, with very nice images she quietly recounts the story of a village of 1,200 inhabitants in eastern Cameroon. Amazed by the joy of life of the village dwellers, she discovered their miracle recipe:
the inhabitants agree to give a day of work per month to a collaborative project: a cocoa plantation. "This obvious sense of contentment in the village really struck me. I had not seen people like them in a long time. They were very satisfied with their situation; there was no complaining. I could definitely see that they would not die of hunger."
Born in Nguelemendouka, Ariane grew up in Cameroon and attended film workshops at the Goethe Institute in Yaoundé before studying at the LN International Film School of Yaoundé. At the Cinema du Réel she was able to produce and present Koundi and National Thursday. "There is no funding in Cameroon. I was very fortunate to find funding from the Goethe-Institut Kamerun. The question is what can the documentary bring to the Cameroonian society? "There is not a documentary film culture in Cameroon” says Ariane. "People are more interested in fiction. When making the film I had the non-Cameroonian public in mind, who are familiar with the documentary genre. Not only are there no longer cinema houses in Cameroon, but there is not an audience either, because people are not interested. They say: What is it, this documentary? What are we to make of it? Honestly, the idea of showing this film in theaters in Cameroon never occurred to me."


Koundi et le jeudi national/Koundi and National Thursday (2010) by Ariane Astrid Atodji

Translation into English of French Subtitles:

Si l’Etat rompt le contrat de forêt communautaire, comment vivra Koundi?
The State terminates the community forest contract, how will the village of Koundi live ?

Grâce à cacao!
Thanks to cocoa!

La forêt peut s’arrêter, mais pas le cacao!
The forest can stop, but not the cocoa!

Pour la nouvelle cacaoyère,
ça sera comme pour la forêt communautaire:
The community forest will be
like the new cocoa plantation.

Le village de Koundi va profiter du cacao.
The village of Koundi will benefit from the cocoa.

Tout le monde doit participer
aux travaux de ce champ!
Everyone must participate
in working in the field!

On a prévu un jour de travail commun par mois
qu’on va dédier à ce travail.
A common workday per month has been planned
we will commit ourselves to this work.

Ça sera le jeudi national!
It will be National Thursday!

Tout le monde doit participer avec joie!
Everyone must participate with joy!

Ah---ça ne marche pas.
Regarde!
Oh --- it does not work.
Look!

Sachez ceci!
Le chef dit que ce jeudi,
Know this!
The chief said that this Thursday!

C’est le “jeudi national”. Tout le monde doit se
rendre au champ de cacao.
It is National Thursday. Everyone must
go to the cocoa plantation.

En français on dit: champ communautaire.
In French we say community field.

En maka c’est: Pombo cacao.
In Maka it is : Pombo cocoa.

Tous les hommes doivent y aller!
All men must go there

Chaque jeudi national
Tout le monde doit aller au champ!
On every National Thursday
everyone must to go to the field!

Que personne ne reste!
No one should remain behind!

Ce jeudi sera un, jeudi national”,
tout le monde doit venir travailler!
This Thursday will be a National Thursday"
everyone must come to work!

Le chef l’a dit:
tout le monde doit aller au champ!
The chief said:
Everyone must go to the field!

Les hommes doivent dormir
avec leur machete au pied du lit!
The men must sleep
with their machete at the foot of the bed!

C’est un champ prévisionnel,
Au cas où il n’y aurait plus de bois.
This is the plan,
in the event that there is no more wood.

10 April 2011

Focus on Women: Perspectives from Oslo, FilmAfrikana 2011

FilmAfrikana, founded by Norwegian-Ghanaian Lamisi Gurah, is an independent Oslo-based film festival whose purpose is to expose the Norwegian public to films by people of Africa and the African Diaspora. Providing a different perspective is an important goal for Lamisi Gurah.

Films that deal with cultural, political and social issues, showing realistic, positive images of black people, counter the dominant media portrayals of a helpless, war-ravaged, disease-ridden continent. Her hope is that initiatives such as FilmAfrikana will provide new knowledge and introduce debates about the issues covered. A goal as well is to collaborate with other film festivals and to reach out to schools and cultural institutions, and eventually to be able to provide Norway-based distribution outlets to promote African and African Diasporan films.

This year's festival, which ran from 28 March to 3 April 2011, focused on women in front of and behind the camera. British-based Florence Ayisi from Cameroon presented her film Art of This Place: Women Artists in Cameroon (2011) followed by a debate and Q&A. The screening of Say My Name, a worldwide documentary project about women, featuring Say My Name Africa, preceded a discussion by Monica Ifejilika and Amina Sewali. UK-based Sonia Godding Togobo from Guyana, premiered her film Adopted ID, which traces the experiences of Judith Craig, who, adopted in a Canadian family as an infant, returns to Haiti as an adult to find her birth family. Moderated by Hannah Wozene Kvam, Sonia and Judith discussed the making of the film, Judith's journey, and their interest in using the film to build awareness about the many issues explored in it. Having lived a similar experience, Hannah served as both discussant and eyewitness. Her film Wozene, min siste favoritt, Wozene, the last favourite, co-directed with Ingvil Giske, follows her own path: adopted into a Norwegian-based Ethiopian family as an infant, she returned to Ethiopia as an adult in search of her biological family.

Invited to present my research and work on African women in cinema, under the title, "African Women in Cinema, Past, Present and Future", I traced the presence of women professionals in African cinema from its birth using excerpts from my film documentary Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema. In addition, I discussed tendencies and relevant moments in history, providing points for future inquiry and discourse. During the same evening, expat American artist, Zainab McCoy, a longtime Norwegian resident, presented her short experimental film, Everyday is Martin Luther King Day, an animated discussion ensued.

The issues around identity, positionality and social location that permeated the films and debates are indicative of a growing interest in focusing on African experiences from a global perspective. Moreover, they reflect the goals of the Afrikan History Week, the Nordic Black Theatre and FilmAfrikana, to provide venues in which topics regarding the experiences of people of African descent may be raised, debated and understood.

Report by Beti Ellerson

Links:

FilmAfrikana (Link no longer active)

07 April 2011

A Conversation with Nikyatu Jusu

Sierra Leonean-American filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu talks about her hybrid identity, American cinema, New Media, and the issues that inform her films.

A growing number of filmmakers are emerging from the New African Diaspora. A Diaspora which reflects the multiple identities, histories and experiences of those born in the United States and other western countries but who also embrace the Africa of their parents. Could you give some reflections on your experiences?
I grew up in what, for a very long time, felt like a cultural vacuum in which my sense of normalcy was revived every time I stepped foot in my home.  There was always the smell of African food, my mother often wore African garb and both my parents spoke their native languages sprinkled with English.

School was another matter, in which I would often shed any association with Sierra Leone, because at the time I simply wanted to “fit in” and not draw undue attention to myself.  I think the taunts from fellow minority children really confused me for some time and yet I came to the realization that many of these kids were hiding from their own immigrant lineage in their attempt to attain this nebulous “normalcy” our young minds idealized.

Now, as an adult, I understand that my dual hybridized identity is one to celebrate and embrace.  As anyone can see, African-ness is permeating much of popular culture: primarily fashion and film, so of course it’s easier now to embrace something that is being lauded.

The provocatively titled, African Booty Scratcher (2008), recounts the story of Isatu, a young Sierra Leonean American, at the intersection of two cultures—or perhaps three, her mother’s culture, American culture and US high school culture: the expectations of friends and the desire to fit in.  Are you exploring your own experiences and/or that of your Sierra Leonean American peers? Please talk about the film, and the title.
Yes, this film is a semi autobiography of my experiences.  I was racking my brain as to what to write for my 2nd year NYU Graduate Film Exercise and I had a lightbulb moment.  I never ever wanted to be associated with traditional garb during high school and absolutely NOT during middle school!  The repercussions from my evil peers were much too grave (kids are mean to each other: this is nothing new).

African Booty Scratcher is a familiar taunt for many kids raised in the 80’s and 90’s.  I later learned that John Singleton even has a character say it in Boyz N The Hood, which was very funny to me. I’m still surprised at how much this short film resonated with so many different people.  I received so much thanks via email, Facebook, and other social outlets.

African Booty Scratcher (2008) by Nikyatu Jusu

There is an ongoing debate regarding the experiences of African Americans versus those of Africans in the US, the former encompassing those who have ancestors who experienced U.S. slavery while the latter have largely migrated to the United States post-African independence and constitute a “Neo-Diaspora”. What are your thoughts on this debate especially as it relates to your past, present and future work?
It’s funny because I would think we would use the opportunity to share and enlighten one another, and yet we continue to harbor sentiments that force us to create a hierarchy:  "I’m better than you because…"

The debate is silly.  The taunts are silly.  The divisiveness is ridiculous.

I think what’s important is mutual understanding of just how significant we are to each other’s image, success, development as a “race”.  We should have embraced ourselves as a monolith decades ago so that we could forge a stronger whole.

Much of my work deals with displaced women, immigrant women in the context of the United States and so I gravitate to that sort of content.

In African Booty Scratcher you touch on the tensions of the two groups. However, I do wonder why you focused on the stereotypes regarding African-American attitudes towards Africans, rather than those who embrace Africa and are very afro-centric in their dress, attitude and behavior.
This is a good question and one that I wish I would have had the time to address in my short film.

The short format is very limited in scope in regards to filmmaking and so one has to pick and choose what she deems necessary to her theme/story.

I did touch on the irony that white people are often quick to embrace Africa: often fetishizing and glamorizing it as is illustrated by the white woman in the restaurant scene.

Say Grace Before Drowning, also an eye-catching title, focuses on a woman’s psychologically devastating experiences as a victim of rape in the war-ravaged Sierra Leone, and its effects on her daughter. This film and others relay experiences from the perspective of women of Sierra Leonean descent. Could you talk about these works and your focusing your lens toward Sierra Leone?
My family is from Sierra Leone and early in one’s filmmaking career it’s smart to “write what you know”.  Though, in both Say Grace and ABS [African Booty Scratcher] I never specify a country: the assumption is that these people are from some West African country and audiences can project the country of their choice into the story—whatever resonates with them.

Say Grace Before Drowning (2010) by Nikyatu Jusu

I notice a common thread in your films, an interest in exploring the internal feelings and conflicts of your black female characters. I am fascinated with this aspect, especially through the lens of a black woman.
Yes, I’m glad you see this because this is intentionally my focus.  I don’t think that prevailing media portrays black women as the multifaceted beings we are in reality.  We’ve been done an injustice with the same old tired stereotype: but I hope to present a different and much more titillating picture.


Black Swan Theory by Nikyatu Jusu - Executive produced by Shadow and Act Films

Sierra Leone is not known for a film culture, is there an emerging presence? What is your relationship to Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leonean Diaspora?
My family is Sierra Leonean and no, the country is not known for a film culture just yet: however actions are being taken gradually to remedy this.  As you know, we were thrust into a devastating decade-long civil war that ended in 2001 so we’re of course still picking up the pieces.

I know about a few film schools that are popping up, namely “Nah We Own” TV, which is a nonprofit that empowers Sierra Leoneans to create their own short documentary and narrative pieces.

I hope to shoot a narrative short and eventual feature film in Sierra Leone soon.

You were born and raised in the United States and studied filmmaking there, what is your relationship with American and/or African American film culture?
Honestly, I’ve only recently begun to watch a lot of American films.  I’m a “foreign film whore” and a friend of mine recently pointed out to me that I needed to diversify my palate with more films from the US.

Even though I’m just as much American as I am African, I guess the reason I haven’t really taken to Black American Cinema (whatever this term means) is because most of the waves are currently being made.  Of course, I’d be remiss to ignore the pioneers such as Spike Lee, John Singleton, Charles Burnett, etc—I absolutely acknowledge them. What I mean is that, I’m seeing my black filmmaking peers, those slightly older than me, actively creating feature films that redefine Black American Cinema and more importantly expand it!

So, I’m very hopeful about what’s to come in the next few years.  But as far as the contemporary jumble of chitlin films masquerading as black cinema goes, I’m not a fan.

It appears that your screen identity, your presence on the Internet is an integral part of the promotion of your work and sharing it with others. You have a website/blog, you do Skype interviews, you have Youtube and Vimeo channels, and a presence on Facebook. What role does “New Media” play in your experiences as filmmaker?

I’m a young filmmaker and all of these social outlets have been an integral part of how I maneuver the world, digest information, spread information, etc.  I remember when Facebook originated, I was in undergraduate school at Duke and at the time only a handful of colleges had access.  It was all about elitism and exclusivity: if you weren’t attending one of the “top” colleges, you couldn’t create an account.

Now Facebook is accessible to everyone and rightfully so. The fact that now I have a concrete reason to play with these very accessible marketing tools will only enhance my usage of them as a filmmaker.

“New Media” is the future of filmmaking marketing and distribution, though viral outreach alone won’t get butts in seats: it certainly is an expeditious way to reach a wider and perhaps less-reached demographic.

Most of my audience are not avid film festival goers, so what better way to keep them abreast of my work than the Internet?

Most importantly, I think that New Media gives an intangible audience the opportunity to interact with the filmmaker: create a dialogue in which they feel like an integral part of the creation process. Audiences are becoming much more savvy.  They know what experiences they want to take away from a movie-going experience and when these expectations are not met, they quickly move onto the next product.

The New Media structure gives us filmmakers an ability to tap into what our audiences want.

Interview by Beti Ellerson (March 2011)


Links

Nikyatu Jusu Blog Etc.
Nikyatu Jusu on Vimeo



06 April 2011

Mahen Bonetti: The New York African Film Festival

As the New York-based African Film Festival (NYAFF) kicks off its 18th year, what a fitting occasion to profile its founder and executive director, Sierra Leonean Mahen Bonetti. Founded with the support of her husband and important players on the New York City culture scene, NYAFF has become an institution in itself and is a groundbreaking network for the promotion, exhibition, and distribution of African cinema in the United States. As the NYAFF motto indicates "it is more than just a festival".

NYAFF as an idea emerged in the 1980s from Mahen's desire to show positive, diverse and realistic visual representation of Africa in the United States, in contrast to the dominant media images of misery and strife. While the festival concept had not yet formulated, she had already begun to look for a way to make a contribution towards correcting these misconceptions about Africa. As the film festival took shape in the 1990s its main objective was to use the medium of cinema to promote awareness about Africa and educate both Americans and Africans living in the United States. At the same time, it has always been committed to the development of an international audience for African films. The scope and scale of NYAFF has expanded during the past twenty years, reflecting the ever-changing realities of Africa and the African Diaspora, as well as new developments in African cinema practices.

And while in cinema one often finds a dominance of men, within NYAFF there is a high visibility of women in all spheres. "I think Africa is a woman and everything that is working in Africa is because women are behind it," says Mahen in response to my question regarding the role of African women and cinema. Women have always played an integral role--from the very top of the small organization to the board of directors and advisory board, in the selection of films, and the articles and interviews in the impressive Through African Eyes publication series. The 2011 festival continues to reflect this balance, as women permeate the film listing.

In commemoration of the United Nations International Year for People of African Descent, NYAFF celebrates the global contributions of people of African descent with selections by veteran and emerging filmmakers from the continent and the African Diasporas of Europe and the Americas. The festival runs from 6-12 April in New York City and continues throughout April and May with screenings held in various venues in the metropolitan area.

Links