Cilia Sawadogo, Najwa Tlili and Nadia Zouaoui are among the early African women filmmakers to make Canada their home to work and live. As a young university student Cilia, of German-Burkina heritage, came to Quebec to study, now decades later she is a professor at Concordia University where she teaches animation cinema. Najwa has made an important contribution to Quebecois screen culture, bringing a perspective that highlights the evolving diversity of Canadian society. She was especially active at the Vues d'Afrique International Festival, an institution that has been at the forefront in promoting the African and Creole cultures of Canada. Nadia Zouaoui, who has lived in Quebec since the late 1980s, studied at universities there and has made documentaries for the NFB, radio Canada and Aljazeera. In her co-directed film, Nadia’s Journey (2006), she returns to Kabylie, the region of Algeria where she grew up. The Islam of my Childhood (2019) is a road-movie of sorts, relates the devastating impact of political Islam on the traditional cultures and religions of Algeria.
Other women have followed their footsteps, migrating from diverse African and Caribbean countries, as well as navigating between European African diasporas or connecting within the global francophonie. For instance, Dorothy A. Atabong from Cameroon studied in the U.S. and Canada and navigates between the two locations. Also Djiboutian, Lula Ali Ismaïl, based in Canada, has a foot in three continents, in Paris, Montreal and on diverse locations in Africa. Malagasy cultural producer Tiana Rafidy followed a similar transnational trajectory. Djia Mambu, who has since returned to Belgium, spent ten years in Canada during which time she initiated the Ottawa-based VisuElles Film Festival in 2017. Sierra-Leonean-Canadian Ngardy Conteh George uses her camera to tell stories of the Africa and the Diaspora. The co-directed film The Flying Stars, focuses on amputee soccer in post-war Sierra Leone. With the documentary Into the Light, Togolese filmmaker Gentille M Assih focuses her camera on the empowering life stories of Quebecois women of West African origin, as they attempt to break out of the cycle of domestic violence. Tunisian-born Najwa Tlili brought this phenomenon to light decades before with her film Rupture. She had this to say in to me in an interview in 1997: "Rupture is a film that addresses the problem of conjugal violence lived by Arab women in Canada. While doing this film about conjugal violence, I discovered that the complexities of this inquiry are tied to the circumstances of immigration, and the host country and its culture..."
Notes continuing…by Beti Ellerson
Following is a selection of articles focusing on women of the African Diaspora of Canada published on the African Women in Cinema Blog:
Gentille M Assih - Sortir de l’ombre | Into the Light
Cilia Sawadogo - Presidentes des jurys FESPACO 2019 : Séries télévisuelles et de cinéma d’animation | TV serials and animation
Fespaco 2019 @CNA : Dhalinyaro by/de Lula Ali Ismail (Djibouti) – Village Cinéma Numérique Ambulant | “Digital Mobile Cinema”
IIFF 2018 - International Images Film Festival for Women : Sound of Tears, Dorothy A. Atabong, Cameroon/Canada
LAFF 2015 - Nadia Zouaoui : Post-9/11: Fear, Anger and Politics | Peur, Colère et Politique
FESPACO 2015 - Rachèle Magloire and/et Chantal Regnault : Deported | Expulsés
World Premiere: “The Flying Stars” by Ngardy Conteh George (Sierra Leone-Canada) and Allan Tong – 14 November 2014
Femmes de cinéma, cinéma de femmes | Women of cinema, cinemas of women de/by Djia Mambu, Africiné, Montréal
FESPACO 2013 - Lula Ali Ismaïl : Laan | Les Copines | Girlfriends
Tiana Rafidy: Lorety sy Mardy
Najwa Tlili: Reflections on her film "Rupture"
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