Africa South of the Sahara


Although Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) is one of the poorest countries south of the Sahara, its authorities made an early decision to support their national cinema. Cinema houses were nationalized in 1970 and the as "me Burkinabé distribution company SONACIB (Société Nationale du Cinéma Burkinabé) was established with the goal of supporting national filmmakers by taxing foreign films shown locally and then redirecting those funds into local production. This system paved the way for the first Burkinabé fiction feature, Le sang des parias ( The Blood of the Pariahs , Mamadou Djim Kola, 1971). Several other initiatives make this country one of the most dynamic on the continent in terms of filmmaking activity. The INAFEC (Institut Africain d'Education Cinématographique), founded in 1976 and in operation until 1986, helped foster film production in the nation. The capital, Ouagadougou, hosts the biannual festival, FESPACO, along with its parallel international television and film market. In 1995, Burkina Faso created the African Cinémathèque of Ouagadougou, which collects and preserves African films. Gaston Kaboré (b. 1952) is considered the leading filmmaker in Burkina Faso and made his debut as a feature filmmaker in 1982 with Wend Kuuni ( God's Gift ). His films draw very heavily on African oral tradition, as evidenced by his other key features, Zan Boko ( Homeland , 1988) and Buud Yam (1997). Kaboré is deeply committed to the development of African film industries and was secretary general of FEPACI from 1985 to 1997. Other key filmmakers include Dani Kouyaté (b. 1961), Idrissa Ouédraogo (b. 1954), Fanta Régina Nacro (b. 1962), and Pierre Yameogo (b. 1955), the latter three residing in Paris.

In Ivory Coast (Cô te d'Ivoire), fiction features for television preceded feature filmmaking. From 1962 to 1979, the Société Ivoirienne de Cinéma (S.I.C) acted as the umbrella organization for all national film production. Timité Bassori directed Ivory Coast's first fiction feature, La femme au couteau ( Woman with a Knife ), in 1969. This psychological thriller was followed by other films focusing on social and cultural issues such as inheritance woes, polygamy, and clashes between tradition and modernity. By 1979 S.I.C. had disappeared, leaving in its place a system more focused on private interests. In 1993 the Audiovisual and Cinema Company of Ivory Coast was established with the aim of renationalizing the film industry. Private production companies suffered greatly from the 1994 devaluation of the franc CFA, as did all the rest of the "zone franc" in West Africa. Ivorian cinema is known for its comedies, such as Comédie exotique ( Exotic Comedy , Kitia Touré, 1984), and Bal poussière ( Dancing in the Dust , Henri Duparc, 1988) and Le sixième doigt ( Sixth Finger , 1990). Key Ivorian filmmakers include Désiré Ecaré (b. 1939), Kramo Lanciné Fadika and Roger Ngoan M'bala (b. 1943). M'bala's ambitious project Andanggaman (2000) deals with the role played by indigenous African rulers in the slave trade. Ivory Coast has produced two noted film actors, Hanny Tchelley and Sidiki Bakaba, who is also a film director and producer. In 1998 the audiovisual production company African Queen Productions inaugurated the Abidjan International Festival of Short Films with Hanny Tchelley as the secretary-general.

Many of the African films that reach Western audiences are produced in Senegal. In fact, Senegalese cinema enjoys a renown and longevity unknown in other countries south of the Sahara, due, in part, to the pioneering efforts of Ousmane Sembène and Paulin Soumanou Vieyra. Senegal gained independence from France on 4 April 1960, but it was not until the early 1970s that the newly independent state created a national infrastructure for the development and promotion of Senegalese cinema: in 1974 the Société d'Importation, Distribution, et Exploitation Cinématographique (SIDEC) and the now defunct Société Nationale du Cinéma (SNC); and finally in 1984, the Société Nationale de Promotion du Cinéma (SNPC), whose goal was to take over all functions of the SNC and to assist the initiatives of SIDEC.

Senegal has produced three prominent African filmmakers: Ousmane Sembène, who directed La noire de … ( Black Girl ), Senegal's first feature in 1966; Djibril Diop-Mambéty (1945–1998), known for his experimental use of symbolism in Touki Bouki ( Journey of the Hyena , 1973); and Safi Faye (b. 1943), one of sub-Saharan Africa's foremost woman filmmakers. Faye studied ethnography in Paris with Jean Rouch (1917–2004) and acted in his film Petit à petit ou les lettres Persanes (Little by Little or the Persian Letters, 1968). She began her directing career with the short La passante ( The Passerby ) in 1972. Her first feature, Kaddu Beykat ( Letter from My Village , 1975), shows the influence of Rouch with its use of nonprofessional actors and improvisation. She departs from this school of filmmaking, however, by positioning herself within the community she films, as in her 1979 feature, Fad'jal , screened that same year in the "Un Certain Regard" section at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1990 the Senegalese writer and activist Annette Mbaye d'Erneville (b. 1926) founded RECIDAK (Rencontres Cinématographiques de Dakar), an annual festival in Dakar with an extension to certain regional capitals of Senegal.

In Mali, many directors and technicians who were trained in Russia and the Eastern bloc worked in documentary before turning to fiction filmmaking. Mali gained independence from France in 1960 and nationalized its cinema sector as early as 1962 with the creation of OCINAM, the Office Cinématographique National du Mali. This company controlled distribution and exhibition of African films in the region until the early 1990s, due to a shortfall of resources. Many theaters were forced to close. The CNPC, or Centre National de la Production Cinématographique, has attempted a Cine renaissance. Film professionals founded the Union des Créateurs et Entrepreneurs du Cinéma et de L'Audiovisuel de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (UCECAO) in 1996 in an attempt to promote more effective advocacy for African cinema issues. This initiative was spearheaded by the veteran filmmaker Souleymane Cissé (b. 1940), one of the first generation of filmmakers south of the Sahara. A contemporary of Ousmane Sembène, Cissé studied directing at VGIK, the State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. He produced Mali's first fiction feature, Den Muso ( The Young Girl ) in 1975. His later films, such as Baara ( Work , 1978), Finyé ( The Wind , 1982) and Yeelen ( Brightness , 1987), deal with themes of abuse of power and exploitation. Yeelen was awarded the Jury Prize at Cannes that same year as well as the British Film Institute's prize for most innovative film of the year. Other key Malian directors include Cheick Oumar Sissoko (b. 1945), with Finzan ( A Dance for the Heroes , 1989), Guimba un tyrant une époque ( Guimba the Tyrant , 1995), and La genèse ( Genesis , 1999); and Adama Drabo (b. 1948), with Ta Dona ( Fire , 1991) and Taafe Fanga ( Skirt Power , 1997).

Ghana (the former Gold Coast) had the potential to become a strong film-producing nation. In 1935, long before independence, the British colonial authorities established the Gold Coast Film Unit. After independence in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972), the first president of the Ghanaian Republic, nationalized the film industry. Thus, the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) was established, taking over from the Gold Coast Film Unit, and production facilities were relatively sophisticated. However, these facilities deteriorated after the overthrow of Nkrumah in 1966, and feature filmmaking suffered a decline. During this period, No Tears for Ananse (Sam Aryeetey, 1968), I Told You So (Egbert Adjesu, 1970), and Do Your Own Thing (Bernard Odidja, 1971) were produced. The 1980s saw a brief revival with the production of six features. Among these are the three most well-known Ghanaian films in Africa and abroad: Love Brewed in the African Pot (Kwaw Ansah, 1981), which took ten years to complete due to insufficient resources; Ansah's very popular Heritage … Africa (1988), which won the Grand Prize (Etalon de Yennenga) at FESPACO 1989; and Juju (King Ampaw, 1986). It has since become much more economically viable to produce video films, which are taking on increasing importance in the local film industry.

Nigeria, with 120 million inhabitants, is the most populous country on the continent, and shares with Ghana the phenomenon of a burgeoning video economy. Although Nigeria gained independence in 1960, indigenous feature filmmaking did not begin until 1970 with the Lebanese coproduction Son of Africa , directed by Segun Olusola (b. 1935), and Kongi's Harvest , directed

Emitai (Ousmane Sembène, 1971).
by the African American Ossie Davis (1917–2005). During the early 1970s, three or four features were produced every year, and until the early 1980s there was a trend toward higher quality films, including 35 mm production. The Nigerian Film Corporation was established in 1979 with the mandate of encouraging local film production. Ola Balogun (b. 1945), a novelist and playwright who was trained in cinematography at L'Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) in Paris, is Nigeria's most prominent filmmaker, known for directing comedies and musicals. He has produced or directed at least one feature every year since 1972, the year he directed Alpha , which some credit as the first truly indigenous Nigerian feature film. His Ajani-Ogun (1975) is sub-Saharan Africa's first musical; it spurred a series of films incorporating Yoruba popular theater on film. Other notable films include A Deusa negra ( Black Goddess , 1978), Cry Freedom (1981) and Money Power ( Owo L'agba , 1982). Another prominent filmmaker is Eddie Ugbomah, whose films such as The Rise and Fall of Dr. Onyenusi (1977), The Mask (1979) and The Death of a Black President (1983) were largely inspired by current events. By the end of the 1970s, and as Lagos became more dangerous at night, many middle-class homeowners turned to videocassette players so they could watch video movies in the safety of their homes. Video film production is an important industry in Nigeria and is practiced as a solution to film distribution bureaucracy. Although some criticize their technical shortcomings, the impact of video films as an expression of cultural identity cannot be denied.

The history and development of Angolan cinema is directly linked to the country's liberation struggle. During the 1960s, three liberation movements were born, with the common goal of gaining independence from Portugal: the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA). Angola gained independence on 11 November 1975, but fighting among the groups continued, fueled by ethnic differences. It was during the 1970s that Angolan cinema really began, with politically engaged films about the battle for independence ( Sambizanga , Sarah Maldoror, 1971) and consisting mainly of documentaries and videos that were cheaper to produce than feature-length films. In an attempt to encourage and foster the development of Angolan film production, the government established the Angolan Film Institute (IACAM) following independence. It fell into disrepair during the civil war, but the Institute and the Angolan film industry began to thrive at the end of the war in 2002. Three films were released in 2004: Comboio da Cañhoca ( The Train of Canhoca , Orlando Fortunato de Oliveira); Na Cidade Vazia ( In the Empty City , Maria João Ganga); and O Herói ( The Hero , Zeze Gamboa). The Hero 's main character attempts to build a new life in Luanda after losing his leg to a land mine. Gamboa wrote the script in 1992, but a new episode of war caused a decade-long delay. The film was awarded the Grand Prize in the World Dramatic Competition at Sundance in 2005.

The history of film in South Africa is one of the longest south of the Sahara. Film was born in this country at virtually the same time as in Europe, and the country produced African Mirror (1913–1984), the world's longest-running weekly newsreel. Until the 1920s, films were mainly adaptations of British novels. During the 1930s and 1940s, Afrikaner forces were building South Africa's apartheid system, which was legislated with the 1948 election victory of the National Party. This period marks the beginning of treason trials, the Freedom Charter, and the Sharpeville Massacre. It was also the period during which Jamie Uys (1921–1996), considered to be South Africa's most commercially successful director, established independent production using Afrikaner-controlled capital. His 1980 feature, The Gods Must Be Crazy , which upholds a proapartheid worldview, is considered the most commercially successful African film worldwide, shattering all box office records in South Africa. Anti-apartheid filmmaking began during the 1950s, with films like Cry the Beloved Country (Zoltan Korda, 1951), based on Alan Paton's novel of the same title, and documentaries such as Come Back Africa (1959) by the American filmmaker Lionel Rogosin (1924–2000). A noted filmmaker during the 1960s was the exiled Lionel N'Gakane (1928–2003), with short films such as Vukani Awake (1965) and Jemima and Johnny (1966). After Sharpeville, many artists and activists went into exile, and resistance movements emerged. Benchmark films during the 1970s and early 1980s include the documentary Last Grave at Dimbaza (Nana Mahomo, 1973) and The White Laager (Peter Davis, 1977) and Generations of Resistance (1980). In 1988 Olivier Schmitz and Thomas Mogotlane codirected Mapantsula , South Africa's first "militant anti-apartheid feature film," winning seven AALife/M-Net Vita Awards (Gugler, African Film , p. 91). All-black productions took off in the 1990s, following the official demise of apartheid. Ramadan Suleman (b. 1955) directed Fools in 1997, and the American-trained Ntshavheni Wa Luruli (b. 1955) directed Chikin Biznis (1998) and The Wooden Camera (2003), which garnered a Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004.

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