The Africa Institute, in collaboration with the June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive, present a film program titled Decolonizing African Cinema: A History. Launching October 21, this program seeks to situate influential works of African cinema in relation to contemporary films, and highlight the trends and developments that have defined the critical conversations and debates around this cinema.
Decolonizing African Cinema: A History will examine the influences that have shaped the foundations of African ideas about cinema. By positioning these perspectives in a broader context, the program discusses how various interventions have been informed throughout history. Presenting a curated selection of films and critical perspectives–which echo across contemporary debates on filmmaking throughout Africa and the African diaspora– the program will explore the impact of the past on present-day African cinema, with its various intersections, continuities and discontinuities.
Structured over four webinar symposiums, each session will focus on a theme to be explored by expert discussants. Each symposium will be accompanied by a complementary set of films for both essential and recommended viewing. The theme of each symposium provides a framework for the discussions and creates a dialogue around the foundations of African cinema and its significance for contemporary and ongoing debates.
The symposiums are open to the public and will be of particular interest to students of African cinema. Both The Africa Institute and the June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive acknowledge the lack of knowledge and resources for the study of African cinema in Africa and hope this program serves as an accessible contribution to the field. There is also a recognized need for a reframing of contemporary debates, inviting and encouraging new perspectives that prioritize issues pertinent to the African cultural economy and its future.
Week 01 | Foundations of African Cinema
This symposium will examine the ideas that led to the emergence of African cinema. Acknowledging that ‘African Cinema’ first received critical global recognition through themes of cultural identity, national independence movements, and Pan-African solidarity, the discussants will examine the vision and work of those referred to as the ‘Pioneers of African Cinema’. These notions will also be considered in the context of contemporary debates around filmmaking in Africa and the African diaspora; and in relation to current perspectives on cinema that incorporate concepts such as ‘Black Africa’, ‘Africa North of the Sahara’, Afrofuturism, Afrosurrealism, and the meaning of cinema in the twenty-first century. The films will be made available for free streaming via the Africa Institute website, between 21 – 23 October.
Moderator: Gaston Kabore
Discussants: Mamadou Diouf, Lindiwe Dovey
- Afrique sur Seine (Paulin Soumanou Viyera, 1955, 21mins)
- Le Retour d’un aventurier/The Adventurer’s Return (Moustapha Allassanne, 1966, 34 mins)
- Al-ard/The Land (Youssef Chahine, 1970, 130 mins)
Week 02 | Cinema Cultures in Africa
‘Cinema Cultures in Africa’ focuses on the ways in which the moving image has been encountered and used by African people throughout time. Experiences that frame the first representations of Africa and Africans on film will be examined through the perspective of audiences, including the reception of ‘silent cinema’, ‘colonial films’ of the Bantu Education Kinema Experiment (BEKE) in the east and central Africa, and the Kuxa Kanema national cinema movement in Mozambique. Noting the precedents in still photography and the use of the camera in the pseudo-discipline sciences of the ‘explorer’, the experience of the spread of ‘cinema’ in Africa will be given significance as a formative moment in the African experience of cinema.
At the core of this symposium is the question of ‘Africa’ and the notion of ‘national cinema’ emerging from colonialism into the post-independence era. Among the central concerns are the responses of African filmmakers as cultural producers to the historical ambiguities and challenges. It is in this regard that a pivotal question will be placed at the heart of the discussion: what might be the tradition or heritage informing cinema cultures in African societies?
The films will be made available for free streaming via the Africa Institute website between 28 – 30 October.
Moderator: Pedro Pimenta
Discussants: Jihan El Tahri, Jude Akudinobi
- Ali Zaoua (Nabil Ayouch, 2000, 99 mins)
- Mapantsula (Oliver Schmitz, 1987, 104 mins)
Registration for week 02 will be available here.
Week 03 | Historicizing the Decolonizing Principle
‘Historicizing the Decolonizing Principle’ focuses on the need for a critical intervention into contemporary debates on African cinema, including its transnational global reality, its intersections across popular cultures, and its place within the pervasive global mediascape and networks. This symposium focuses on crucial ideas around the articulation of ‘African cinema’ and its practices, with the intent to invite new perspectives that prioritize issues pertinent to the African cultural economy and its future. The African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want is an example of a defining influence in relation to perceived futures of the cultural economy, as it provides a historically informed vision for Africa, its people and their cultures, against which to examine African cinema.
African independence, development, and sovereignty are the focal points of this discussion. Discussants will examine how Africans have been engaged in African cinema in the decades of post-independence, how they have provided new ways of experiencing the moving image while highlighting issues of Africa’s decolonization process, and the impact – nationally and globally – of African filmmaking in terms of challenging and redefining perceptions, structures, and discourses.
This symposium will provide an analysis of various approaches to African cinema and cinema in general. The parameters of theoretical and aesthetic considerations may also be explored to frame a rationale for the various perspectives on African cinema. The films will be made available for free streaming via the Africa Institute website between 4 – 6 November.
Moderator: Aboubakar Sonogo
Discussants: Mahen Bonetti, Keith Shiri
1. Camp Thiaroye/Camp de Thiaroye (Thierno Faty Sow and Ousmane Sembene, 1988, 157 mins)
2. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966, 120 mins)
Registration for week 03 will be available here.
Week 04 | Continuity and Change
Contemporary expressions of ‘African cinema’ showcase a diversity of trends, aesthetic preferences, and audience experiences. This symposium will delve into films being produced at this historical moment, reflecting on how the aspirations of the ‘pioneers of African cinema’ are being contested, reinforced, or realized. The discussants analyze and compare the films’ aesthetic approaches, storytelling techniques, and a diverse range of contemporary concerns for filmmakers.
The symposium ‘Continuity and Change’ will consider the ways in which the archetypes and expressions of the past remain relevant to the historical continuum of African cinema, and will address questions like, ‘what is emerging as “new” around the idea of the ‘decolonizing principle’?’.
In focusing on the reframing of contemporary debates, with aim of opening the conversation to allow for new perspectives, the discussion will also highlight issues of national and Pan-African cinema, the significance of the prevailing media economy including Netflix, ‘donor films’, ‘auteur cinema’, Nollywood, the established institutional sources of production finance and support, ‘new technology’ and its potential and challenge for contemporary African film production and cinema. The films will be made available for free streaming via the Africa Institute website between 17 – 19 November.
Moderator: Samantha Iwowo
Discussants: Balufu Bakupa Kanyinda, Boukary Sawadogo
1. Hyenas (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1992, 110 mins)
2. This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019, 120 mins)
Registration for week 04 will be available here.