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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26 March 2009

African Women in Professional Film Organizations: FEPACI

African Women in Professional Film Organizations: FEPACI
Report by Beti Ellerson.
Updated December 31, 2017
FEPACI, the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers marks its 40th anniversary in 2009. Like the FESPACO, the Pan-African Film Festival, which was featured in the 19 March 2009 post, FEPACI, was created in 1969--initially under the name, the Pan-African Union of Filmmakers. Founded in Algiers, Algeria, its objective is to facilitate in the reflection of a politics of development, with a cultural lens and a specifically cinematic focus. According to the former General Secretary, Gaston Kaboré of Burkina Faso (1985-1997), the founders of FEPACI saw the federation "as a means to emphasize to those in the political and cultural arena that it has been through the image that neocolonialism has been able to continue in Africa." During FEPACI conferences African filmmakers meet to discuss, debate and assess the myriad interests, objectives, problems and needs of African cinema. It is significant to note that one of the founding members was pioneer actress from Niger, Zalika Souley.

After a nine-year hiatus, due to internal problems, FEPACI was restructured in 2006 to meet the needs of the 21st century, passing the torch to Seipati Bulane-Hopa of South Africa. While she is the first woman in its history to hold the post, the pan-African filmmaking infrastructure has featured women prominently from its beginnings. Alimata Salambéré and Odette Sangho, both from Burkina Faso, were founding members of FESPACO. In my 1997 interview*, Kenyan filmmaker Anne Mungai raised concern regarding the domination of men in the upper ranks of the African filmmaking infrastructure. She discussed these issues at the 1989 FEPACI meeting in this way: "FEPACI has always had regional secretaries and they have always been men. Though we are both men and women, each time we come here as filmmakers, the issue of cinema is addressed as though there are just men alone." She recalls that one of the objectives of the historic women's caucus held at the 1991 FESPACO was to give African women a voice.

The 2006 African Film Summit in South Africa showed a different face from the experiences Anne Mungai describes at the 1989 meeting. Women were present everywhere. Their voices were heard, their faces highly visible among the 250 invited delegates. A woman's caucus was held prior to the vote for the new Secretary General in order to choose with a unified voice, a woman for nomination. Seipati Bulane-Hopa was elected with thunderous applause. While she is satisfied with the contributions that she has made, in an interview with filmmaker Monique Mbeka Phoba* [see below], she laments that the problems that have crippled FEPACI before she took office continued to exist during her tenure. In this case one notes, that gender aside, leading an organization of the scope, size and needs such as FEPACI, is a formidable undertaking. She ended her mandate as Secretary General in 2013 passing the torch to Cheick Oumar Sissoko of Mali.

During that same year FEPACI signed a host country agreement with the Kenyan government establishing the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers Secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya with Jane Murago Munene as Executive Secretary.

*Anne Mungai, trailblazer, pioneer in Kenyan cinema, visual media and screen culture

**Nouvelles pistes pour Fepaci []

Translation from French by Beti Ellerson 

New paths for Fepaci
Interview with Seipati Bulane-Hopa by Monique Mbeka Phoba
Current Secretary General of Fepaci
Published on July 7, 2009

After the Tshwane Congress [of 2006], do you have any thoughts about your two years as general secretary?

Yes, in fact I have drawn a number of lessons from this. I have the impression that, in making the choice of the people to be appointed, we had not established a type of statement of requirements, as is done everywhere when we want to fill a position, namely to describe the profile needed for a: President or / and Secretary General, Regional Secretary and Advisor at the level of the General Secretariat.

It was decided haphazardly by the good fortune of the people who were there and who had to be persuaded to volunteer. I myself was not a candidate, neither was Charles Mensah. We were both persuaded to present ourselves. I myself refused three times before finally accepting. We who form the current team, we do our job in good faith, with the competence that we bring, but this does not prevent a call for candidates, prior to the elections, which gives people time to prepare and declare their candidacies, and then, to analyze their skills and their motivations. A call for candidates, allows them an overview of what they can really bring to Fepaci in terms of financial means, available materials, strategic projects. A call for candidates allows them time to consult their government or their professional environment about their possible candidacy, which quite simply allows them to campaign--as with any election--before the election. For me it would have been a better procedure, preventing some of the inconveniences that we had to face. Our goal is to ensure that this list of criteria is established for the next Fepaci elections in 2011.

What were the difficulties that you and your entire team faced at the start of your tenure?

I can summarize them in three main categories:

1) Time lost in settling in: When the secretariat was assigned to South Africa, due to my election as secretary general, there was no kind of planning for this migration from the Burkina secretariat to South Africa. Our government was committed to organizing and funding the African Film Summit and supporting its recommendations. But, it was not prepared to welcome the general secretariat. At the Ministry of Culture, there was no budget for a Fepaci secretariat. However, all expenses are planned there. It took a long time to negotiate with the Ministry of Culture to have an operating budget. And the first year, we were quite simply totally in lack of means. Hence, the difficulty in starting our activities.

2) Psychological setbacks: On the side of Burkina Faso, which hosted the general secretariat, even when the general secretary was from Benin, as with the case of Jacques Behanzin, there was also confusion regarding the change of location. It was something that, psychologically, should have been better prepared. And the new administration has paid the price for this state of unpreparedness and these psychological impediments. I will not hide it from you. I have often said it to my entourage.

3) The problem of the location of the general secretariat: Moreover, I think that relocating the secretariat is not a problem of minor. A nomadic secretariat can break the Fepaci. If we move it every 4 years, at each election we will have a major problem with government support. Governments will ask themselves why invest in an institution that will move again tomorrow. This is a question I ask. Not that I am invested in the secretariat staying in South Africa, but for the sake of institutional logic. Burkina Faso can legitimately feel a certain amount of bitterness, after all the support it has given to the Fepaci secretariat, to see it now elsewhere. Furthermore, one of the consequences, psychologically, is that it has hindered a greater coordination between Fepaci and Fespaco, which I deeply regret. And this acrimony, other countries may experience under the same circumstances and, in anticipation, will temper their support. Yet, this support is essential. The secretariat must be able to obtain from the host country the HQ, an operating budget and the salaries for its team. These needs are fundamental and essential. Therefore, I repeat the importance of seriously considering this question of the location of the general secretariat.

In terms of the organization of the general secretariat itself, do you have any suggestions for a new way of operating?

You know, it seems to me that in terms of the resource persons at the secretariat level, there are professional profiles that are absolutely necessary to move forward and which we are lacking for the moment:

- A fund-raiser, someone whose sole function would be to search for funding, who has a perfect mastery of the financial resources available for a cultural organization such as Fepaci. Fund-raising has become a profession in its own right, very technical, and it is clear that fundraising has nothing to do with the way it was envisioned at the creation of Fepaci;

- A specialist in new audiovisual technologies: this is one of the most important parameters of audiovisual development in Africa. We are no longer just talking about production, but about distribution. We have gone from analog to digital, we need to have a clear picture across Africa of this new frontier. And, to understand the stakes involved of this economy of new technologies and new media, it seems to me that Fepaci cannot do without an expert on these issues.

- A specialist in marketing and advertising: it is a fact that Fepaci has an image to be made or (re-)made. I know that many filmmakers reject these aspects, but they are necessary to give more impact to the search for funding;

- A broadcasting specialist: how to broadcast by satellite, by Internet, by GSM. Developments in this area are extremely rapid. You have to be very specialized on this issue.

- A copyright specialist: even if this area is a no man's land in many African countries, the more we move towards the professionalization of the audiovisual market, the more urgent it is to resolve the issues around copyright. These specialists should be found not only at the executive secretariat level, but also at the level of each regional secretariat. We would then have an extraordinary force.

These are the kinds of developments that I hold dear and that seem to open up new avenues for Fepaci. And then, I also dream of a Fepaci TV, which serves to promote the works of African filmmakers, which allows us to react to highly topical issues, such as, for example, the death of the great Sembène Ousmane. Even if only on the Internet, I believe it would be an essential tool for Fepaci! I will not hide the fact that this whole program is still difficult to implement. I often hear: "But, we have not done it before." And then I answer: “All the more reason! ". Because why would I be here, if I have nothing to offer!

What is your assessment of these first two years of operation?

Regarding the outcomes of these first two years of operation, here is how I could present it:

In 2006-2007: 1) Following South African legal procedures, we progressed with the registration of Fepaci. It was essential to be able to be supported by the ministry. We have the statutes of a non-profit organization. We would have liked to be registered as a pan-African association, but, even if it were possible, it would have taken us too long. Eventually, this could be considered.

2) At Sithengi 2006, we organized the first regional meeting, during a colloquium to discuss Fepaci's strategy and a business plan.

3) We also held a symposium on intellectual property, where we brought in people working in this field.

4) In 2006, we also set up the Fepaci website.

5) We were able to create an email address, linked to the website, for all the regional secretariats: they are not actually used yet, but it is important for the visibility, the identification of the organization.

6) We visited the African Union in Addis Ababa, to meet the Commissioner in charge of Cultural Affairs, Madame Gawana, but during this visit a very painful event occurred for her, the death of her father, and we were not able to achieve all the objectives of this visit. 7) However, we were able to establish a kind of Memorandum of Understanding, which is a protocol that establishes the details of the relations between Fepaci and the African Union. One of the first steps to take, as recommended by the Fepaci Congress in Tshwane, is to conduct a study on cinema and audiovisual across the African continent.

In 2008:

1) We organized a symposium on audiovisual training in Namibia with the sub-regional secretariat for Southern Africa. It was a pilot symposium, to be replicated for every region of Africa.

2) We have started our monthly newsletters. The issue no. 6 will be released soon.

This article is part of a “Zoom” interview carried out during the Fespaco in February 2009 in Ouagadougou /// Article N °: 8743

Report by Beti Ellerson. Updated December 31, 2017

19 March 2009

African Women and Film Festivals

In the last 40 years* the presence of venues to showcase the works of African women have proliferated on the continent and internationally, with women at the helm.

This post highlights the film festivals and other important outlets for the celebration and viewing of African cinema, and works by African women in particular, among the first is the pan-African Film Festival FESPACO, the largest film festival of African cinema held biennially in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

To underscore the presence of women at the very beginning of this historic festival, it is worth noting that Alimata Salembéré of Burkina Faso was one of the founding members and president of the organizing committee of the first festival in 1969; she also served as the General Secretary of the festival from 1982 to 1984. 

Below are articles published on the African Women in Cinema Blog that focus on the festivals, forums and cultural events whose objective is to promote the films, stories and experiences of women of Africa and the diaspora.

The post will be updated to reflect current content. UPDATED* 16 MARCH 2019

Mujeres por África : Ellas Son Cine - 2017-2016-2015-2014-2013

13 March 2009

Commemorating Women's History Month 2009

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, and in honor of Women’s History Month, celebrated during the month of March (in the US).

09 March 2009

Beti Ellerson: Blogging African Women in Cinema (a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema)

The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

At the start of my research on African women in cinema in 1996, I asked the question: What is an African woman's vision, her gaze, her way of seeing and visualizing?

I began to explore the interests and desires of African women in front of and behind the camera, both as actor and as filmmaker—as well as other filmmaking professionals, which evolved into the on-going African Women in Cinema Project: the documentary, Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema, the book, Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film, Video and Television; the Centre for the Study and Research on African Women in Cinema and the African Women in Cinema Blog. Others before me have posed similar questions which have informed my own research and work. These questions are still relevant today as an African Women in Cinema Studies emerges, positioning itself within its own space for critical inquiry. The emerging discourse on African Women in Cinema Studies encompasses the films themselves, auto/biographies, film criticism, film analysis, and interdisciplinary approaches at the intersection of culture, development, and political economy. The blog serves as a forum for discussion and sharing of information.

The main objective of the Blog is to showcase African women in the diverse areas of the moving image. This format is an effective way to profile emerging talents as they begin their experiences in cinema at the same time highlighting the trailblazers, pioneers and veterans--and those in various stages of their career. I am especially interested in making visible the important players that are often behind the scenes, such as producers, editors, film festival organizers, scriptwriters, media activists and advocates, and the many others involved in the filmmaking process. The posts may vary in length and frequency, as the purpose is to provide a portrait, at a glance. The choice of women or theme will be spontaneous, of course, privileging current events and topics; but also delving into the rich archives to foreground films and stories of the past.

The blog explores themes such as:

• The evolution of African women in cinema
• African women and the cinematic gaze
• African women’s visual imaginary
• The political economy of African women in the moving image
• The filmic representation of African women
• Women's voices

The blog follows current events relevant to African women in cinema such as:

• Festivals
• Films in progress
• Announcements for grants and funding
• Call for scripts and films
• Production related topics
• Academic topics such as conferences, panel discussions, articles and call for papers

And more…
Discover and explore the vast resources accumulated on the Blog since 2009. In descending order on the column to your right…

I have a Ph.D. in African Studies (Howard University, USA) with interdisciplinary specialisations in Visual Culture, African Cinema Studies, and Women Studies; after which I carried out postdoctoral research on African Women in the Visual Media on a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship. As a feminist I have always been interested in critically engaging women's issues, and academically I wanted to make a critical inquiry into African women's experiences through the medium of the moving image. This inquiry led to my interest in forging an African Women Cinema Studies subdiscipline, which encompasses research in historiography and spectatorship as well as the hands-on work of advocacy and production.

My research on African women in cinema, includes the book
Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film, Video and Television (Africa World Press, 2000), the film documentary, Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema (2002, Women Make Movies) and the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema founded in 2008. The Centre encompasses the African Women in Cinema Blog, and a presence on social media.

Before producing the documentary,
Sisters of the Screen, I was involved locally in community television and video production in Washington DC, and was executive producer and host of the 27-episode series, "Reels of Colour", which aired from 1997 to 2000 in the Washington DC area.

I am globally engaged on the topic of African women and the moving image, including: keynote speaker at the 2012 colloquy on Francophone African Women Filmmakers in Paris; moderator of the Afrika Film Festival Cologne 2016, Fokus: Sisters in African Cinema Roundtable in Cologne, Germany; filmmaker/scholar-in-residence at Texas Tech University in spring 2017; research presentation at the International Women’s Film Festival of Salé in Morocco in September 2017. I have had a visible presence on the jury at several prominent African film festivals:
member of the Grand Jury at the International Images Film Festival for Women held in Harare (2011), FESPACO (2013) as president of the Diaspora Jury, member of the Grand Jury at the Carthage Film Festival (JCC) in 2018.  I lecture widely on Africana women in visual culture--beginning with my signature course Black Women in Visual Culture, created in 2000 at Howard University, African women in cinema studies and African women and screen culture. Since 2015 I have curated the African Women in Cinema Dossier in Black Camera, An International Film Journal.

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