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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25 September 2022

Falila Gbadamassi: The Woman King, an African perspective (“The Woman King": the epic of the Amazons of Benin revisited by Hollywood)

African women's reflections on The Woman King

Falila Gbadamassi:

The Woman King, an African perspective

"The Woman King": the epic of the Amazons of Benin revisited by Hollywood

"The Woman King" : l'épopée des Amazones du Bénin revisitée par Hollywood 


Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

Falila Gbadamassi gave me her impressions after the press screening:  "This is your magnum opus indeed Viola Davis. From an Oyo and Dahomey descendant, bravo!" 14 Oct, 2022

The blockbuster about this exceptional all-woman regiment arrives in American and French cinemas in September. In Benin, their country of origin, the first images of the film were not unanimously accepted.

The Woman King fiction feature about the famous Beninese Amazons, directed by the American Gina Prince-Bythewood and embodied by her Oscar-winning compatriot Viola Davis, will be released in theaters on September 16 and 28, respectively in the United States and France. Set in 1823 in Dahomey, present-day Benin, in West Africa.

The young Nawi, played by actress Thuso Mbedu, is an orphan raised by a greedy uncle. She later decides to join the regiment of the Agodjiés ("Agoodjiés") or "Minons”, helmed by General Nanisca (Viola Davis). Trained to protect King Guezo (John Boyega) and defend the kingdom, especially against the Portuguese slave traders, the soldiers endure harsh training at the same time are marginalized by society.

Screened as a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), in Canada, The Woman King has already been praised by critics: on Rotten Tomatoes it was rated over 90%. Which is not very reassuring to some Beninese, who on discovering the first images of the film, have expressed reservations. The trailer for The Woman King, released in early July, immediately fueled controversy in the native country of the famous fighters.

“The trailer evoked mixed reactions, Beninese journalist Maurice Thantan said to franceinfo Afrique: “Some expressed pride in the fact that a distinctively Beninese story, about the Agodjiés, was brought to the screen”. As affirmed by the Beninese government on its official website: "an all-woman military regiment which existed until the end of the 19th century in the kingdom of Danxomè (or Dahomey)”. This pathbreaking army is the oeuvre of an equally exceptional woman, Tassi Hangbé, who reigned from 1708 to 1711, posing as her twin brother, King Akaba, killed at war. "Others denounce 'cultural appropriation', Maurice Thantan continues, “fearing that the story will be distorted in the cinematic narrative.” A young Beninese filmmaker, Sèdo Tossou, regrets that “there were no Beninese actors in the cast". On social media [Facebook], he implores "authenticity”, denouncing a film "which uses our history but includes no Beninese in the production… and yet African-Americans themselves complain about cultural appropriation". Sèdo Tossou is also annoyed by the accent of the actors, saying he is "tired of seeing films where the actors imitate a grotesque Nigerian accent (regardless of) the African country where the action is (supposed to) take place". However, this debate which will elude the cinephiles who will see the version of the film dubbed in French, since these issues in the original version, as in the film Black Panther (2018) by Ryan Coogler, are not evident.

The Beninese writer Florent Couao-Zotti reacted in a post on Facebook by describing as "heresy" a controversy surrounding the trailer which, generally, "shows everything (and) at the same time almost nothing". As for the question of "cultural appropriation", the author notes that Americans have always drawn on the cultures of the world "to nourish their inspirations". Especially since, according to the technical adviser for culture at the Beninese Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, The Woman King “represents a film that is the most rooted in the era and history of Africa ever produced by Hollywood, while “black Africa (has not) created much in (this) industry". For its actors and its director, all black women, The Woman King has a symbolic dimension. "It's a film lead by dark-skinned black women," insisted Viola Davis, the co-producer of the film, on the set of Good Morning America [Youtube] where she was invited on September 13, 2022. "When did you see this? Never!", says Viola Davis. Women who have often been told that they are "invisible". "This is my gift to the 6-year-old Viola who was always called black and ugly" in order to tell her "that she matters”.

Throughout the promotion of the film across the Atlantic, The Woman King team pours out, evoking an almost mystical experience with this feature film, which was shot in South Africa. During a touching roundtable discussion composed 100% of women, organized by the American magazine Essence [Twitter], the artists confided that they found strength in the idea of telling "the story of (their) ancestors". This is why Prince-Bythewood wanted to bring together "the diaspora": in addition to the South African Thuso Mbedu and the American Viola Davis, we find on the poster of the feature film Lashana Lynch, who is British (the new 007 in the James Bond franchise) and Ugandan-British Sheila Atim. In the most difficult moments, Lashana Lynch explains that she was motivated by the fact that the Agodjiés could be "proud" of her interpretation.

Moreover, The Woman King, a portrait of warriors, is also a physical feat for the actresses whom the director asked to perform their own stunts and combat scenes. Viola Davis says, in a great burst of laughter, that she did not miss the opportunity to remind Gina Prince-Bythewood that she was 56 years old and that all this exertion could cause her "a heart attack" and kill her, unlike her thirty-something colleagues. "My body has been through hell", just like her colleagues, Viola Davis reiterated in a video clip for the film.

(The best action movie is story and character driven. For #TheWomanKing, which meant that our actors did their own fights and stunts. They gave EVERYTHING to fully embody these warriors)

All of these efforts to bring The Woman King to life will need to be validated by the public and therefore to be a success at the box office. According to Viola Davis, this is essential to demonstrate to Hollywood that a film whose faces on the billboard are black women, is profitable. "This film has to make money, otherwise this conversation (about diversity in cinema) is null and void", Viola Davis insisted in Toronto.

The Woman King cost $50 million (over a million euros), The Hollywood Reporter notes. And the production called on the Beninese, as was the scouting, which took place in Benin, Maurice Thantan confirms. Moreover, the American actress and producer Maria Bello, who pitched the idea for this film to Viola Davis in 2015, discovered the Agodjiés when traveling to the country.

"We are having heated debates whereas all of this is very commercial", Maurice Thantan points out. What is certain is that this controversy reflects the growing interest of Beninese themselves for their illustrious compatriots. “Most (among us), theoretically, those who have finished primary school, have heard of the Amazons at least once, notes the journalist. However, on the continent, we were not aware of their grandeur and their singularity. The fact that Hollywood is interested in the subject gives the Beninese even more reason to appropriate this history which is already part of our identity".

An approach which also comes from "a collective political commitment”: “The government is making large investments in the field of culture and tourism,” Maurice Thantan reiterates. Inaugurated on July 31, on the eve of the celebration of Benin's independence, a giant 30-meter Amazon was put on display in Cotonou, the economic capital. The monument attracts "a huge crowd", according to the Beninese journalist. A museum will soon be dedicated to the Agodjiés.

Since the success of Black Panther and its Dora Milaje, which are inspired by the Amazons, Hollywood seems to have become fascinated by Beninese warriors. Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o, who played a Dora Milaje in Ryan Coogler's film and was tipped for the role of Nawi in The Woman King, directed a documentary on female soldiers, Warrior Women, broadcast in March 2022 in the United States.

Moreover, the planned sequel to Black Panther should further highlight this all-woman regiment that protects the throne of the imaginary African kingdom of Wakanda. For the most impatient, The Woman King promises action and emotion. Will it be enough to convince the most skeptical Beninese? The response will come in a few months when the film arrives in the rare movie theaters of the country. And perhaps, it will be dubbed in Fon, the language of the Amazons, and one of the most widely spoken in Benin.

The Woman King by Gina Prince-Bythewood with Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Hero Fiennes Tiffin and John Boyega

French release: September 28 

19 September 2022

African Diasporas. Germany. The Door of Return. Anna Zhukovets, Kokutekeleza Musebeni

African Diasporas. Germany

The Door of Return

by Anna Zhukovets, Kokutekeleza Musebeni

Germany - Experimental - 30min - 2021

"Do I really have to travel to 2020? Or can I still switch to another year?" Two black women in a hologramm context. The year 2440. Place of residence: Saturn. Racism, sexism and capitalism have been overcome. The destination: Earth. The history of our past echoes into our future. Afro-German, that has been made invisible. The N-word that continues to be uttered in Germany, Germanness and Blackness as a contradiction, an error in the system. “The Door of Return” is an Afro-futuristic documentary. A thought experiment.


« Dois-je vraiment voyager jusqu’en 2020? Où puis-je passer à une autre année?» Deux femmes noires dans un contexte d’hologramme. L’année est 2440. Le lieu est Saturne. Le racisme, le sexisme et le capitalisme ont été vaincus. La destination : la Terre. L’histoire de notre passé résonne dans notre avenir. L’afro-allemand, qui a été rendu invisible. Le mot en N qui continue à être prononcé en Allemagne, la germanité et la négritude comme une contradiction, une erreur dans le système. The Door of Return est un documentaire afro-futuriste. Une expérience de pensée.


The Door Of Return Trailer from Louis Dickhaut on Vimeo.

17 September 2022

Twiggy Matiwana: Family Portrait in the Heartlines Fathers Matter film series (South Africa)

Twiggy Matiwana
Family Portrait
in the Heartlines Fathers Matter film series (South Africa)

I know how it feels not to have a father. My contribution is to allow the narrative to transform to each cast member to apply honesty to all those emotions in a visual form.


Twiggy Matiwana is the director of Family Portrait, one of the films in the Heartlines Fathers Matter film series. She has won international awards for her work and is adept at both long and short film direction. She believes that this film series has an important message for South Africa. 

The six Heartlines Fathers Matter films will be aired weekly on SABC 2 at 8:30pm every Saturday, starting from 17 September 2022.

Read interview @ 

Twiggy Matiwana on directing Family Portrait | Fathers Matter | Heartlines

16 September 2022

Recent films. Mélyou Akré-Loba: Soirée de WOW

Soirée de WOW
by Mélyou Akré-Loba 

YouTube description of the official release of Soirée de WOW:
You're probably wondering why you should watch this movie?
Well here are 3 reasons to do so:
1- This film is chic and fun
2- It talks about us, young people, about the things we experience
3- To support Ivorian cinema and encourage young actors
Don't forget to get your ticket and don't come alone


When a guy wants something so much, how far is he willing to go? Malick is good looking, popular, but has a character that is rebellious and domineering. Hiding his loneliness in party life, he invites his entire class to a private party at his house. This evening, Malick’s goal is to win over Sandra, a prudish girl from his campus who has come clandestinely with her cousin Laura. The atmosphere will not be without unexpected twists. Chill, crush, fight, intrigue... Here is the cocktail that will be served at this evening not so Wow!

Sortie officielle du film “Soirée de WOW” sur YouTube
Tu te demandes probablement pourquoi voir ce film ? Et bien voici 3 raisons pour le voir :
1- Ce film est chic et fun
2- Il parle de nous , les jeunes , des choses que nous vivons
3- Pour soutenir le Cinéma Ivoirien et encourager les jeunes acteurs
N’oublie pas de prendre ton ticket et ne viens surtout pas seul(e)
Quand un mec veut quelque chose à tout prix , jusqu’où est-il prêt à aller ? Malick est beau gosse, populaire mais a un caractère rebelle et dominateur. Cachant sa solitude dans la vie de fête, il invite toute sa classe à une soirée privée chez lui. Lors de cette soirée, Malick s’est donné pour objectif de conquérir Sandra, une jeune fille prude de son campus venu clandestinement avec sa cousine Laura. L’ambiance ne sera pas sans rebondissement. Chill, crush, bagarre, intrigue...Voici le cocktail qui sera servi à cette soirée pas si Wow que ça! 

15 September 2022

African Diasporas. Switzerland. Je Suis Noires | Becoming A Black Woman. Un/a film de/by Rachel M'Bon & Juliana Fanjul


Je Suis Noires | Becoming A Black Woman
un/a film de/by Rachel M'Bon & Juliana Fanjul

- Au cinéma | In theaters: 12 octobre 2022

- Production year: 2022

- Country: Switzerland

- Length: 50mn

Source: Dossier de presse AKKA Films:

June 2020. Thousands of Swiss citizens, white and black, take to the streets of Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne to denounce racial discrimination. Switzerland, the cradle of humanitarian law and a country with no colonies, discovers its dark side and its blacks. In this context, Rachel, a Swiss-Congolese journalist, goes in search of her black identity by interviewing her peers. They are women citizens, standing at the intersection of oppressions, fighting to free themselves from the weight of their skin color. All of them struggle to break free from confining stereotypes and try to love themselves by making their dual Swiss and black identities coexist. As an allegory the film intertwines the transformation of a country, and the trajectory of the narrator and her sisters. It leads each one to look at oneself in the reflection of the other, to heal both the individual and collective narratives.

Juin 2020. Des citoyens suisses, des blancs et des noirs, envahissent par milliers les rues de Genève, Zurich et Lausanne pour y dénoncer les discriminations raciales. C’est la première fois que les récits des minorités visibles émergent. Les femmes noires occupent les premiers rangs, elles dénoncent le racisme systémique et contrarient l’image d’Épinal de la Suisse humanitaire perçue comme un îlot de paix et de prospérité.

Difficile dans un pays qui a fait de l’irréprochabilité son dogme, de s’attaquer à sa part d’ombre, de révéler ses liens avec le colonialisme. Compliqué de faire entendre que l’héritage de ce passé colonial alimente encore aujourd’hui les relents racistes profondément ancrés dans l’inconscient collectif.

Avec la cinéaste Juliana Fanjul, la narratrice et protagoniste Rachel M’Bon questionne son pays, des femmes dans la rue, un historien, une alliée politicienne, un collectif, et elle « ouvre » une porte sur six protagonistes. Chacune d’entre elles a un parcours qui fait écho à son propre cheminement vers l’affranchissement.

Je suis noire - Bande-annonce


 Also see: Être noir.e en Suisse - Dans la tête d’un noir

14 September 2022

Fatou Cissé: Hommage à son père, Souleymane Cissé | A daughter's homage to her father, Souleymane Cissé

Fatou Cissé:
Hommage à son père Souleymane Cissé
A daughter's homage to her father Souleymane Cissé

The filmmaker’s story, as told by his daughter, relates the testimonies of his friends, family, and his close associates. The film traces the childhood, youth and work of filmmaker Souleymane Cissé, his relationship with his family, colleagues and friends.

Ce film retrace l'enfance, la jeunesse et le travail du réalisateur malien Souleymane Cissé. Son rapport avec sa famille, ses collègues et ses amis.

L'histoire d'un cinéaste racontée par sa fille. À travers le témoignage de ses amis, de sa famille et de ses proches collaborateurs, ce film retrace la vie de Souleymane Cissé de son enfance à aujourd'hui.

Excerpt of the interview by Falila Gbadamassi (Franceinfo) with the filmmaker duo of the Cissé family, Fatou and Souleymanne Cissé - Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

Franceinfo: What inspired you to make this documentary about your father? Did you think that he had not been given enough recognition?

Fatou Cissé: No, I just wanted to pay tribute to him now, during his lifetime. After that one thing led to another. I didn't imagine that the film would come to Cannes, for example. Which is a very good thing!

Franceinfo: The documentary is in Bambara. It is therefore aimed first of all at Malians. What did you want to tell them about your father?

Fatou Cissé: I find it natural for us to speak in Bambara. It is the mother tongue. I wanted the Malian population, then everyone else, to really understand who he is. I touch on his childhood, his relationships with his family, his connections with his colleagues. I wanted people to know the man behind the celebrity. Furthermore, I work with him, so I know the difficulties he encountered in the exercise of his profession.

Franceinfo: Souleymane Cissé, it was your big brother who introduced you to cinema...

Souleymane Cissé: When I was 5, I would cry so that he would take me to the cinema house, which he did. And something clicked. Growing up, I was moved by a curiosity that established itself within me. I wanted to see and understand, an obsession that cinema allowed me to satisfy.

Franceinfo: For your father, cinema is a family affair, because his brother financed his films and he discussed his film projects with his family. But this profession has at the same time separated him from his children. How did you cope with this situation?

Fatou Cissé: It's true that cinema has always been his passion, which goes hand in hand with sacrifices. He was sometime away from his family but he always had his heart with us. We're not going to blame him for that. And then, we must not forget that when they were younger, they were pioneers who fought, in their own way, for their country. His objective never changed and we accepted it.

Souleymane Cissé: as I say, it's a crazy job. When we are in it, it is all that we think about. I have no regrets except having been a dad who was never there, and for that, I apologize to my children.

Franceinfo: Your film is a tribute to your father, but it is also about your mother, Dounamba Dany Coulibaly, who is now deceased...

Fatou Cissé: She died while I was shooting the film. Also, speaking of Den Muso (The Young Girl, 1975) which was my father's first feature film, it was perfectly normal to put the spotlight on the main actress, my mother.

Souleymane Cissé: when Den Muso came out, I was imprisoned and her mother gave birth to Fatou. It was after that that I got back my freedom and did all that I could do. When she was a kid, every time I left, there were problems. There was an incredible attachment that we share and that she won't dare tell you about. When Fatou says that she pays homage to me, I feel, however, that it is to the whole Cissé family that she pays homage. In this film, she talks about her mother, my mother, everyone.

Extrait d’entretien de Falila Gbadamassi (Franceinfo) avec le duo de réalisateurs de la famille Cissé, Fatou et Souleymane Cissé)

Franceinfo : qu'est-ce qui vous a poussée à faire ce documentaire sur votre père ? Vous trouviez qu'on ne lui rendait pas assez hommage ?

Fatou Cissé : non, je voulais tout simplement lui rendre hommage maintenant, de son vivant. Après, les choses se sont enchaînées. Je ne savais pas que le film viendrait à Cannes, par exemple. Ce qui est une très bonne chose.

Fatou Cissé : Le documentaire est en bambara. Il s'adresse donc d'abord aux Maliens. Que vouliez-vous leur dire à propos de votre père ?

Fatou Cissé : je trouve naturel que l’on parle en bambara. C’est la langue maternelle. Je voulais que la population malienne, puis les autres, comprennent réellement qui il est. J’effleure son enfance, ses relations avec sa famille, ses liens avec ses collègues… Je voulais qu'on sache qui est l’homme derrière la célébrité. En plus de cela, je travaille avec lui, donc je connais les difficultés qu'il a rencontrées dans l'exercice de son métier. 

Souleymane Cissé, c'est votre grand-frère qui vous fait découvrir le cinéma...

Souleymane Cissé : quand j’avais 5 ans, je pleurais pour qu’il m’emmène au cinéma. Ce qu’il a fait. Cela a été un déclic. En grandissant, j’étais mu par une curiosité qui s’est installée en moi. Je voulais voir et comprendre, une obsession que le cinéma m’a permis de satisfaire. 

Pour votre père, le cinéma est une histoire de famille, parce que son frère a financé ses films et qu'il discutait de ses projets cinématographiques avec sa famille. Mais ce métier l'a en même temps éloigné de ses enfants. Comment avez-vous géré cette situation ?  

Fatou Cissé : c’est vrai que le cinéma a toujours été sa passion. Ce qui rime avec sacrifices. Il était parfois loin de sa famille mais toujours de cœur avec nous. Nous n’allons pas le blâmer pour cela. Et puis, il faut dire que plus jeunes, ils étaient des pionniers qui se battaient, à leur manière, pour leur pays. Son objectif n'a jamais changé et nous l'avons accepté. 

Souleymane Cissé : comme je le dis, c'est un métier de fou. Quand on y est, on ne pense qu'à ça. Je n'ai pas de regrets sinon celui d'avoir été un papa qui n'était jamais là et pour cela, je présente des excuses à mes enfants. 

Fatou Cissé : Votre film est un hommage à votre père mais il concerne aussi votre mère, Dounamba Dany Coulibaly, aujourd'hui disparue...

Fatou Cissé : elle est décédée pendant que je tournais le film. Par ailleurs, en parlant de Den Muso (La Jeune fille, 1975) qui est le premier long métrage de mon père, c'était tout à fait normal de mettre en avant son actrice principale, ma mère. 

Souleymane Cissé : quand Den Muso est sorti, j'ai été emprisonné et sa mère a donné naissance à Fatou. C'est après cela que j'ai recouvré la liberté et que j'ai fait tout ce que j'ai pu faire. Quand elle était gosse, chaque fois que je partais, c'était des problèmes. Il y avait un incroyable attachement que nous partageons et dont elle n'osera pas vous parler. Quand Fatou dit qu'elle me rend hommage, je crois plutôt que c'est à toute la famille Cissé qu'elle rend hommage. Dans ce film, elle parle de sa maman, de ma maman, de tout le monde. 

13 September 2022

International Images Film Festival (IIFF) 2022 presents "Women at Crossroads" in partnership with Internationales Frauen Film Fest Dortmund+Cologne (IFFF)

International Images Film Festival (IIFF) 2022 presents "Women at Crossroads" in partnership with Internationales Frauen Film Fest Dortmund+Cologne (IFFF)

2022 12 Sept

ICAPA Trust's African Women Filmmaker's Hub is excited to announce the 19th edition of the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF). For this event, IIFF has partnered with the German women's film festival, IFFF, held annually in Dortmund and Cologne. IFFF is interested to cultivate contacts on the African continent and to activate these contacts through concrete projects. IIFF in Zimbabwe and IFFF in Germany recognize the many artistic, content-related, and political intersections between the two festivals.

Founded in 2002, IIFF is an annual festival held in Harare that exhibits films that portray a woman in at least one major role, thus providing the opportunity for African women to observe female characters being active, displaying agency, and impacting positively on their own lives and communities. The festival is hosted each year by the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa (ICAPA) Trust.

IFFF was founded in the 1980s and is one of the largest and most important women's film festivals worldwide. It aims to showcase the work of women directors in their richness of narrative styles as well as aesthetic and political attitudes. Alternating annually between Cologne and Dortmund, it presents a program of 100 films from 30 countries, with an average of 65 events at up to 7 venues.

IIFF 2022's theme "Women at Crossroads" exhibits films that examine the difficult decisions that women must make in the modern world and how they might do it in the most effective way for both themselves and society, especially in a post-Covid era marked by growing patriarchal authoritarianism in many parts of the world.

ICAPA director, Tsitsi Dangaremmbga said IIFF, is eager to use the occasion to increase public awareness of these challenges. Regarding this new media collaboration, she stated:
" IIFF is intentional about providing a platform for African women to tell their stories. This is crucial because they are faced with difficult choices and it's important to talk about these issues and. bring that into the public consciousness. That’s why we are excited to work with partners like IFFF who share in this vision and will help us bring our message and our festival to audiences across Africa and the world.”
Dr. Maxa Zoller, Director of the Internationales Frauen Film Fest Dortmund and Cologne said:
“Solidarity between women globally is more important than ever! I am thrilled to be collaborating with this wonderful festival, which - like ours - is especially concerned with providing role models for girls and women on and off the screen."
For more information contact Icapa Trust at or call +263 77 4717 190 and IFFF Dortmund+Köln at

Doumbia Amadou Halimatou lauréate : Grand Prix clap Ivoire 2022 - ''Weyboro''

Doumbia Amadou Halimatou
Grand Prix clap Ivoire 2022 - ''Weyboro''

Doumbia Amadou Halimatou

Fiction - Niger - Short

Doumbia Amadou Halimatou of Niger, director of the film ''Weyboro'', is laureate of the Grand Prix Kodjo Ebouclé 2022, prize for the best film of the festival Clap Ivoire, which is dedicated to short films.

Doumbia Amadou Halimatou du Niger, réalisatrice du film ''Weyboro'', est laureate du Grand Prix Kodjo Ebouclé 2022, le prix du meilleur film du Clap Ivoire.

Weyboro" relates the dangers of female excision. The rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood, according to tradition, is practiced in catastrophic hygienic conditions, without medical assistance, at the risk and peril of the attendantss and the families who are aware of the dangers.

« Weyboro » évoque les dangers de l’excision. Le rituel du passage de la jeune fille à la femme, selon la tradition, se fait dans des conditions hygiéniques catastrophiques, sans assistances médicales, au risque et péril des matrones et des familles qui sont conscientes des dangers.

12 September 2022

Alice Diop: “we will no longer be silent”. Lion d’Argent, Grand Prix du Jury de la Mostra de Venise - In the footsteps of Euzhan Palcy

Alice Diop
La Biennale di Venezia - 79
Leone d'argento
Gran premio della giuria
In the footsteps of Euzhan Palcy
Acceptance speech

This is a history of transmission, of sorority, of passing on the torch, with this very women-centered film, and I am very touched by it…When I was filming Saint-Omer, there is a book that I kept at my bedside by the poet Audre Lorde called Sister Outsider that I read every evening, which gave me strength. She says in speaking about Black women, ‘our silence will not protect us’, and I would like to say tonight, that we will no longer be silent.

Saint-Omer Synopsis

Rama, a novelist in her thirties, attends the trial of Laurence Coly at the court of Saint-Omer. The defendant is accused of killing her 15 month-old daughter, abandoning her on a beach in northern France at the rising tide. From this story Rama would like to write a contemporary adaptation of the ancient myth of Medea. But during the course of the trial, nothing goes as planned. About to become a mother herself, ultimately, this closed-session proceeding brings into relief her own relationship to motherhood.

10 September 2022

Souad Houssein. - Expert en cinéma des pays d'Afrique francophone / Specialist in the cinemas of Francophone African countries - Interview par/by Acafou Zacharie Diaspora News Sept 2022

Souad Houssein
Expert en cinéma des pays d'Afrique francophone / Specialist in the cinemas of Francophone African countries
Interview par/by Acafou Zacharie - Diaspora News. Sept 2022 

Français ci-après

During her long, nearly 25-year career with the International Organization of the Francophone (OF), Madame Souad Houssein, Franco-Djiboutian, specialist in the cinemas of Francophonie African countries, has led and coordinated projects for the development and promotion of cinemas of the countries of the South. Her mission is to manage a funding mechanism for aid in film production (Fonds image de la Francophonie), to support the development of the capacities of professionals and to contribute to improving the visibility of the films that are financed. With a strong track record, she recently embarked upon a vast project: the creation of a pan-African audiovisual and cinema observatory (OPAC). 

Diaspora-News: You have built most of your career on the development of cinema, specifically of African countries. Where does your passion for cinema come from and your desire to work towards its development ?

I am one of those people who find their passion and their cause through their profession. Over the years, I discovered that passion took on the colors of activism. I think that this commitment comes from the context of financial austerity in which African cinema found itself at the time, in the 2000s, and which lasted for many years. It is in this context, uncertain and arduous for professionals, constrained in their artistic activity, that shaped this desire to contribute to the development of this sector. An area which is highly important and strategic for a continent which has long been condemned to live through the culture of another. Moreover, I knew that it would be possible to continue my journey because we can all work at our own level for the development of African cinema. To the extent that the development of the cinematographic industry is the fruit of the combined efforts of the precepts of those concerned: the States, the private institutions, organizations, foundations, donors, civil society. For my part, I have always wanted to be engaged in one way or another towards the empowerment and professionalization of African cinema.

D-N: How did the Pan-African Observatory Project for audiovisual and cinema (OPAC) come into being? Could you highlight the main points?

S.H.: It has been nearly five years since the idea of creating a Pan-African Audiovisual and Cinema Observatory germinated in my mind, an observatory which, like the European Audiovisual Observatory (, could provide a better understanding of the realities, potentialities and trends of the African moving-image markets continent-wide. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the schedule for this project, as with many other projects. Finally, it was not until 2022 that I decided to engage in this adventure in cooperation with my partners: Ms. Marie-Paule Babli, lawyer, Mr. Jean Cressant, audiovisual and cinema specialist, and Mr. Servais Locko, multidisciplinary manager.

To describe the project, I would say that the Pan-African Audiovisual and Cinema Observatory (OPAC) is a tool for sustainable cultural development whose mission will be to collect, select, process, analyze and restore relevant data on the cinema and audiovisual markets of the 55 African countries. The OPAC, through its digital platform, will provide information and data, available for online consultation (free or paid). The Observatory aims to serve in particular as a tool to facilitate decision-making in order to provide a better understanding, especially, of the evolution, trends, production, distribution and broadcasting activities of the cinematographic and audiovisual industries in African countries. In the long run, its purpose is to contribute to the economic growth of the African audiovisual sector by attracting private and public capital and encouraging States to put in place policies favorable to the development of an African moving image industry. The data collected will also make it possible to guide the direction of training of personnel interested in this sector of activity. We are convinced that the OPAC will be able to act as an indicator and contribute to a radical change in the manner in which this sector is appreciated--though having many strengths, it is still considered to be risky and budget-consuming.

D-N: Madame Houssein, why create an observatory project now? Why is it necessary?

S.M.: It is true that there are several ways to increase the economic potential of a sector, our response and our contribution is situated at the level of "access to information" which is a crucial prerequisite for all sustained investments. To us it seemed pertinent to concentrate on the "Observatory" response, in order to contribute to breaking down the barriers and the roadblocks which very often penalize this industry said to be “costly” and uncertain. It is also true that neither the quality of a work, nor the experience of a director can guarantee the success of a cinematographic work or a television series.

Moreover, according to the study by UNESCO in 2021, entitled "The African Film Industry: trends, challenges and opportunities for growth" [], in spite of the progress of the African cinematographic and audiovisual sectors, they remain on the whole under-utilized or even untapped. This study made it possible to have an idea of the overall African cinema and audiovisual situation and to have access to regional and national mappings of African cinema. This edifying information has changed our perception of these sectors, by rendering them their own realities, showing their real significance and their own perspectives of their evolution. It is a rich source of information and a precursory in the implementation of an observatory.

For me, the context for laying the foundations of an observatory is favorable because of the material itself. In fact, culture is a strategic industry economically as well as in terms of job opportunities, its benefits are undeniable, particularly in terms of economic aspirations for young people. Moreover, I think that the current period is opportune because African cinema is in full emergence and an observatory could serve as a catalyst accelerating its evolution, and finally the public mind set is ready to receive images coming from Africa. According to the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), African cinema has a wide margin of progress. In fact, FEPACI expects that this sector could bring in nearly 20 million euros in revenue per year in the future and generate around 20 million jobs. Indeed, the cultural and creative sectors are key drivers for the economies of all countries and are among the areas experiencing the fastest growth. Furthermore, the cinema and audiovisual sectors have an additional advantage, which is its high job-creating potential. These employment opportunities for African youth are all the more invaluable for us since, according to the United Nations, the under-25 age group will experience strong growth by 2050 and will reach 1.24 billion people, 50% of the total population of the African continent. Finally, even if all African countries do not have support structures for the cinema and audiovisual sector and are far from actually being some kind of industry, African production has nonetheless attained a certain maturity and know-how which have contributed to an increase in audience within and outside the continent, primarily, due to digital platforms.

Moving-image production in Africa, which is now strong both quantitatively and qualitatively, is gaining recognition, being sought after, welcomed, and is now internationalized, due in particular to festivals and digital platforms. As a further matter, within the reach of a click, it has brought to the forefront a cinematographic and audiovisual diversity never achieved before. It is also on this continent that the 2nd cinematic power in the world, Nigeria, after India and before the United States, is found. The evolution of attitudes has come a long way, breaking down the last psychological barriers which still yesterday could hinder African cinema’s push towards the international landscape. African cinema is no longer considered a UFO or a folkloric curiosity, it is a creation on its own merits that has taken its place in the world market. Today audiences around the world are ready to see and enjoy films where, for example, the hero and the entire cast are of African origin, as was demonstrated by the film entitled 'Black Panther' made in 2018, which generated millions of dollars globally in a few weeks. Finally, civil society has also made worthwhile contributions to the building of African cinema, both those from Africa or from the diaspora. For instance, the two African pavilions at the Cannes Film Festival, which for the past two years have been dedicated to the promotion of African cinema, allowing professionals to establish business relationships, it's a sign! And both, [she adds with a smile], are run by women from the African diaspora. It is for all these reasons that we have decided to opt for the "observatory" solution and the creation of a digital platform whose purpose is to provide the most reliable data possible in order to encourage all structures to invest in these sectors. This is what we are proposing.

D-N: What is your perception of African cinema in light of the digital revolution?

S.H.: It is a fact that cinematographic and audio-visual creation in Africa has become democratized and new digital technologies have played a major role in it, both in terms of production or distribution. Similarly, African film and audiovisual production has become internationalized. The advent of digital platforms has been a real developer of cinematographic talent for Africa, which is still poorly equipped with cinemas houses. It has been a godsend. It is the new digital technologies that have allowed this qualitative leap and this intense enthusiasm by young people for these métiers considered yesterday as elitist. The digital has made it possible to produce more, to have better experiences, and to be more visible. It has been a means to develop talent, proficiency, to stimulate competition. To the extent that, having emerged from a certain marginalization, African cinema is increasingly exposed to creative experiences on a global scale; and therefore is called upon to develop more, to structure itself while at the same time attracting young people who have a desire to share its vision of the world through cinema and the audiovisual.

Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

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