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


29 November 2010

Françoise Pfaff: A l'écoute du cinéma sénégalais (In tune with Senegalese cinema)

Françoise Pfaff:
À l'ecoute du cinéms sénegalais (In tune with Senegalese cinema)
Version française ci-après
Published in French, A l'écoute du cinéma sénégalais (L'Harmattan: Images plurielles, 2010) by Françoise Pfaff, may be loosely translated as "In tune with Senegalese cinema."

"This book depicts the state of Senegalese cinema some 50 years after its emergence through the works and voices of 22 filmmakers representing various generations and different cinematic trends. Who are these men and women behind their cameras? How do they live? What do they think? What are their resources and methods of work? What role have they chosen to play in the unraveling of time and an ever-encroaching globalization? How will they develop their cinema while asserting their socio-cultural uniqueness? How do digital technologies influence their trade? How will their films serve as memories for the future? Are their aspirations and challenges essentially Senegalese or are they to be found on an African or even worldwide scale? What does the New Wave of Senegalese directors have to say? How do they compare with their elders?

With seriousness and sparks of biting humor, these film practitioners speak about their training, the themes and aesthetics of their works, as well as matters of production and distribution. In doing so, they illustrate the wealth of their cultural matrix and reflect a humanism which is both lucid and generous. The issues on which they focus are of interest to people versed in the arts, history, sociology, anthropology, politics and economics."

Photo credit: María Roof
Born and educated in Paris, Françoise Pfaff is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Howard University (Washington, DC.), where she also teaches courses on literature and film from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean. She has published numerous articles and four books on African cinema: The Cinéma of Ousmane Sembène, A Pioneer of African Film (Greenwood Press, 1984), Twenty-five Black African Filmmakers (Greenwood Press, 1988), Focus on African Films (Indiana University Press,  2004), and A l’écoute du cinéma sénégalais (L’Harmattan, 2010). She is also the author of a book on the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé entitled Entretiens avec Maryse Condé (Karthala, 1993), which she translated into English as Conversations with Maryse Condé (University of Nebraska Press, 1996).

Françoise Pfaff:
À l'ecoute du cinéms sénegalai
Cet ouvrage présente l'état des lieux du cinéma sénégalais 50 ans après son émergence, à travers les témoignages de 22 cinéastes de tendances et de générations différentes. Qui sont ces hommes et ces femmes derrière leurs caméras ? Quelles sont leurs vies, leurs idées, leurs visions, leurs oeuvres, leurs ressources et leurs méthodes de travail ? Quel rôle s'assignent-ils dans la marche de temps et une mondialisation qui gagne sans cesse du terrain ? Quelles voies prônent-ils pour le développement de leur cinéma et l'affirmation de leur spécificité socioculturelle ? Que change pour eux le numérique ? Comment constituent-ils une mémoire cinématographique de leur époque ? Leurs aspirations et leurs défis sont-ils essentiellement sénégalais ou se retrouvent-ils à l'échelle africaine, voire planétaire ? Que dit la nouvelle vague des jeunes cinéastes sénégalais ? Avec sérieux mais aussi avec humour, ces réalisateurs parlent de leur formation, de leurs thématiques, de leur esthétique, de la production et de la distribution de leurs films, ainsi que de leur pays, de l'Afrique mais aussi du monde. Ce faisant, ils nous réverbèrent les richesses de leur matrice culturelle, et font souvent preuve d'un humanisme à la fois lucide et généreux. Ce qu'ils ont à dire présente un intérêt artistique, historique, sociologique, anthropologique, politique et économique.
Photo credit: María Roof

Françoise Pfaff, d'origine alsacienne et guadeloupéenne, est née à Paris où elle a effectué toutes ses études. Elle réside depuis des années aux Etats-Unis où elle est professeur à Howard University (Washington D.C.). Elle y enseigne le français, les cinémas et littératures des pays francophones d'Afrique et de la Caraïbe. Elle a publié de nombreux articles ainsi que trois livres sur le cinéma africain: The Cinema of Ousmane Sembene, A Pioneer of African Film (Greenwood Press, 1984), Twenty-Five Black African Filmmakers (Greenwood Press, 1988) et Focus on African Films (Indiana University Press, 2004). Elle est aussi l'auteur d'un ouvrage sur l'écrivaine antillaise Maryse Condé, Entretiens avec Maryse Condé (Karthala, 1993), qu'elle a traduit en anglais sous le titre de Conversations with Maryse Condé (University of Nebraska Press, 1996).

(Re)Discover: Françoise Pfaff

(Re)Discover: Françoise Pfaff

Françoise Pfaff, professor emerita of Howard University (Washington DC, USA), a pioneer of African Cinema Studies in the United States, has a foot in three continents—France, the Americas and Africa.

Links to articles on the African Women in Cinema Blog:

Françoise Pfaff, a "regard croisé:

Françoise Pfaff: A l'écoute du cinéma sénégalais (In tune with Senegalese cinema)


23 November 2010

Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Triple Consciousness

Akosua Adoma Owusu begins her filmmaker's statement with the enduring reflection of the renowned intellectual W.E.B. Dubois:

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn't bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.

According to Owusu, while African Americans experience the double consciousness that W.E.B. Dubois describes, the African immigrant encounters a triple consciousness:

The African immigrant is unlike the African American who has a double consciousness. The African immigrant has a triple consciousness. The African immigrant has to assimilate in white American culture in order to succeed in American society. The African immigrant is grouped and identified with African Americans in the eyes of others because of their shared skin color. Yet the African does not always identify with African American culture and history. Along with the African immigrant’s triple consciousness, he has to deal with the African world and his or her own line of descent. Me broni ba Website - No longer available

Her “warring consciousness” as she describes it, becomes the point of departure for her film Me broni ba (my white baby). Using hair as a medium of culture, she examines African and African-American identities and ideologies in an effort to resolve their differences.

Me broni ba is inspired by the experiences of Adoma’s sister who as a child was fascinated with white people’s hair, as well as her own observations, during her travels to Ghana, of girls using white dolls to practice hair braiding.  This relationship to the white doll raises the vexed question of the exportation and internalization of white standards of beauty in Africa. Thus a parallel to the triple consciousness among the African immigrant population—an “exteriorized consciousness” that Africans experience, though not in the context of assimilation but rather of interiorizing a western aesthetic leading to a similar double consciousness to which Dubois refers, in the form of an African/Western dichotomy.

In the United States, Owusu reflects a growing population of Neo-African Diasporans, whose experiences highlight a recent debate on the differences between African Americans and Africans in America; the former, descendants of enslaved Africans having endured the transatlantic slave trade and U.S. slavery, and the latter, diverse groups having largely migrated to the United States post-African independence and who constitute the “Neo-African Diaspora”. 

Me Broni Ba by Akosua Adoma Owusu (Trailer) 


Me Broni Ba Website - NO LONGER AVAILABLE. Last accessed November 23, 2010.

“My Films Are Manifestations of My Warring Consciousness” Interview with Akosua Adoma Owusu by Jacobia Dahm for MTV - NO LONGER AVAILABLE

Movie Review: My White Baby by Jacobia Dahm for MTV IGGY - NO LONGER AVAILABLE

Updated to include recent films.

15 November 2010

International Images Film Festival for Women 2010 presented by Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe

From the International Images Film Festival For Women (IIFF) 2010 E-Catalogue


It is with great pleasure that Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe presents the 9th edition of the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF), the only professional women's festival south of the Sahara. Running under the theme WOMEN OF DECISION which investigates among other things, the societal pressures women face when making decisions for themselves, their families, and the community, IIFF will continue to stand out as a festival where people are not only entertained but are also educated and inspired.

IIFF received an overwhelming response of more than 100 films of different genres from across the globe. The selection was stiff but IIFF is proud to say more and more women are coming out of their closets to tell their stories and through their eyes. Screenings will be held at Ster Kinekor - Eastgate, Alliance Française and the Zimbabwe German Society in Harare where the premier television showcase, INPUT will take place. The Bulawayo leg of the festival will be celebrated at the Stanley Hall in Makokoba and finally for the first time ever, the Gwanda community will get an opportunity to watch the films at the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Library.

This year, IIFF incorporates some exceptional local films and therefore sees it fitting to open and close with local productions. The Ndichirimupenyu (While I Am Still Alive) Awards will this year take place in collaboration with UNIFEM during a special event on Gender Based Violence.

In attendance will be acclaimed filmmakers from Belgium, Britain, Poland, Belgium, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia taking part in different training workshops. As always, it is necessary for us to thank the people without whose help this festival would not be possible. In particular, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to SIDA, Culture Fund, UNIFEM and Afrykamera, the corporate world for coming on board as well as friends, partners who have always supported IIFF. WFOZ team, your support is appreciated. We would also like to thank the audiences who love and support IIFF.

Yvonne Jila
Programmes Officer


AN UNCOMMON WOMAN dir. Abdoulaye Dao
Burkina Faso 2008, Feature, 100mins, DVD
Mina, the Chairperson and Managing Director, decided to have co-spouses. For which reason! Her husband Dominique, unemployed ‘was cooing’ with Aicha, the neighbor’s wife…

AT STAKE dir. U. Agustin, M. Ichsan, L. Kuswandi, I. Setiewan, A. E.Susanti
Indonesia, 2008, Documentary 127mins, DVD
At stake is a brave and eye-opening documentary anthology tackling taboo issues that many women are facing in the world’s most populous Islamic country, Indonesia. Topics range from female genital mutilation to the conflict that arises when unmarried women want to go to the gynecologist.

France 2008, Documentary, 110mins, 35mm
Agnès Varda explores her memories, mostly chronologically, with photographs, film clips, interviews, reenactments, and droll, playful contemporary scenes of her narrating her story.

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE dir. Vahur Laiapea
Estonia 2008, documentary, 58mins, DVD
From every corner of Estonia, mentally challenged young women are preparing for the beauty pageant Miss Vaimukad. The winner goes on to make her own movie.

BETWEEN THE CUP AND THE ELECTION dir. Monique Mbeka Phoba& Guy Kabeya Muya
DRC/Belgium 2008, documentary, 56mins, DVD
The Leopards, Zaire’s 1974 world-cup team, where are they today.Did they vanish into obscurity or are they running for political office? DRC’s veteran filmmaker Monique Phoba can tell...

BOLLYWOOD BOUND dir. Nisha Pahuja
Canada 2001, Documentary, 85mins, DVD
Bollywood Bound is a feature length documentary which tells the story of four young Indo Canadians who return to Bombay to find fame and fortune in the Hindi film industry, and who are at various stages of success.

BURNING MAN, THE dir Adze Udjah
SA 2008, Documentary, 24mins, DVD
Burning Man is a story of a Mozambican man burnt to death by a xenophobic mob in South Africa. Nigerian Filmmaker Adze Udjah follows his footsteps.

CATCH 22 dir. Simbi Gibson
Namibia 2010, Documentary, 24mins, DVD
A young lady is trapped between two choices, to kill her unborn baby and get her prestigious dream job or to keep the baby and lose the job.

CAMEL THORNS dir. Genevieve Tanya Detering
Namibia 2010, Short Film, 17mins, DVD
Set in Namibia, Africa, this short film serves as a teaser for a feature project and tells the story of two girls, Marie (Nicole Davidow) and Jessica (Klara Mudge) who find themselves in a threatening and life-altering situation.

Denmark/Kenya 2010, Documentary, 29mins, DVD,
“Rose Nyambura is among the characters featured in the film Challenges Of Our Time portraying lives of women in Kenya. Rose is living in Korogocho, a slum dwelling just outside Nairobi, with her grandmother.

CRIES AT NIGHT dir. Oshosheni Hiveluah
Namibia, 2009, Short Film,13mins, DVD
Lazurus’ niece is involved in an accident where he meets Victor. Something about Victor leaves Lazurus restless and he can’t forget the encounter or the man.

CRY OF THE SEA dir. Aicha Thiam
Senegal 2008, Documentary, 26mins, DVD
The “cry of the Sea” is the struggle of a mother, Yaye Bayam DIOUF, who lost her only
son in a dugout (or boat) for the Canary Islands.

ESTERHAZY dir Izabela Plucinska
Poland/ Germany, 2009, Short Film, 23mins, DVD
The story of a small Esterhazy and his research of Bunnies’s Paradies that truly existed between East and West part of the Berlin Wall.

EXIT dir. Malgorzata Bielkowska-Buehlmann
Poland 2009, Documentary, 29mins, DVD
This film was shot between 10th and 20th October 1989 and contains unique footage of the “Autumn of Nations” of 1989 – the beginning of transformation in Central-Eastern Europe. Through Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland people try to escape west. This film documents the emotions of desperate people in a moment of historical change.

FIGHTING SPIRIT dir. George Amponsah
UK/ Ghana 2007, Documentary, 80mins, DVD
Bukom is a tiny shanty suburb of Accra in Ghana, and a factory for the toughest, most skilled boxers in the world.

FRAGMENT OF HISTORY dir. Uma Chakravati
India 2009, Documentary, 22mins, DVD
This documentary is based on the life of Subblakshmi who was born in 1897 and died in 1978, lived in Tamilnadu and was involved with the national movement for independence

FROM A WHISPER dir. Wanuri Kahui
Kenya 2009, Feature, 79mins, DVD
When an intelligence officer and a young, rebellious artist discover that they both lost somebody in the US Embassy bombing 10 years ago, they learn how to confront their fears and forgive.

GOD’S OFFICES dir. Claire Simon
France 2008, Feature, 122mins, 35mm
A realist dramedy about dedicated social workers who devote their long shifts to helping pregnant women.

DRC, 2007, Documentary, 76mins, DVD
This film features interviews with activists, peacekeepers, physicians and even- chillingly - the indifferent rapists who are soldiers of the Congolese Army. Despite all the harrowing moments talking to survivors and perpetrators, this powerful film also provides inspiring examples of resiliency, resistance, courage and grace. Winner of IIFF 2009 Documentary Award!

HOMELAND dir. Jacqueline Kalimunda
Rwanda/ France 2005, Documentary, 90mins, DVD
Homeland is a journey around Rwanda , with characters from two different generations: those who were 20 years old during the genocide and those who are old enough to have been 20 during the sixties, the independence years.

Poland/ France/Netherlands/UK 2008, Documentary, 72mins, DVD
The film retraces the love story of an unusual and unique creative union. Franciszka and Stefan Themerson lived and worked together for almost sixty years, first in Poland, then in France and eventually they settled in England.

IMPASSE dir. Bram Schouw
Netherlands 2008, Short Film, 5mins, DVD
A beautiful short about a young Nazi skinhead who finds himself sitting with a young black woman on a suburban night train.

Mexiko 2001, TV-Movie, 89mins, DVD with Salma Hayek
A young woman and her sisters fight against the brutality of the rule of Leonidas Trujillo, life-long dictator (1930-1961) of the Dominican Republic.The day of the Mirabal sisters’ death, Nov 25th, is observed in many Latin American countries as the Day against Violence towards Women.

I WANT A WEDDING DRESS dir. Tsitsi Dangarembga
Zimbabwe 2010, 3-part Feature, 89 min, DVD
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 One Love can conquer all. OUT OF COMPETITION

IZULU LAMI, MY SECRET SKY dir. Madoda Ncayiyana
SA 2009, Feature, 93mins, DVD
A young girl and her little brother leave their rural homestead for the city when they are orphaned, and meet up with a gang of street kids. Hoping to fulfill their mother’s dream, in the end they find their own.

KICK IN IRAN dir. Fatima Geza Abdollahyan
Germany 2010, 82 min, documentary, DVD
‘Kick In Iran’ gives insights into the life of Tae Kwon Do fighter Sara Koshjamal- the first female athlete from Iran who has ever qualified for the Olympic games.

LOBOLA dir. Joe Ngagu
Zimbabwe 2010, 93mins, Drama, HD
The mutilation of the African marriage custom by a cosmopolitan groom, his brothers and their accomplice, the bride. OUT OF COMPETITION

MALL GIRLS dir. Katarzyna Roscaniec
Poland 2009, Feature, 77mins, DVD
Mall Girls looks at the trials and pitfalls of adolescence that can occur when moral support is lacking for a young teenager.

Italy 2009, Documentary, 50mins, DVD
A documentary by 19-year-old Laura Halilovic, won the Bellaria Film Festival 2009, “for the ability to describe in a soft, at times ironic, but always direct way, her own story, the one of her family and through these the difficult conditions of Gipsies in Italy.

MY VOICE dir. Flora Gomes
Portugal 2002, Feature, 110mins, 35mm
It has always been a firm conviction of Vita’s family that any woman who sings, will die. While in France, Vita becomes an international recording star. She realizes that sooner or later her mother in Africa will learn about it. To solve this dilemma she goes back to her native village and stages her own death and resurrection.

NOTHING PERSONAL dir. Urszula Antoniak
Netherlands/Ireland 2009, Feature, 85mins, DVD
A young female rebel and an old sage challenge each other in a story about personal freedom and attachment. She is a young Dutch woman, who becomes a vagabond by choice and finds solitude in an austere Irish landscape.

ONE WAR dir. Vera Glagoleva
Russia 2009, Feature, 85mins, DVD
Among modern films about WWII, Vera Glagoleva’s “One War” stands apart in many ways. Exploring themes that have been a taboo subject for years, the film strikes a very painful and dramatic chord.

P-STAR RISING dir. Gabriel Noble
Austria 2009, Documentary, 84mins, DVD
When Jesse discovers that his youngest daughter Priscilla can rap and perform, he sees redemption for his own failed music career and financial salvation for his family, and commits his life to make her a star.

PEARLS OF THE EAST, THE dir. Zulkarnain Meinardy
Indonesia 2009, Documentary, 23mins, DVD
A young girl living on an isolated mountain is struggling to attain an education and realizes that school is the most precious thing in her life.

PINK SARIS dir. Kim Longinotto UK 2010, Feature, 97mins, DVD
‘A girl’s life is cruel...A woman’s life is very cruel’, notes Sampat Pal, the complex protagonist at the centre of Kim Longinotto’s latest foray into the lives of extraordinary women.

Namibia/ Germany, 2008, DVD, 11mins, Short Film
As Namibia celebrates its 18years, a colonial monument German Soldier steps down from his monument and is confronted by the Namibian army.

SACRED HEART dir. Ferzan Ozpetek
Italy, 2005, DVD, 116mins, Feature
Sacred Heart is a ‘love story’, of a woman coming to her true self , in a confrontation with her past, and the memory of her mother; the present, and the death of a young girl whom she befriended; and the future, and the direction her life will take.

Ivory Coast 2008, Documentary, 55mins, DVD
Portraits of ordinary African women from Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, who spend 10 hours a day working in order to better their lives as well as to those around them.

SHIRLEY ADAMS dir. Oliver Hermanus
SA 2009, Feature, 92mins, DVD
A movie about a mother who has to take care of her crippled son - a victim of gang violence.

STARRING MAJA dir. Teresa Fabik
Sweden 2009, Feature, 91mins, DVD
The film is a heart-warming drama-comedy about overweight 18 year old Maja, whose size makes it difficult for her to be socially accepted and to make her dreams come true. It is an intimate story about people and their dreams - unfulfilled, suppressed and lost.

STRANGER dir. Malgosia Szumowska
Poland 2004, Feature, 95mins, DVD
19-year-old Eva gets pregnant by mistake and is talked by her family into having an abortion. But she starts talking to the child in her womb and, by describing the world for him, discovers it herself.

SUMMER IN BERLIN dir. Andreas Dresen
Germany, 2005, Feature, 105mins, 35mm
Two friends, one a carer for the elderly, the other unemployed live, live in an old tenement house and spend their evenings on a balcony high above the streets. A young man comes along and threatens to upset the harmony but brings one of them momentary happiness.

Iran 2007, Feature, 90mins, DVD
Neger and Janet are close friends. Reza, Neger’s husband and Janet’s former lover, is a chemically injured war victim, with his recovery a total disappointment to his doctors.

TIMPOKO dir. Serge Armel Sewadogo
Burkina Faso 2008, Short Film, 14mins, DVD
Timpoko is a Yaaba (grandmother) who lives in her daughter’s family. One day her grandson is followed into her room and is beaten up by his father. She also ends up being hit whilst trying to defend him: a lack of respect that yaaba cannot accept.

THREE AND A HALF LIVES dir. Richard Pakleppa
Namibia 2009, DVD, 30mins, Short Film
Phillip Wetu- a young and attractive IT Professional- is envied by his buddies for his success with women.

TOKYO TOWER dir. Matsuoka Joji
Japan 2007, Feature, 142 mins, 16mm
Based on the book by: Lily Franky, the film alternates between the past, in which the central character, Masaya, narrates his life story, and the present, in which Masaya watches his mother die of cancer in the hospital.

TUNNEL, THE dir. Jenna Cato Bass
South Africa 2009, Feature, 24mins, DVD
A short film about a girl and her dreams during the 80s in Zimbabwe.

UNGOCHANI dir. Porcia Mudavanhu, supervised by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Zimbabwe 2010, documentary, 43 min, DVD
A young woman media studies student is fascinated by the uproar about homosexuality in Zimbabwe and the people her society condemns. Courageously, Porcia sets out to approach a taboo by looking compassionately at the lives of gay people in Zimbabwe. OUT OF COMPETITION

WILL YOU MARRY US dir. Micha Lewinsky
Switzerland 2009, Feature, 90mins, DVD
Rahel is employed as a civil registrar, She hasn’t believed in the so called ‘love of her life’ in ages. Bet when a childhood friend Ben, suddenly turns up, Rahel recalls again what it felt like to be in love.

Ghana/ UK 2009, 55mins, documentary, DVD
All over Ghana women who are in the way of their husbands, their lovers, their neighbors or anybody greedy enough to want what is theirs, are chased away from their families as “witches”. Sounds familiar? In Ghana, they find refuge in Gambaga, a “village of witches” under protection of a local chief.

Switzerland 2009, Feature, 93mins, DVD
Her father ends up in one of Stalin’s prison camps, but young Svetlana Geier from Kiew, Ukraine is a survivor. She learns German and ends up in Germany after the war. 65 years later, she is one of the greatest translators of Dostojewsky’s novels.

ZIMBABWE dir. Darrel James Roodt
SA 2008, Feature, 91mins, DVD
A young 19 year old rural girl named Zimbabwe by her patriotic father, is orphaned. Starving and with few choices, she leaves her village in search of a distant aunt.


CONTACT dir. Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
Australia 2009, documentary , 52 min, DVD
The story of the indigenous Australian women and children who were the last to establish first contact between the western world and “the desert people” in the 60s.

THE WOMAN OF BRUKHAM dir. Isaac Isitan
Canada 2008, documentary, 52 min, DVD

Germany 2009, 12 min, documentary, DVD
Innovative report about journalism in the times of the “ new media” and it’s future.

24 BERLIN, A DAY IN THE LIFE dir. Volker Heise
Germany 2009, 40 min, documentary, DVD

RABBITS À LA BERLIN dir. Bartek Konopka, Piotr Rosolowski
Germany, 2009, 39 min, documentary, DVD
Documentary on the destruction of a huge wildlife resort in the middle of the German capital: the green meadows around the Berlin wall.

THE LITTLE BOY AND THE BEAST dir. Johannes Weiland, Uwe Heidschötter
Germany 2009, 6 min, short animation, DVD
Both tragic and funny, this little animation by a German tv-station will move your heart.

SAVAGE EYE dir. Kieron J. Walsh, Damien O’Donnell
Ireland 2009, 25min, TV Satire- Magazine, DVD
Authentic and with sharp humor, this tv-satire looks at the most important status symbol of the Irish: owning a house.

LIKE A MAN ON EARTH dir. Biadene
Italy 2008, 60 min, documentary, DVD

GOLDFISH dir. Hiroshi Kurosaki
Japan 2009, 53min, feature, DVD

ESTERHAZY dir. Izabela Plucinska
Poland 2009, 23min, animation, DVD
The story of a small Esterhazy and his research of Bunnies’s Paradies that truly existed between East and West part of the Berlin Wall.

South Africa 2009, 25min, Talk Show, DVD
Community TV at it’s best. A high-density community in South Africa is producing it’s own talk show.

LIFE ON JEUNG ISLAND dir. Hyoung-Suk Kim
South Korea 2008, 60min, documentary, DVD

THE VOICES OF PAMANO dir. Lluis M. Guell
Spain 2009, 75min, documentary, DVD

TABOO dir. Orane Burri
Switzerland 2008, 52min, documentary, DVD
Courageous report on one of the big taboos in the western media: a loved one’s dying.

UK 2009, 60min, documentary, DVD
British obsession with sex from an unusual angle - the most ordinary people talk about their most normal sex life. In the most usual place: their bed.


National Arts Gallery - 24 November 2010 during the launch of Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in association with UNIFEM GENDER FORUM

The Ndichirimupenyu Awards is a Women Filmmakers Of Zimbabwe (WFOZ) initiative to recognize the achievements of women in various fields and especially as their achievements relate to uplifting lives in the women's respective communities. The awards are aimed at energizing the commitment of other women and men to engagement beyond the pursuit of mere personal gains. The awards reach out to women from all walks of life in Zimbabwe. The awards are for women who are alive, and conquering the world around them positively and effectively as builders of homes, communities, society and the nation.

One more objective of the awards is to counter societal discrimination against women, which tends to commend and applaud the contributions of men to development at the expense of women's equally important involvement. This year, WFOZ has joined hands with UNIFEM GENDER FORUM (network for various organizations) in selecting the nominees and a have also introduced the idea of activism against GENDER BASED VIOLENCE THROUGH ART.


Quite often you find people discussing how they saw death knocking its doors through domestic, gender-based violence. They talk about how she shy she was and how she had silently endured the physical abuse and violence, all for the sake of her marriage and the children. They relate certain incidents that probably explain the build-up to the final blow resulting in the death of the wife and children and the suicide death of the husband. If only these stories had been talked about in time before this tragic event, solutions and preventive measures could have been taken.

Women filmmakers of Zimbabwe in association with United Nations Fund for Women GENDER FORUM decided to mark the Sixteen Days of activism against gender based violence by using Art as a tool for visual activism that raises public awareness and promotes participation of local communities and mobilizes them to create safe places for women in the society. Art is a powerful voice for the voiceless and a means of message conveyance that reaches out to everyone and has no boundaries. NDICHIRIMUPENYU/NGISAPHILA/WHILE I AM STILL ALIVE women's fair and art EXHIBITION encourages women to tell their stories on Gender-Based Violence and related issues through art.

The exhibition and women's fair will inform and educate the communities that Gender Based Violence goes far beyond the physical violence that millions of women suffer every day, but that it has far reaching consequences harming families and communities and its effects can be physical, psychological, sexual or economical. Art will be used to expose and display TRUE effects of GBV as well as to advocate for positive behavior change concerning the status of women in society and through modeling positive attitudes in films and art works. Women's organizations and women from all walks of life will be able share information on practical solutions for creating a safe environment for women against all cultures of violence.

WOMEN Filmmakers Of Zimbabwe have over the years, successfully used art as a means of expression and communication.. THROUGH EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND EXCHANGE OF IDEAS, GENDER BASED VIOLENCE CAN BE MADE A THING OF THE PAST.


We are very happy to present as part of our festival the Mini-Input Harare 2010 at the Zimbabwe German Society with a selection of programmes from this year’s International INPUT conference.

Input (the acronym is derived from international public television) is an annual weeklong television showcase where the rules of broadcasting are challenged and redefined. Founded in 1978, this event is the only international conference that focuses specifically on the innovative programmes produced by public as opposed to commercial broadcasters.

But INPUT is much more than a television festival. It is a voluntary organisation governed and administered by men and women working with public television worldwide. So this Mini-Input will screen, discuss and evaluate the latest trends in public television programmes from around the world, and is therefor a must for all film-, television- and electronic media professionals in Zimbabwe.

Input is dedicated to exploring the limits of television beyond the merely conventional and derivative and reject the notion that it must be either “popular” or “cultural”, refusing to view these terms as mutually exclusive.

10 November 2010

A Tête-à-tête with Jihan el Tahri

African Women in Cinema Collection
Interview with Jihan el Tahri by Beti Ellerson, November 2010

Jihan you have a diverse background and multiple identities, you are also polyglot—conversing with ease in Arabic, French and English, how do you negotiate these identities? How do you bring them together?

I’m not sure I have multiple identities, I have multiple spaces in which I navigate. My dad was a diplomat and we moved around my whole childhood. So we did not have much time to adapt, wherever they plunk you, you need to get on with it. I guess it became a habit. I was born in Lebanon, then we went to Panama, Finland, England, and all over the chart. The first language that I must have read was Finnish. So when we moved to London my family realized that I only spoke Finnish, they had to get my nanny back until I made the transition into English (laughter). I only went back to Egypt when I was around thirteen. And that was a bit of a shock because one spends one’s life saying, I’m Egyptian, and when you go back to Egypt you feel totally out of place, you barely speak the language and all the details you don’t know about, so it took some adjusting because that was home and that was the first time that I had been to the home that had been attached to us, basically. I had a big problem with Arabic as a language because we did not speak it. We had to learn it the hard way. My father got us this sheikh who literally taught us Arabic with a stick (laughter). When I went to university, of course I spoken Arabic by then but it was difficult and I decided never to touch Arabic again. But obviously later I realized that it was an asset that I had to use and my first job with Reuters at the beginning was on the Arabic desk. I remember I used to take my grammar book to the bathroom and looked at the verbs and the conjugation before I’d write my stories so that I would not get told off (laughter). Those were the early years, and ironically I started traveling myself, I wanted to be an academic and after I finished university I had a wish to go to Oxford but my father would not let me because as a single woman he did not want me to travel and live alone. I think he regrets that decision because that is when I broke free. I decided to start working to save up money to go to Oxford and I ended up becoming a journalist. That is how I got my job at Reuters because I wanted to save money to go to Oxford. But I started journalism at one of the most exciting times in Egypt and I was slam bang in the middle of all the events. I went on being a journalist mainly covering the PLO and Islamic movements, which were my two beats. And then came the Gulf War.

To get to the question of identity, this is the place to start. This is where my clash of identities started. I always considered myself an Egyptian, being all over the chart I never quite thought of myself just as Arab or Muslim or African or as any of these one things and then came the Gulf War, I was mostly working for the US News and World Report. And here I was in the midst of the Gulf War. I was one of the only Arabs covering it for an American magazine. I asked myself, what are we doing? I could not identify with it. And I had a big problem with that. I covered the Gulf War, even receiving a prize for my report on it. But from then on I was really traumatized, I didn’t know who I was. “Am I an Arab? Am I a Westerner? Am I an African? Who am I?” So I took some time to examine where I stood. And it was that moment when I decided that fundamentally I regard myself as an African. Because Egypt is an African country, it is also Middle Easterner. And it’s also Muslim, and it’s also Christian, and it is also all those things. So as an Egyptian, I am all these things together. But fundamentally my country has turned its back on Africa. I don’t know willingly or not. But the history obliged it consistently to turn its back on Africa. And it is only during the moments when it regarded itself as part of Africa that it had the glory that Egypt used to have. So during the Sadat period it was almost a shame to be African. Nassar was one of the founders of the African Union, he really helped every single African liberation movement. Not that I necessarily identify with Nassar, his legacy is a bit problematic. The other thing is that my dad used to work in the foreign ministry during the liberation movements. So I started looking into all of that. And for me that is where I felt my real heart was. I turned my view from the Middle East back to Africa. And I say back to Africa, because initially I studied South African politics at university. And I only left that beat because I could not get to South Africa during apartheid because of the boycotts. And it’s been problematic also because as a clear-skinned African it takes a lot of fighting to say, “but no I am an African too!”

As a filmmaker you have had many experiences that provided you with a very particular perspective—academically you studied political science and you worked for sometime as a journalist for many prominent news agencies. How do you connect your academic studies and journalism to filmmaking? 

I think that could be attached to the whole problem that I had with the Gulf War. I realized that as journalist we do not have the time to look into what is actually happening. We have deadlines everyday so you just skim the surface constantly and you don’t get to the bottom of what this is all about. And that is why I chose documentary.  Because documentary was about taking the time to look into a topic that is close to your heart and really looking at it in an angle that you choose. And doing the research and taking the time and formulating it in a way that is your own expression. Where as a journalist, there are so many constraints in terms of space, the number of words, when your editor wants it, who’s going to edit it back there. So this was not what I was looking for. What I was looking for was a mode of expression and that I obviously didn’t find in journalism.

I can actually tell you the moment where all of my worlds came together. I was watching the documentary The Death of a Nation about the war in Yugoslavia, it must have been in 1995, 1996. I had already started doing a bit of film here and there. And if you see my old work it’s quite different than what came after that. And I watched this six-hour documentary, it was so well researched that it is almost a doctoral thesis, combined with archival work that no one had ever seen, combined with beautiful storytelling. And it was such a complicated topic, and I remember at the time that no one could really tell what was happening in the former Yugoslavia. There were wars in Bosnia, there were wars here and there; the whole place was breaking up. No one could really understand, myself included. And in this one stretch of six hours, I understood what it was all about. And the story was told beautifully and it was this combination of the visual, the academic and good storytelling. And I told myself: that is what I want to do. So I looked up the production company, which was called Brian Lapping at the time and it is currently called Brook Lapping. It was quite ironic because at the time I was preparing a film for France 3 about fifty years of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and when I called them they were doing a six-hour film about the Arab-Israeli conflict. While I really wanted to work for them, I was doing what was considered the rival project. And I decided to quit my project and work with them as an associate producer. I downgraded myself because that was what I wanted to learn. I worked there for two-three years and by the end of the project I ended up co-writing the book that was the basis for that series. And I never looked back from there. It was funny because later when they were doing the sequel for it they called me back and said, “do you want to do the film with us?” I said: “no, I did that film because I really wanted to learn what you were doing and how you were doing it.” Not all of what they were doing suited my purposes, so I basically took out of it the technique that I needed to tell my own story and find the formulation of my own expression. The series producer is a lady called Norma Percy. I consider her my mentor, she was uncompromising, in the smallest detail: you check it once, you check it three times. She was very, very strict, seeking perfection. I was really happy to realize that you could do that in film too. But I never went back to do any other film with them. When the South African film was shown in London she came to the screening. And she said to me, “now I understand how in a way you are doing the Brian Lapping method, but in a way you are not at all.” I basically found my own language during that apprentissage

Your work reflects a very eclectic interest. Could you talk about how you choose your subject matter and give some reflections on your experiences making and producing your films?

My first proper job in film if you want, was with the French production company Capa. At the time I did not have the option to choose exactly what I wanted to do. There were certain topics that I would propose and that they would allow me to do but it had to fit within what the production company was doing. I did a whole series of a project called “24 Hours”. And basically it was churning out a 52 documentary every week. We’d go cover one event with six cameras, come back the following day, edit the whole thing and it was out on TV the following week. In terms of training that was amazing because in a way you could put together a 52 documentary in a week, no matter what the topic is. Once you’ve gone beyond that stage the problem is not how to make a film, the problem is why do you want to make a film and what you want to say with the film. Half of them are not even on my CV, we made so many of these. And obviously after a while that isn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to churn out films. Capa called me back after I finished the Arab-Israeli conflict project in London. And I said that I would only come back if they allowed me to do the topic that I wanted to do. And that is how I did, l'Afrique en morceaux: la tragédie des grands lacs, which is about the Congo. And I had a very bad experience there but it was part of the learning process. In the documentary world it is very tough.

Being interested mainly in Africa—and based in Europe—very few companies will take on an African topic. You fight for it and by the time the production accepts your fight, you have raised half of the money but you need a production company with which to do it. They act as though they are doing you a favor. I had a couple of other bad incidents and then decided to set up my own company. Which is not what I wanted to do. I never wanted to be a producer. I honestly believe that producers and directors have their separate jobs and they are complimentary. But being from where I am, and doing the kind of films that I am doing, it is very difficult to hand over the production side. So now I have my own production company and I only do films fifty-fifty with any production company. And to get back to how I choose the topics, for me the topic not only has to resonate, the question has to be something that I need to understand. And something that obsesses me to the point that…it takes me three, four, five years to make a film, it can’t be something that isn’t close to my heart, it has to be something that I need to find out about. Because otherwise, how do you sustain four years? The main question that I have been revolving around has been African liberation movements in a way, but I guess it is more about how in the 50’s and the 60’s all of these people had the vision of wanting to break the shackles of colonialism despite how impossible it must have seemed. There was this big mammoth called colonialism but they stood up and fought against it and won their independence. And my question is what happened after that? How can we look at our countries now and see the independence that we fought for and had such a vision for, bring such mitigated results for the average people. It is the whole question of trying to understand the process and the realities of that period and how we got there. Is it a problem of power? I don’t believe in this whole “corruption is African”, I think corruption is something that is international, but somehow we’ve been labeled as corrupt governments and I need to understand that. And to understand the origins of these conflicts that have cursed our continent. Where do they come from and how are they sustained? 

Your approach to the subject is very probing and perhaps for some, controversial. Are you free to come and go in relative safety? Do you have enemies? How are you able to work on such delicate issues and continue to navigate around freely?

I don’t think I am naïve, and I don’t think these are things that I should worry about. I don’t think of it ahead of time. You can say I’m inconsciente in the French sense. I’ll walk through minefields ignoring the fact that they are minefields and it could blow up in my face. I guess that I’ve been lucky at the moment that it has not blown up in my face. I have had dodgy things happen and I have had problems, but I think that when we do a profession that is by nature quite difficult and the kinds of topics are by nature quite difficult, that’s part of the deal. I don’t think of it twice. My last film, the South African film [Behind the Rainbow] was the most delicate moment in the history of a nation. Everything about it was difficult, that was the nature of what I was doing. I wasn’t thinking, “oh who’s going to do this, am I going to build enemies?” Obviously and probably I have enemies, but it doesn’t really matter does it?

Big Sister Productions, your company…the name suggests surveillance, being on the watch. Is this a parallel to “big brother” that you are watching them and be careful because you see what they are doing?

Well, that is the Western reading of it, which is fine. And that is why I chose it…

I also thought of "sister" in the more affectionate way…

It does have an African and a Western choice for it. Most of my friends in Africa call me “grande soeur”, and the “grande soeur” in our tradition is something that is endearing. Though I am also big sister in the Western sense because I am watching you. I am not just going to fall in the trap. There is surveillance, I am looking into this closely. When I was looking for a name of the company while conversing, a friend said, “you know, big sister…and I thought, well why not name the company “big sister”.  She usually calls me “grande soeur”/”big sister”. The idea is also that I am watching you, and the logo is a whirling dervish on a film reel.

You have worked so far as a documentary filmmaker. Do you have an interest in fiction filmmaking?

I don’t discount it. I have written two books, and I was a journalist, so writing is not scary for me. I stick to documentary for two reasons. I can write a script and direct actors and film it. I am not saying that it is easy to do that, though I don’t find it scary. On the other hand, the challenge of the documentary is far more difficult; writing an idea and going out to research it and being faced with the challenges of reality, of the real world, being constantly obliged to adjust and rethink what it is you intended to do. In fiction I write my story and film it. There is not going to be any soul searching or questioning, it is about how you do the film, how you express it. I’ll give you the example of the Cuban film [Cuba: An African Odyssey].
The project I wrote and what I thought I was going to do was about how proxy wars between the Eastern bloc and the Western bloc during the Cold War were played out on African soil and we were the victims of it. The more I researched the more I realized that, yes that is what has been written, but the reality wasn’t that. It is only when you go out in the field that you realize that just because it was not written does not mean that it did not happen. Most of the time on our continent, we don’t write our own history. Our history is written for us. This whole story that came out of the Cuban film was something that hadn’t been written and that I only discovered while I was researching. It is this challenge of readjusting what you think and what it is that you’re really doing. It’s very important, it is ten times more difficult because you have to stop and readjust and think, “am I on the right track, am I on the wrong track, do I go forward with this or am I going to come up with something that is completely insane. Have I been misled? And that’s why it takes so much time. I might want to do fiction. I don’t know, though at the moment, which brings me to my second reason why documentary is so dear to me, there are very few African documentary filmmakers, most African filmmakers go for fiction. I think it is a part of me coming from an African and Middle-Eastern perspective looking at my own history and giving it my own voice. That is what we as Africans and Middle-Easterners, and Developing Nations in general, need to be doing. And that is why what I am doing currently; executive producing and training mainly younger South African filmmakers, is quite dear to me. I want to interest more people in doing documentary because there is this glamour bit that wants to treat documentary films as less significant or less artistic or less glamorous than fiction. There is this idea that it is not a proper film. This is something that I reject totally. The younger people must realize that you can do fiction and documentary if you want. It is not an inferior form of expression. It’s just a different form of expression. 

Do you feel as a woman that you work within a gendered perspective? Do people treat you “as a woman filmmaker”?

As a woman? Of course I am treated as a woman and you have to prove yourself three times round before you are considered anything of worth and you have to be three times better to be equal. It is something that I refuse to fall into. I do not want to be in a ghetto of any form or space. And being labeled “African filmmaker” is already a kind of a ghetto. Because, I am a filmmaker, yes, I am African, but “African filmmaker” sort of puts you in a niche. It has its own implications, fine. And “woman African filmmaker” is yet another ghetto. A ghetto that has its advantages and if one slips into these advantages you could go through life very easily just being part of this and survive quite well. I don’t want to be limited by my gender, or my space, or my identity to do and express what I want. I always get the question: why do most of your films not have women in them? Most of the films that I deal with do not justify having women in them. My political films are about the decision makers. I want to look into the decision makers’ minds. The reality is that women have not been decision makers in this area. And I always get people who say: well you could have interviewed this or that woman. I am not going to make the excuse to stick a female face in a film just to have a woman. I think that women have a fundamental role. I am a woman, I am completely a woman, and that is who I am. I find it repressive to be bottled up, to bottle your imagination, and bottle your expression. For example, most of the African women filmmaker events—which I do go to because that is who I am—people want you to do films about Africa and about women or about social conditions that involve women. It has to be in that space. I want to find my wings. I want to talk about anything that I feel like talking. If I want to do a film about middle-aged men in Poland tomorrow, I should be able to do that. And I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to do that, because I am a female and African? Nobody tells that to other people. Why should we be kept in that space? Questions like: but what about all the work that the suffragist did for women? Yes, though the reality of what it is that women need to find their equality and find their space today is quite different. We need to carve out our own niches by proving that we are just as good. And we are, so where is the problem?

You are a member the Guild of African filmmakers and of FEPACI (Federation of Pan-African Cinema), some reflections on your role in these Pan-African film institutions?

For a long time I was a lone wolf. I stayed out of festivals, out of institutions. I would not even submit my films. I did my films and went on to the next thing. Then I realized that if what I want is about expression and about a voice and about hearing our voice as Africans, at the same level and in the same niches, then I need to engage with my community. I initially started with the Guild and then in 2006 the FEPACI (Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers) reconvened, I was nominated—I did not nominate myself—and I was elected. I do believe that we are in a day and age where we can change our reality. For once in our lives it’s a level playing field. It is not just about the money, the technology is there, we all have access to the Internet, the cameras cost very little. Well, perhaps it is not a completely level playing field, but we can find the structures to do our own thing, just as well as anybody else. We are not disadvantaged if we find the way of doing it properly. So I engaged in all of these institutions but unfortunately they are very political institutions, and as such, I am starting to wonder how important the actual filmmaking or the actual voice is to these institutions. I engage in these things because I think it is important to give the space and the means for creativity on our continent, to be able to be equal in access and in space and in expression as everybody else. Look at the Latin Americans, look at the Koreans, look at the Iranians. They’ve managed to establish a system that allows them a cinematic and filmic voice out there that competes with everyone. So why can’t we do it? And that is why I engage with it. We are not quite there yet because the actual foundations of most of these institutions are political. Unless we separate the political from the creative and the actual needs of filmmakers to evolve we will be without representatives. We do not have representatives, we do not have people who speak in our voices and it is quite ironic coming from me because I am suppose to be a representative of these people. I do not feel that I represent anyone and I don’t feel that what we do in these institutions even tries to represent everyone. I think our main problem is because of our history, we do not believe that the pie is big enough. Whoever gets his hands on the pie does not want to share and wants to keep that pie forever. I believe that the pie is plenty and the more people that feed off of it the better we are. We need to get that perspective in our heads yet we haven’t.

Would a national cinema that we talk so much about be in conflict with your argument against political institutions?
National cinema does not mean national political involvement. Perhaps I should not compare with the French, but they have the CNC [Centre national de la cinématographie], which is a non-political fund that allows you to do your creative thing. So having a national cinema doesn’t mean that the national political institutions have to dip their noses into what you are doing. Having the infrastructure for arts and culture is part of what we fought for during independence. Remember Amilcar Cabral? Remember all of these people. Culture was a fundamental part of what we were fighting for, now that is off the register. I am not against national cinema, but I am against politicized national cinema. And I am against using national cinema to further political ends. They are two separate things.
Some reflections on African cinema, its history. Its future. Are you optimistic?

Of course, I am optimistic. I wouldn’t be still active if I wasn’t optimistic. Though I suppose I am not totally optimistic! When Sembene did La noire de… it was criticized as not being proper cinema. Because he dared find a different language for his form of expression, the voice was coming from a non-Euro-centric perspective. Finding your own language for telling your own story is something that we have been evolving in. Even with experimental films, there is a lot happening our there, the young people are bypassing all of us. They are going straight to the Internet, straight to DVD. A lot is happening out there, so of course I am optimistic. Though the core of what is recognized as African cinema is part of the old machine that dares less.

You teach as well, which is part of this whole filmmaking practice of finding one’s voice. Could you talk about some of your interests, your experiences?

I teach on and off at film institutions in South Africa. I suppose what I have learned while teaching over these past few months is that teaching in this classical sense is not what I want. Because people who end up in the film school are people who can pay tuition to go there. Not necessarily the people who are dying to tell their stories and who have the creativity but don’t have the means. What I have found much more gratifying is working hands-on with young people who come to me saying, “I have this documentary idea but I am not quite sure how to go about it.” I say, “great, let’s sit together and start from how you write the proposal, to where you go,” doing coaching for research and actually being part of the entire process until the end of the edit. It is not my film, though I am there as part of a teaching pillar whenever there is a real practical problem for that one person doing that one film, and then I move on to another film. Practical work is what we least have. I remember at a film festival where the European Union came to do a panel about the Media Fund and how amazing it is and how we can access it and so on. The Media Fund has a pre-production phase and a post-production phase. Though during the entire production phase you could not do anything with students hands-on. To explain this: the Media Fund gives a lot of money for workshops, a lot of money for festivals, a lot of money for three-day courses to teach this and that. They will not give you money for that same person who you will get in a workshop for three days. Give you that same amount of money to have him as an intern on your film for a month where he will actually learn the ropes. I asked, if it is the same amount of money, and if your real intention is for these kids to learn the ropes, why not invest that money in a film that will be actually made, and the student will actually have hands-on experience? Response: that is not part of how we do it. Obviously it is not. Because the whole workshop mentality has become a new system for us. We move from workshop to workshop and what is it we actually get during the three days? We fall right into that system because it’s all there is. That is part of the reason why all of my films are entirely funded by broadcasters for mainstream TV and cinema. Why? Because that is the battleground. I do not want to be funded and make a film that only circulates in a festival circuit where the only people in the festival are in the same boat as I am, and to whom I can show my film at home in my lounge. Having a voice is about going out there and reaching the way others reach, and I think we have not cracked this nut yet.

Interview with Jihan el Tahri by Beti Ellerson, November 2010

Cuba: An African Odyssey

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