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


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31 August 2013

A Focus on Chiaka Desmond, founder and editor of Film Biz Africa Magazine

Chiaka Desmond, whose pan-African identity has shaped her vision of the world of cinema, is co-founder and editor of Film Biz Africa Magazine. She talks about her evolution into this world that she realized very early was where she wanted to be.

You are the co-founder and editor of Film Biz Africa Magazine, the bi-monthly print and online film/media business magazine. Talk a bit about your background and how you became interested in the world of cinema.

I was born in Nigeria, raised in Ethiopia and lived in Kenya for seven years and six months. My life has been an amalgamation of cultures. I believe being exposed to so many cultures made me very open minded and aroused my curiosity in the world of cinema as I also believe film has a way of preserving culture and will forever be intertwined with culture. 

I love how you can go to a whole other world just through watching a film. 

I also studied Broadcast Journalism at the United States International University in Kenya. One of the courses we did was called ‘Television and Film Production’.

Our teacher, Mr. Sylvester Mutua really opened up our minds to the critical role cinema plays in our society and one of the challenges each of us was given was to produce a forty-page script for adaptation to film. For the first time in my life, I became so imaginative and unleashed a Pandora’s box of creativity I never knew I had in me. 

I also did my undergraduate internship at Film Studios Kenya, (one of the oldest film production companies in Kenya). The lights, the cameras, the sound equipment, the cranes, the gibs, the dollies and the studios were so huge and exciting that I knew what I wanted in my life from the very day I set foot at the film studios.

African women in cinema play various roles, as filmmakers, producers, actresses, in technical roles, organizers, curators, critics, and well, film magazine editors. What inspired you to create Film Biz Africa?

As I said earlier, I fell in love with cinema the first day I set foot at Film Studios Kenya, but I realized, all throughout my college years, I never had access to any books or magazines on African cinema, not even blogs or websites! 

So, after my four-month internship at Film Studios (on the set of the Patricia Show), I found myself armed with a B.A Degree in Broadcast Journalism, but jobless and idle. If there’s anything I hate in this world is being idle, so I decided to start writing. I’d interview people for the fun of it, go for events and before you knew it, I had a magazine dummy ready for Kenya’s film industry. After I shared my concept with my father, he told me to expand it to cover the whole continent because there wasn’t any magazine that really covers Africa’s film industry well, so I took up the challenge and today, I have no regrets!

Your organization is part of an extensive social media network, such as Facebook and Twitter. What role do you see social media playing in the promotion of African cinema.

In my opinion, social media is becoming the nucleus of marketing. If you have a film, or any product for that matter these days and you are not active on social media, I’m afraid you may have made your product for yourself and your friends! 

You are based in Kenya, could you talk a bit about the reception of the Magazine in both Kenya and across Africa?

I honestly thank God for the time I had in Kenya. I lived there from January 2006-September 2013. Kenyans are good people, forget the negative news you hear about Kenya, it’s a great country full of innovative and creative young people. I had so much support from the locals, and speaking Swahili only made things easier for me. 

The magazine was so well received in Kenya, that at a point I had more Kenyan readers than any other country. 

How does the magazine interface with Kenyan cinema culture?

I believe Film Biz Africa has been one of the biggest promoters of Kenyan and East African cinema of all time. We did features on so many celebrities, organized thousands of photo-shoots, did a number of events, brought investors to the industry (through our event the Africa Media Business Exchange), and still plan to do a lot more in Kenya. 

The Film Biz Africa Magazine plans to celebrate African women in cinema with the October 2013 issue, why do you think this celebration is important?

Firstly, October is a month where a lot of women-centered campaigns go on. Throughout my career at Film Biz Africa, I realized there was more men than women producing films in the continent, yet, the few African female producers, scriptwriters, are so brilliant at what they do but are rarely celebrated. This October issue is a special issue that will celebrate as many African female producers, Scriptwriters, Directors and the likes. 

Future initiatives of Film Biz Africa? 

Good news for West Africa, we’re setting shop there in a few weeks time! Good news for South Africa too, we’re also setting shop there soon! We’re also going online, mobile, and TV.

We at film Biz Africa believe we have no limits, we want to say, we came, we saw and we conquered, and trust me, we will. 

Interview with Chiaka Desmond by Beti Ellerson, August 2013.

The Film Biz Africa Magazine in currently inactive

30 August 2013

Aljazeera - Witness - The Bag on my Back, a documentary film by Tapiwa Chipfupa (Zimbabwe)

Newly-liberated with productive farms and an education system that was the envy of its neighbours, Zimbabwe in the early 1980s was a land of plenty.
Within one person's childhood all that changed.
Filmmaker Tapiwa Chipfupa returns to the country of her birth to understand why the catastrophe happened.
Guided by a box of old family photographs and phone calls to her parents who are in exile in the UK, she traces the story of her family's life across Zimbabwe and the parallel story of the decline and collapse of the country.
Told from the perspective of a middle class African, this is a story of remembrance, of coming to terms with exile and change, and a reminder of the need to guard and protect hard-won freedoms.
Tapiwa Chipfupa: "The film was very challenging for me because it was a deeply personal and emotional journey. It was difficult to accept that none of my family were there and to see what had happened to the places where I grew up, to see what has become of the country of my childhood. But it was very rewarding in the sense that, like so many others, I had reached a place of acceptance with what it is today and had somehow forged a way forward."

Read in its entirety at
Image and text source:

28 August 2013

La Fabrique 2013 - Wanuri Kahiu: "Homosexuality is not unafrican; what is unafrican is homophobia" | "Ce n'est pas l'homosexualité qui est non-Africaine, c'est l'homophobie"

Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya) : La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde (Festival de Cannes) 2013

Her second time at La Fabrique, Wanuri Kahiu's project was inspired by Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko's novel Jambula Tree. A moving love story about two young women who fall in love, that she wanted to bring to film.

UPDATE: The completed film was released under the title Rafiki, presented
in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2018.

Also see the African Women in Cinema Blog

La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde

La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde is a professional programme helping talented young directors from emerging countries increase their international exposure. Each year this programme, developed by the Institut français, in partnership with France Médias Monde – RFI, France 24, Monte Carlo Doualiya- with the support of The International Organization of La Fancophonie, invites ten directors working on their first or second feature films to attend the Festival de Cannes along with their producers.


"Homosexuality is not unafrican; what is unafrican is homophobia": Interview by Olivier Barlet with Wanuri Kahiu about her film “Jambula Tree”

"Ce n'est pas l'homosexualité qui est non-Africaine, c'est l'homophobie" entretien d'Olivier Barlet avec Wanuri Kahiu à propos de Jambula Tree

Read in its entirety:
À lire dans son integralité:

Rwanda Film Festival 2013 : Our Mothers, Our Heroes

Rwanda Film Festival 2013
Our Mothers, Our Heroes

Our Mothers, Our Heroes: Opening with Mama Africa, a documentary in tribute to Miriam Makeba (1932-2008)

Is our world misogynist? Is our perception of women preventing them from making an impact on society? What does it mean to be a female leader? Often relegated to play lesser roles in society, separated by class, access to education, gender roles and sexuality, women have been victimized, stereotyped and marginalized in the real world, as well as in the world of cinema. However, women have always played a critical role in changing societies and it is time for them to be recognized.
The role of women in our society has been mainly defined by men, and cinema is no exception. Though women have appeared in cinema for decades, taking on a variety of forms, from brilliantly layered characters to stereotypical victims, women were not the ones creating their images. Until now, men have told their stories from their own perspective.

Rwanda Film Festival’s 2013 theme, “Our Mothers, Our Heroes” serves as a unique platform to feature recent cinematographic creations, directed, written, or produced by women and creations that deal directly with the issue of women’s roles in society. Films of all genre and feature length will engage the audience in the deconstruction of clichés and stereotypes surrounding the role of women within our society. This year’s selection will provide a multiplicity of representations of women: resistant, resilient, emancipated and committed to writing their own pages of the history books.

(Source: Rwanda Film Festival programme) 

Updated to include: 

She is my mother, a short documentary film made by six girls in six hours during the workshop called Girls Make Movies organized at the Rwanda Film Festival.

Claudine Ndimbira Shenge was part of the Girls Make Movies workshop during which she directed the film My Mother My Hero in 2013.


26 August 2013

Labouring Women by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa)

Labouring Women by TSITSI DANGAREMBGA published August 2013 ICAPATRUST (Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa)

Although I have much understanding of the way our society works, I am still shocked at the way Zimbabwe always finds one more brick to throw at it’s women. This is not the British or the West or the East or the South or anyone else casting stones at us. It is us as Zimbabweans: men who refuse to let their wives work.

The man refuses his spouse the right to work at a position she has attained through her own abilities. In one case the woman has been through child-bearing, or a period of child-bearing, and wants to return to work. In another the woman meets her prospective husband and marries while at work. I am truly beginning to understand what to me had been inexplicable: why many women do not want to engage with matters of women’s emancipation: the negativity one encounters is overpowering.

This was brought home to me when one of the women who assists the organisation that produces this newsletter, who, having married as a person employed in a particular position, revealed that she was pressurised to change her employment after marriage. Another woman, who sought employment as a married woman, was pressurised to end her employment.

Resistance is costly. High levels of stress compromise the health and performance of all involved. Retribution by men against women who defy is a constant threat. This retribution may take the form of the man insisting on more and more unrealistic situations that the woman and her concerned employer endeavour to satisfy. Or retribution may take the shape of abusive or threatening phone calls to the employing organisation’s staff.

Sometimes the woman acquiesces to demands that she must leave her employment. This may follow a period of absenteeism. The woman might, after being absent for a while, come to work with various indications of injury. However, she talks about a completely different ailment. The legally required doctor’s note states nothing more than that the woman must take a specific number of days off. This usually escalates in various ways.

The husband may pressurise the employee. He may make phone calls in and out of working hours to higher level employees, questioning the organisation’s right to call the employee with information. Cultural proprieties may be invoked. Legal, or other action can be threatened.

Where medical grounds are cited, the woman may present at work with a doctor’s certificate that does not specify an ailment. On questioning, whether this questioning is concerned or otherwise, the illness the woman relates may have nothing to do with observable injuries. If the woman finally leaves employment, if there are other irregularities with respect to issues such as notice, the man will challenge the organisation and threaten it.

Where the husband concerned is generally categorised as of a social class below the wife’s employer, the husband uses indirect tactics such as citing sickness that results from the employment, or citing adverse effects on the couples’ children, as a reason for the employee’s release from her employment.

Research carried out by this organisation revealed that other organisations besides WFOZ are affected in this manner. It seems as though many Zimbabweans, male and female, believe that legislation to protect the freedom of all Zimbabweans’ over the age of eighteen applies only to the men of Zimbabwe.

I differ. What do women bring to our society that would be lacking, beyond the biological? What do empowered women bring particularly? As a woman and mentor very much involved with WFOZ, I assert we are women of peace. We seek peace and prosperity for everyone. Our reports/documentaries/short films/features are evidence of our engagement for the progress of society.

IIFF 2013, as in other years, sees, acts and lives the reasons why women must engage and bring their particular power to bear in creating the societies that bring everyone forward.

This year the IIFF opening film FREESTATE pulls these issues into a new Zimbabwean dimension.

Labouring Women by TSITSI DANGAREMBGA published August 2013 ICAPATRUST (Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa)

- See more at:

21 August 2013

Understanding what is happening in Egypt: A letter from Azza Elhosseiny, Executive Director, Luxor African Film Festival

Understanding what is happening in Egypt: A letter from Azza Elhosseiny, Executive Director, Luxor African Film Festival

Dear friends and colleagues

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Bur

As a group of cultural activists in Egypt, among them the founders of Luxor African film festival, we categorically and unconditionally deplore all killing. As human been, our hearts go out to all those who lost sons and daughters in Egypt's violence today and since the uprising of June 30 in Egypt.

Nevertheless, in the middle of a frenzy of Western politicians and Western media consistently presenting only one side - the Islamists' - we could not let this day pass without sharing some thoughts and some truths. For the last six weeks since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, the Western media consistently portrayed the sit-ins that paralyzed Cairo and other parts of Egypt as sit-ins by "peaceful demonstrators". As mayhem broke out throughout Egypt today, they conveniently ignored what was happening in the rest of the country to focus on those "peaceful demonstrators."

Peaceful demonstrators??

Peaceful demonstrators do not have the capacity to kill more than 57 police personnel documented by name, rank, and serial number in a few hours.

Peaceful demonstrators do not attack the Kerdasa (neighborhood close to the pyramids) police station with rocket-propelled grenades, kill the station's eleven police officers, strip them of their clothes, and drag their bodies down the street.

Peaceful demonstrators do not threaten Christians with genocide as was called for by many of their leaders over the last six weeks, and as documented by multiple videos available on YouTube and other outlets.

Peaceful demonstrators do not raise the black flags of Al Qaeda over their sit-ins and marches and take pride in the likes of Bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Peaceful demonstrators do not attack more than 45 Christian installations, burn 40 churches and cathedrals, some several hundred years old, to the ground in less than 12 hours, destroy millions of dollars worth of Christians' homes, businesses, and property, and threaten the entire Egyptian Christian population with annihilation.

Peaceful demonstrators do no call for the return of a fascist president who only days before presided over a 2-hour orgy of hate speech by his imams, calling Shia Muslims filth worthy of extermination, only to see that actually take place 2 days later in the public lynching of 5 Egyptian Shia Muslims in broad daylight.

Peaceful demonstrators do not defend a fascist who purposefully let thousands of terrorists back into Egypt from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq to establish an Islamic Emirate in the Sinai and kill Egyptian army personnel and civilians on a daily basis.

Peaceful demonstrators do not put their children in the face of danger and brag that they are ready to see them die for the Islamist cause.

How much of that has the Western media reported today??

The Muslim Brotherhood and their jihadist allies have never known and will never know peace. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Prior to Morsi's election, they publicly declared that they will burn Egypt down if their man does not win. These terrorists, who have been proven liers at every step in the political process, are finally making good on one promise - destroying the country if they can't subjugate it.

This Muslim Brotherhood is an international terrorist organization. Their masquerade of moderateness has fallen apart with the events in Egypt. You should all be aware that this terrorist organization exists not only in Egypt or the Middle East or the Islamic world, but also right here in many countries around the world. It exists legally, and has managed to gain the sympathy and alliance of the United States Government, as well as many other Western governments, as we have seen in all the statements over the last six weeks.

we implore you to educate yourself about this, and to consider contacting your members of parliament. Confront them with the facts, and ask them to declare the Muslim Brotherhood and all other Islamist political movements what they are - FASCISTS and TERRORISTS.

Egyptian Creativity Front.
Egyptian filmmakers syndicate.
Luxor African film festival.
I-Shabab - independent Shabab foundation.

15 August 2013

International Images Film Festival for Women 2013: Women Alive Women of Peace (Harare)

International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) 2013: Women Alive Women of Peace (Harare)

Festival Dates

Harare: 23 - 31 August 2013
Bulawayo: 05 - 07 September 2013
Binga: 09 - 12 September 2013

Contact Details
International Images Film Festival
Postal Add: P.O. Box BW1515
Tel/ Fax: 04-862355, Mobile: 0775 553 273

05 August 2013

Nadine Otsobogo crée le Festival du Film de Masuku - Nature et environnement | Nadine Otsobogo creates the Film Festival of Masuku - Nature and Environment (Gabon) - 15-17 août 2013 | 15-17 August 2013

Nadine Otsobogo crée le Festival du Film de Masuku - Nature et environnement |  Nadine Otsobogo creates the Film Festival of Masuku - Nature and Environment (Gabon) - 15-17 août 2013 | 15-17 August 2013

Nadine Otsobogo donne quelques réflexions sur son désir de créer ce festival : 

J'ai crée ce festival , parce que j'aime le cinéma.  Je dis « JE » mais nous sommes une association. Le Festival de Masuku qui a pour objectif « la culture pour tous ». Premièrement parce que nous aimons  le cinéma ; ensuite le Gabon a aujourd’hui 50 ans de cinéma mais un seul festival, les  Escales Documentaire à Libreville ; ces documentaires ne sont vus qu’à Libreville, la capitale.

Le Gabon comme d'autres pays d’Afrique, n’a plus de salle de cinéma. C'est à nous de créer des espaces pour partager notre art. Faire des films c’est bien mais quel intérêt, si nos amis, nos parents, nos voisins, ne les découvre pas ?

Mon court-métrage DIALEMI est vu dans différents festivals à travers le monde et au Gabon juste une fois à l’Institut Français.

Pourquoi la Nature et l'Environnement? Parce que c'est ce qui définit le mieux le Gabon et que si le pays est mis en avant du fait de sa richesse culturelle, son cadre de vie d'un point de vue naturel et environnemental est très peu mis en avant.

Et parce que dans le cinéma, la place de la fiction, de l'histoire, des coutumes et de la culture est souvent prépondérante à celle de la nature et donc un tel festival c'est un peu un retour aux sources...aux sources de l'Ogoouée.

Nadine Otsobogo gives these reflections about what motivated her to create the festival:

I created this festival because I love cinema. I say I "I" but we are an association. The Masuku Festival has as objective to provide "culture for everyone". First of all because we love cinema, and also Gabon has a 50-year history of cinema but only one festival, the Escales Documentaire of Libreville. However, the documentary films are only seen in the capital, in Libreville.

Gabon, as other countries in Africa, no longer has cinema houses. It is up to us to create the venues to share our art. To make films is good, but what is the interest of it, if our friends, relatives, neighbours do not see them?

My short film Dialemi was seen at different festivals around the world and in Gabon only once at the French Institute.

Why the theme Nature and Environment? Because it is what best defines Gabon, and if the country's cultural wealth is brought to the forefront, its quality of life in terms of nature and the environment is less visible.

Because in cinema, the role of fiction, history, costumes, and culture is often more dominant than that of nature and therefore, a festival such as this is somewhat of a return to the source...the source of the Ogoouee River.

02 August 2013

Boukary Sawadogo discusses his research: Three marginal figures in the cinemas of Francophone West Africa - the mad person, the homosexual, the woman

Gender and Representation Series
Professor Boukary Sawadogo discusses his book Les cinémas francophones ouest-africains (2013), published by the Paris-based lHarmattan. Interview and translation from French by Beti Ellerson.

Boukary, congratulations on the publication of your book, Les cinemas francophones ouest-africains, which in fact is adapted from your doctoral thesis entitled "Altérité dérangeante et innovante dans les cinémas francophones ouest- africains de 1990 à 2005". Why this subject for research?

Through this work I wanted to examine the changes that have taken place in African cinema since the 1990s as are evident in the aesthetic and thematic treatment as well as modes of production and distribution. To deal with these mutations through an analysis of the representation of characters at the "margin" provides not only a better understanding of the "centre", or the social norms that constitute dominant discourse, but also to see in what ways the treatment of marginal figures translates a certain evolution in post-1990 cinemas, characterised by the passage from collective to individual, the individual's confrontation with the preeminence of her/his community, and the female heroism of everyday life.

According to the dictionary, Le Robert, alterity is a philosophical concept signifying "the characteristic of that which is other". Through the use of cinema your study highlights three figures of alterity, the mad person, the homosexual, the woman. Talk about your approach as well as your choice of films and the characters.

My approach was primarily deconstructionist and feminist, based on the notion of taking voice. The analysis of each marginal character was structured around three films. For the homosexual, the selected films were Dakan by Mohamed Camara, Woubi chéri by Philip Brooks and Laurent Bocahut, and Karmen Gei by Joseph Ramaka Gai. Dakan, whose focus is on two high school students, Sori and Manga, is the first Francophone African homosexual film. By its documentary nature, Woubi cheri gives voice to homosexuals of Abidjan, thus offering a different perspective. As Dakan, Karmen Gei is also a pioneering film in its treatment of a lesbian relationship between Karmen and Angélique.

In terms of madness, I chose Sia, le rêve du python by Dani Kouyaté, Tasuma by Kollo Sanou and Une fenêtre ouverte by Khady Sylla. The characters of Kerfa and Soba in the first two films contrast well with that of Aminta Ngom in the latter film. A contrast that brings out the difference in the treatment and the perception of the madness of men and of women.

In terms of the woman figure, through the image of the woman as leader, I demonstrated that the representation of the African woman as disempowered and victim does not reflect the historical reality of the role of the woman. This explains my choice of the films Moolaadé by Sembène Ousmane, Taafe Fanga by Adama Drabo and Une femme pas comme les autres by Abdoulaye Dao.

The film Sia, le rêve du python by Dani Kouyaté treats the madness of the female and the male character who befriend and help each other. But there is a difference in the representation of the two characters: Sia, designated for sacrifice in order to save the village, and Kerfa, who lives as a hermit, away from society. Briefly describe the conclusions of your comparative study of female and male cinemas as it relates to madness.

Vagabondism and confinement respectively, characterise the treatment of male and female madness. The madman has freedom of movement and speech where as the woman encounters restrictions. If Kerfa enjoys a freedom of speech, Sia is chased away from the village because she spoke out in order to denounce certain lies. Similarly, Aminta Ngom (Une fenêtre ouverte, Khady Sylla), was prohibited from leaving the family household alone. Thus, there is evidence of a different treatment regarding madness as it relates to gender, as female madness is perceived as very disturbing.

Representation of homosexuality in the film Dakan where the two boys Sory and Manga love each other, is treated differently than lesbianism, a theme among others, in the film Karmen Geï. How do you compare the two films? You also make an analysis on the manner in which female and male homosexuality is perceive by society...

In the two films, homosexuality is perceived either as a mental illness for which a cure should be found, or as a menace to society. In Dakan, Manga is sent away to the village to undergo a purification ritual because he would otherwise suffer from madness. In Karmen Geï all the scenes that deal with lesbian relationships take place in the Coumba Castel prison on Gorée island near Dakar. It is as if Dakar had to be spared of this menace that homosexuality constitutes.

The character of Karmen represents what I consider as an innovative alterity, which is a different representation of the woman beyond the role of victim; such as the woman with a fighting spirit as the character of Collé Ardo in Moolaadé or of Kiné in Faat Kiné.

Male and female homosexuality is regarded differently in society because male homosexuality is perceived as being very aggressive whereas female homosexuality is less threatening. A situation which could explain a relative tolerance regarding lesbianism. But certain researchers argue that this relative tolerance is rather the result of the lack of evidence of lesbian practices in Africa as is the case with men through certain initiation rites.

You bring up the notion of a female sensibility in cinema. I too posed this question to African women in cinema--filmmakers, producers, and actresses. I was surprised by the results as they were so diverse. What were the conclusions of your research?

The aim was to define and analyse the characteristics of a female specificity in artistic expression, and in cinema in particular. A woman's perspective does exist in the cinemas of francophone West Africa. This may be observed in the social themes that are dealt with (maternity, the female body, defending their rights, etc.), the preference of women filmmakers for the documentary, and the story constructed around mature female figures. And still others, the female character is already developed at the start of the film, in contrast to their evolution in the works of male directors.

In your book you talk about characteristics of African feminism and also of a feminist cinema. Based on your research how does feminism manifest itself in a cinematographic context?

African cinemas increasingly encounter the ideas of third generation feminists who put into question the universality of the female condition as they take into account specificities such as socio-economic status or the cultural context. This may entail the theme of the female body (the right to control one's own body), as it relates to excision for example. There is also patriarchy which is perceived as an impediment to the development of women. But in contrast to cinema in the west where the female character has access to a fuller existence by leaving her family environment or by taking an adventuresome path, the family and motherhood do not constitute obstacles to the liberation of African women.

What has been the reaction to your research and studies?

For homosexuals, it has been the recognition of their rights to be different, with some evolution towards acceptance and tolerance of their sexual orientation. But this right to be different has not translated into the right to child adoption or inheritance at the death of a partner which is the case in western contexts.

There is definitely a difference between the representation of madness in men and in women, such as vagabondism and confinement respectively. It is a difference that for the woman constitutes an obstacle to taking voice.

In terms of cinema, the treatment of madness and homosexuality (disturbing alterity) clearly shows an evolution which puts the individual at the centre and not the concerns of the community, where this has has always been the case. The contrary could be true, since behind the individual one may find the community there. In terms of innovative alterity, it reveals a representation of the woman not only as an agent of change but also playing the main protagonist of the film. The African woman is no longer restricted to a secondary role or as extra.

Do you envision a English version of the book in the near future?

It is not something that I plan to do immediately, but it depends on the reception of the work. However, presently I am working on my second work which also focuses on African cinemas.

Interview by Beti Ellerson, July 2013.



Sophie Kaboré’s Quest

Black Gay Male Spectatorship in the United States: The Reception of the Films Dakan and Woubi Cheri 

Boukary Sawadogo parle de ses recherches: trois figures d'altérité - le fou, l'homosexuel et la femme dans les cinémas francophones ouest africains

Boukary Sawadogo, professeur à Marlboro College dans l’Etat du Vermont aux États-Unis, nous parle de son nouveau livre « Les cinémas francophones ouest-africains » qui vient de paraître aux éditions l’Harmattan. Entretien par Beti Ellerson

Boukary félicitations pour votre livre, « Les cinémas francophones ouest-africains » qui est en fait adapté de votre thèse de doctorat intitulé « Altérité dérangeante et innovante dans les cinémas francophones ouest-africains de 1990 à 2005 ». Pourquoi ce sujet comme recherche ?

J’ai voulu, à travers cet ouvrage, examiner les changements que connaissent les cinémas africains depuis les années 1990. Ces changements portent sur les domaines esthétique et thématique ainsi que les modes de production et de distribution. Aborder ces mutations sous l’angle de la représentation des figures de la “marge” permet non seulement de mieux appréhender le “centre” ou le discours dominant que constituent les normes sociales, mais aussi de voir en quoi le traitement des figures d’altérité traduit une certaine évolution dans les cinémas post 1990. Ces derniers se caractérisent par le passage du collectif à l’individu dans l’énonciation, l’individu face à la prééminence de sa communauté, et le vécu quotidien à travers l’héroïsme au féminin.

Selon le dictionnaire Le Robert l'altérité est un concept philosophique signifiant « le caractère de ce qui est autre ». Votre étude, par le biais du cinéma, met en exergue trois figures d'altérité : le fou, l'homosexuel et la femme. Parlez-nous de votre approche de recherche, surtout les choix de films et de personnages.

Mon approche a surtout été celles décontructionniste et féministe avec des notions comme la prise de parole. L’analyse de chaque figure d’altérité est construite autour de trois films. Pour l’homosexuel, ce sont les films Dakan de Mohamed Camara, Woubi chéri de Philip Brooks et Laurent Bocahut, et Karmen Gei de Joseph Ramaka Gai. Dakan est le premier film homosexuel africain francophone et il met en scène deux lycéens qui sont Sori et Manga. Par sa nature documentariste, Woubi cheri donne la parole aux homosexuels abidjanais ; offrant ainsi une différente perspective. Comme Dakan, Karmen Gei est aussi un film pionnier à travers le traitement d’une relation lesbienne entre Karmen et Angélique. 

Pour ce qui est du fou, j’ai choisi Sia, le rêve du python de Dani Kouyaté, Tasuma de Kollo Sanou et Une fenêtre ouverte de Khady Sylla. Les personnages de Kerfa et Soba dans les deux premiers films contrastent bien avec celui d’Aminta Ngom dans le troisième film. Un contraste qui fait ressortir la différence dans le traitement et la perception entre la folie au masculin et au féminin. 

En ce qui concerne la femme, j’ai démontré à travers l’image de la femme battante que la représentation de la femme africaine comme impuissante et victime ne reflétait pas la vérité historique du rôle de la femme. C’est ce qui explique mon choix des films Moolaadé de Sembène Ousmane, Taafe Fanga d’Adama Drabo et Une femme pas comme les autres d’Abdoulaye Dao. 

Le film « Sia, le rêve du python » traite justement de la folie chez deux protagonistes, un féminin et l'autre masculin, qui sympathisent et s'entraident. Mais la manière dont « la folie » est représentée diffère entre le personnage féminin Sia, désignée pour le sacrifice pour sauver le village, et celui du Kerfa qui vie en ermit, écarté de la société. D'ailleurs, vous en faites une étude comparative des cinémas aux féminin et masculin. En bref, quelles sont vos conclusions ?

Errance et enfermement caractérisent respectivement le traitement de la folie au masculin et au féminin. Le fou est libre de ses mouvements et  de sa parole alors que la femme fait face à des restrictions. Si Kerfa jouit de la liberté de parole, Sia est chassée du village parce qu’elle avait pris la parole pour dénoncer certains mensonges. On retrouve aussi cette situation avec Aminta Ngom à qui on refuse qu’elle sorte seule de la maison familiale. On a donc un traitement différencié de la folie selon le genre parce que la folie femme perçue comme très dérangeante.

La représentation de l'homosexualité dans le film « Dakan » dans lequel deux jeunes hommes s'aiment est traité différemment que le lesbianisme, un theme parmi d'autres, dans le film Karmen Geï. Vous faites aussi une analyse sur la manière dont l'homosexualité féminine et masculine est aperçue par la société. Comment comparez-vous ces deux films ?

Dans les deux films, l’homosexualité est perçue soit comme une maladie mentale dont il faut chercher le remède ou une menace pour la société. Dans Dakan, Manga est envoyé au village pour un rituel de purification parce qu’il serait atteint de folie. Dans Karmen Geï, toutes les scènes traitant de lesbianisme se passent toutes dans la prison Khoumba Castel sur une île qui proche du centre-ville de Dakar. Tout se passe comme s’il fallait préserver Dakar de cette menace que constitue l’homosexualité. 

Le personnage de Karmen représente ce que je considère comme une altérité innovante, à savoir une différente représentation de la femme autre que celle dans les rôles de victime. C’est une femme battante comme les personnages de Colé Ardo dans Moolaadé ou de Kiné dans Faat Kiné

L’homosexualité masculine et féminine est perçue différemment dans la société parce que la sexualité masculine est perçue comme étant très agressive alors que celle de la femme serait moins menaçante. Une situation qui pourrait expliquer une relative tolérance à l’égard du lesbianisme. Mais certains chercheurs soutiennent que cette relative tolérance résulte plutôt du manque de preuves sur les pratiques lesbiennes en Afrique comme c’est le cas des hommes à travers certains rites d’initiation. 

Vous abordez la notion d'une sensibilité féminine au cinéma. Moi aussi, j'ai posé cette question aux femmes africaines dans le cinéma : réalisatrices, productrices et comédiennes, et les réponses très variés m'ont surprises. Quelles ont été les conclusions de vos recherches ?

Il s’agit de définir et d’analyser les traits de la spécificité féminine dans l’expression artistique, et ceci dans le cinéma en particulier. Il existe bien une perspective féminine dans les cinémas francophones ouest africains. Cela est perceptible à travers la récurrence des thématiques sociales qui sont abordées (maternité, corps de la femme, revendication de ses droits, etc.), la préférence des réalisatrices pour le genre documentaire, et un récit construit autour de personnages féminins matures. En d’autres, le personnage féminin est déjà mature dès le début du film, ce qui contraste avec le processus d’apprentissage dans les œuvres des réalisateurs.

Dans votre livre vous parlez des caractéristiques du féminisme africain et aussi d'un cinéma féministe. Selon votre recherche comment se manifestent-ils dans le contexte cinématographique ?

Les cinémas africains sont de plus en plus traversés par les idées des féministes de la troisième génération, à savoir une remise en question de l’universalité de la condition féminine pour une prise en compte des spécificités comme le statut socio-économique ou le contexte culturel. Il s’agit de la thématique du corps de la femme (le droit à disposer de son corps) à travers l’excision par exemple. Il y a aussi le patriarcat qui est perçu comme un frein à l’épanouissement de la femme. Mais à l’inverse du cinéma occidental où le personnage féminin accède à la l’épanouissement en quittant la famille ou en se prenant le chemin de l’aventure, la famille et la maternité ne constituent pas des obstacles à la libération de la femme africaine.

Quelles sont les réponses à vos recherches et études ?

Pour les homosexuels, c’est la reconnaissance de leur droit à la différence qui passe par l’acceptation et la tolérance à l’égard de leur orientation sexuelle. Mais ce droit à la différence ne revendique pas le droit d’adoption d’enfants ou d’héritage en cas de décès du partenaire comme c’est le cas dans le contexte occidental.

Il y a bien une différence entre la représentation de la folie au masculin et au féminin, à savoir l’errance et l’enfermement. C’est une différence qui se traduit pour la femme par une entrave à la prise de parole.  

Au plan cinématographique, le traitement de la folie et de l’homosexualité (altérité dérangeante), montre clairement une évolution qui met l’individu au centre de l’attention et non pas les préoccupations de la communauté comme cela avait toujours été le cas. L’inverse pourrait également être vrai car derrière l’individu, on peut y voir la communauté. Pour ce qui est de l’altérité innovante, elle révèle une représentation de la femme non seulement comme agent de changement, mais aussi jouant le rôle du principal protagoniste du film. La femme africaine n’est plus cantonnée à la figuration ou aux rôles secondaires. 

Vous envisagez une version du livre en anglais prochainement ?

Ce n’est pas quelque chose que je compte faire dans l’immédiat, mais tout dépendra de la réception de l’ouvrage. Mais je travaille présentement sur mon deuxième ouvrage qui porte également sur les cinémas africains.

Entretien par Beti Ellerson, juillet 2013

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