Women and Film in Africa: Overcoming Social Barriers, University of Westminster, London, 19–20 November 2011. A report by Bronwen Pugsley (Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies, February 2012), University of Nottingham, UK
In his introductory talk, co-organiser Winston Mano stated that this third annual conference on African film, hosted by the University of Westminster, would focus on a cinematic production that exists against the odds: due to oppressive patriarchal values and a dire lack of funds, the African women who work as actresses, filmmakers, producers, promoters, and distributors are engaged in a permanent struggle for their voices to be heard. Mano‘s statement echoed throughout many of the papers and discussions that took place during the two-day conference. Recurring questions included the systemic lack of funding, distribution, and exhibition opportunities. These key issues were first raised by keynote speaker Yaba Badoe, who presented her latest film, The Witches of Gambaga (2010), a documentary that denounces the ostracism of women accused of sorcery, a growing Ghanaian social phenomenon. In her talk, Badoe described the arduous process of making the film and insisted on the importance of properly “packaging” a film in order to obtain funding. This particular point was later reiterated by the second keynote speaker, filmmaker Jihan El Tahri — part two of whose documentary, Cuba: An African Odyssey (2007), was screened on the second day of the conference. El Tahri discussed at length the difficulties involved in attaining recognition “beyond labels”: although she dislikes being defined foremost on the basis of her gender, origins, or nationality, rather than by the specificities her filmmaking practice, El Tahri recognises that such labels are regrettably essential to the efficient commercialisation of her films. Read the entire report at www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/February_2012/conf_reports.pdf (Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies).