ⓘ Cinema of Africa

Cinema of Africa

ⓘ Cinema of Africa

African cinema is film production in Africa. It dates back to the early 20th century, when film reels were the primary cinematic technology in use. During the colonial era, African life was shown only by the work of white, colonial, Western filmmakers, who depicted blacks in a negative fashion, as exotic "others". There is no one single African cinema; there are differences between North African and Sub-Saharan cinema, and between the cinemas of different countries.

The cinema of Egypt is one of the oldest in the world. Auguste and Louis Lumiere screened their films in Alexandria and Cairo in 1896 and the first short documentary was filmed by Egyptians in 1907. In 1935 the MISR film studio in Cairo began producing mostly formulaic comedies and musicals, but also films like Kamal Selims The Will 1939. Egyptian cinema flourished in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, considered its golden age. Youssef Chahines seminal Cairo Station 1958 foreshadowed Hitchcocks Psycho, and laid a foundation for Arab film.

The Nigerian film industry is the largest in Africa in terms of value, number of annual films, revenue and popularity. It is also the second largest film producer in the world. In 2016 Nigerias film industry contributed 2.3% of its gross domestic product GDP.


1.1. History Colonial era

During the colonial era, Africa was represented exclusively by Western filmmakers. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Western filmmakers made films that depicted black Africans as "exoticized", "submissive workers" or as "savage or cannibalistic". For example, see Kings of the Cannibal Islands in 1909, Voodoo Vengeance 1913 and Congorilla 1932. Colonial era films portrayed Africa as exotic, without history or culture. Examples abound and include jungle epics based on the Tarzan character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the adventure film The African Queen 1951, and various adaptations of H. Rider Haggards novel King Solomons Mines 1885. Much early ethnography "focused on highlighting the differences between indigenous people and the white civilised man, thus reinforcing colonial propaganda". Marc Allegrets first film, Voyage au Congo 1927 respectfully portrayed the Masa people, in particular a young African entertaining his little brother with a baby crocodile on a string. Yet the Africans were portrayed as human but not equals; a dialogue card for example referred to the movements of a traditional dance as naive. His lover, writer Andre Gide, accompanied Allegret and wrote a book also titled Voyage au Congo. Allegret later made Zouzou, starring Josephine Baker, the first major film starring a black woman. Baker had caused a sensation in the Paris arts scene by dancing in the Revue Negre clad only in a string of bananas.

In the French colonies Africans were prohibited by the 1934 Laval Decree from making films of their own. The ban stunted the growth of film as a means of African expression, political, cultural, and artistic. Congolese Albert Mongita did make The Cinema Lesson in 1951 and in 1953 Mamadou Toure made Mouramani based on a folk story about a man and his dog. In 1955, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra – originally from Benin, but educated in Senegal – along with his colleagues from Le Group Africain du Cinema, shot a short film in Paris, Afrique-sur-Seine 1955. Vieyra was trained in filmmaking at the Institut des hautes etudes cinematographiques IDHEC in Paris, and despite the ban on filmmaking in Africa, was granted permission to make a film in France. Considered the first film directed by a black African, Afrique Sur Seine explores the difficulties of being an African in 1950s France.

Portuguese colonies came to independence with no film production facilities at all, since the colonial government there restricted film-making to colonialist propaganda, emphasizing the inferiority of indigenous populations. Therefore, little thought was given until independence to developing authentic African voices.

In the mid-1930s, the Bantu Educational Kinema Experiment was conducted in an attempt to "educate the Bantu, mostly about hygiene. Only three films from this project survive; they are kept at the British Film Institute.

Before the colonies independence, few anti-colonial films were produced. Examples included Statues Also Die Les statues meurent aussi by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, about European theft of African art. The second part of this film was for 10 years banned in France) Afrique 50 by Rene Vautier, showed anti-colonial riots in Cote dIvoire and in Upper Volta now Burkina Faso.

Also doing film work in Africa at this time was French ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch, controversial with both French and African audiences. Film documentaries such as Jaguar 1955, Les maitres fous 1955, Moi, un noir 1958 and La pyramide humaine 1959. Rouchs documentaries were not explicitly anti-colonial, but did challenge perceptions of colonial Africa and give a new voice to Africans. Although Rouch was accused by Ousmane Sembene and others of seeing Africans "as if they are insects," Rouch was an important figure in the developing field of African film and was the first person to work with Africans, of whom many had important careers in African cinema.

Because most films made prior to independence were egregiously racist in nature, African filmmakers of the independence era – such as Ousmane Sembene and Oumarou Ganda, among others – saw filmmaking as an important political tool for rectifying the erroneous image of Africans put forward by Western filmmakers and for reclaiming the image of Africa for Africans.


1.2. History Post-independence and 1970s

The first African film to win international recognition was Sembene Ousmanes La Noire de. also known as Black Girl. It showed the despair of an African woman who has to work as a maid in France. It won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1966. Initially a writer, Sembene had turned to cinema to reach a wider audience. He is still considered the "father of African cinema". Sembenes native Senegal continued to be the most important place of African film production for more than a decade.

With the creation of the African film festival FESPACO in Burkina Faso in 1969, African film created its own forum. FESPACO now takes place every two years in alternation with the Carthago film festival in Tunisia.

The Pan African Federation of Filmmakers Federation Panafricaine des Cineastes, or FEPACI was formed in 1969 to promote African film industries in terms of production, distribution and exhibition. From its inception, FEPACI was seen as a critical partner organization to the Organisation of African Unity OAU, now the African Union. FEPACI looks at the role of film in the politico-economic and cultural development of African states and the continent as a whole.

Med Hondos Soleil O, shot in 1969, was immediately recognized. No less politically engaged than Sembene, he chose a more controversial filmic language to show what it means to be a stranger in France with the "wrong" skin colour.


1.3. History 1980s and 1990s

Souleymane Cisses Yeelen Mali, 1987 was the first film made by a Black African to compete at Cannes. Cheick Oumar Sissokos Guimba Mali, 1995 was also well received in the west.

Many films of the 1990s, including Quartier Mozart by Jean-Pierre Bekolo Cameroon, 1992, are situated in the globalized African metropolis.

Nigerian cinema experienced a large growth in the 1990s with the increasing availability of home video cameras in Nigeria, and soon put Nollywood in the nexus for West African English-language films. Nollywood produced 1844 movies in 2013 alone.

The last movie theatre in Kinshasa shut down in 2004. Many of the former cinemas were converted to churches. In 2009 the UN refugee agency screened Breaking the Silence in South Kivu and Katanga Province. The film deals with rape in the Congolese civil wars.

However a 200-seat cinema, MTS Movies House, opened in 2016 in Brazzaville. In April 2018, construction began on a new cinema in Brazzaville.

A first African Film Summit took place in South Africa in 2006. It was followed by FEPACI 9th Congress.

The African Movie Academy Awards were launched in 2004, marking the growth of local film industries like that of Nigeria as well as the development and spread of the film industry culture in sub-Saharan Africa.


1.4. History 2000s and 2010s

Contemporary African cinema deals with a wide variety of themes relating to modern issues and universal problems.

Migration and relations between African and European countries is a common theme among many African films. Abderrahmane Sissakos film Waiting for Happiness portrays a Mauritanian city struggling against foreign influences through the journey of a migrant coming home from Europe. Migration is also an important theme in Mahamat Saleh Harouns film Une Saison en France, which shows the journey of a family from the Central African Republic seeking asylum in France. Haroun is part of the Chadian diaspora in France, and uses the film to explore aspects of this diasporan experience.

Afrofuturism is a growing genre, encompassing Africans both on the continent and in the diaspora who tell science or speculative fiction stories involving Africa and African people. Neill Blomkamps District 9 is a well-known example, portraying an alien invasion of South Africa. Wanuri Kahius short film Pumzi portrays the futuristic fictional Maitu community in Africa 35 years after World War III.

Directors including Haroun and Kahiu have expressed concerns about the lack of cinema infrastructure and appreciation in various African countries. However, organizations such as the Changamoto arts fund are providing more resources and opportunities to African filmmakers.


1.5. History Themes

African cinema, like cinema in other world regions, covers a wide variety of topics. In Algiers in 1975, the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers FEPACI adopted the Charte du cineaste africain Charter of the African cineaste, which recognized the importance of postcolonial and neocolonial realities in African cinema. The filmmakers start by recalling the neocolonial condition of African societies. "The situation contemporary African societies live in is one in which they are dominated on several levels: politically, economically and culturally." African filmmakers stressed their solidarity with progressive filmmakers in other parts of the world. African cinema is often seen a part of Third Cinema.

Some African filmmakers, for example Ousmane Sembene, try to give African history back to African people by remembering the resistance to European and Islamic domination.

The African filmmaker is often compared to the traditional griot. Like griots, filmmakers task is to express and reflect communal experiences. Patterns of African oral literature often recur in African films. African film has also been influenced by traditions from other continents, such as Italian neorealism, Brazilian Cinema Novo and the theatre of Bertolt Brecht.

In Mauritania CINEPARC RIBAT AL BAHR is an open air Drive-in Cinema located in Nouakchott, the only one of its kind in Africa. In addition to the projection schedule, the drive-in have a new application iOS and Android provides you with the biggest international movie database in which you can find information such as plot summaries, cast members, production crews, critics reviews, ratings, fan trivia, and much more about movies, series, and all cinematic work.


2. List of cinema by region

North Africa

  • Cinema of Tunisia
  • Cinema of Algeria
  • Cinema of Egypt

West Africa

  • Cinema of Togo
  • Cinema of Liberia
  • Cinema of Niger
  • Cinema of Burkina Faso
  • Cinema of Senegal
  • Cinema of Ghana
  • Cinema of Nigeria
  • Cinema of Mauritania

East Africa

  • Cinema of Ethiopia
  • Cinema of Tanzania
  • Cinema of Sudan
  • Cinema of Kenya
  • Cinema of Djibouti
  • Cinema of Eritrea

Southern Africa

  • Cinema of Madagascar
  • Cinema of Botswana
  • Cinema of South Africa
  • Cinema of Namibia

3. Women Directors

Recognised as one of the pioneers of Senegalese cinema as well as cinema developed on the African continent at large, ethnologist and filmmaker Safi Faye was the first African woman film director to gain international recognition. Fayes first film La Passante The Passerby was released in 1972 and following this, Kaddu Beykat Letter from My Village, the filmmakers first feature film was released in 1975. Faye continued to be active with several released works in the latter half of the 1970s all the way through her latest work, the 1996 drama film Mossane.

Sarah Maldoror, a French filmmaker and the daughter of immigrants from Guadaloupe has been recognised as one of the pioneers of African cinema in the diaspora. She is the founder of Les Griots The Troubadours, the first drama company in France made for actors of African and Afro-Caribbean descent. Originally in the theatre, she went on to study filmmaking at the State Institute of Cinematography of the Russian Federation VGIK, in Moscow. In 1972, Maldoror shot her film Sambizanga about the 1961–74 war in Angola. Surviving African women of this war are the subject of the documentary Les Oubliees The forgotten women, made by Anne-Laure Folly 20 years later. Maldoror also worked as assistant director on The Battle of Algiers 1966 with filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo.

In 1995, Wanjiru Kinyanjui made the feature film The Battle of the Sacred Tree in Kenya.

In 2008, Manouchka Kelly Labouba became the first woman in the history of Gabonese cinema to direct a fictional film. Her short film Le Divorce addresses the impact of modern and traditional values on the divorce of a young Gabonese couple.

Kemi Adetiba, hitherto a music video director, made her directorial debut in 2016 with The Wedding Party. The film, about the events involved in the celebration of an aristocratic wedding, would go on to become the most successful Nollywood film in the history of her native Nigeria.

Wanuri Kahiu is a Kenyan film director, best known for her film From a Whisper, which was awarded Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009. Nearly 10 years after the release of From a Whisper, Kahius film Rafiki, a coming-of-age romantic drama about two teenage girls in he present-day Kenya. The film made headlines, partly for its selection at the Cannes Film Festival but also for its exploration of sexuality that did not sit well with the Kenyan government.

Rungano Nyoni, best known for the internationally acclaimed feature film I am Not a Witch is a Zambian-Welsh director and screenwriter. Born in Zambia and also raised in Wales, Nyoni went on to graduate from the University of Arts in London with a Masters in acting in 2009. Her filmography as a filmmaker whether as a director or/and screenwriter also include the short films: The List 2009, short, Mwansa The Great 2011, short, Listen 2014, short and she was also one of the directors of the international film project Nordic Factory 2014. She has been awarded with a variety of awards including a BAFTA for outstanding debut by a British filmmaker for I am Not a Witch.

In 2019, Azza Cheikh Malainine became the first woman in the history of Mauritanias cinema to direct a fictional film. Her film SOS addresses the impact of modern and Security in Mauritania.


4. Films about African cinema

  • Le Congo, quel cinema! - Director: Guy Bomanyama-Zandu, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Sembene!, Director: Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman, 2015
  • This Is Nollywood, Director: Franco Sacchi, 2007
  • Les Fespakistes, Directors: François Kotlarski, Eric Munch, Burkina Faso/France, 2001
  • La Belle at the Movies - Director: Cecilia Zoppelletto, Kinshasa
  • Spell Reel - Filipa Cesar, Guinea-Bissau
  • Camera dAfrique, Director: Ferid Boughedir, Tunisia/France, 1983

5. Film festivals

  • Silicon Valley African Film Festival, held in San Jose, California
  • Africa in Motion, held in Edinburgh, Scotland in late October
  • The African Film Festival TAFF held in Dallas in late June
  • Pan African Film Festival, held in Los Angeles
  • Sahara International Film Festival FiSahara, held in Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria
  • Rwanda Film Festival Hillywood, held in Rwanda
  • Africa World Documentary Film Festival, held in St Louis
  • African Film Festival, held in New York
  • Bushman Film Festival, held in Abidjan, Cote dIvoire