Moolaadé. Courtesy of Photofest
Presented in collaboration with the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University
Guest curator: June Givanni
The Senegalese filmmakers Ousmane Sembène (1923–2007) and Djibril Diop Mambéty (1945–1998) pioneered cinematic creativity in Africa. Among the many filmmakers they inspired is Moussa Sene Absa (b. 1958), a protégé and former assistant of Mambéty’s. All three directors give voice to the African people through their films: they were screen griots, and their work has much in common. In their films, women are portrayed centrally as agents of change and as risk takers, reflecting their true revolutionary role in Senegalese society. The directors also choose to focus on the “little people” of everyday life. A less central but nonetheless frequent impulse in their work is the recognition and embrace of a pan-African relationship to the continent and the diaspora, a tension between the homeland and the West.
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The 2011 edition of the popular African Film Festival features films from eight countries ranging from Ivory Coast to Mali. It moves from the claustrophobic din of one Cape Town flat to the frenetic sprawl of African immigrant culture across Europe, from hair salons in Ghana and Nigeria to an imagined future of an East Africa without water, and even finds time for another visit with the crowd-pleasing, pint-sized animated star Kirikou, back for even more adventures.
This year, the series is complemented by three classics of African cinema from the World Cinema Foundation (see page 7): Djibril Diop-Mambéty’s legendary Touki Bouki (1973), whose African dreamers and hustlers are the cinematic predecessors of those found in Elaine de Latour’s raucous Beyond the Ocean; Shadi Abdel Salam’s Al Momia (1969), acclaimed as one of the greatest Egyptian films of all time; and Trances (1981), with extraordinary footage of the Moroccan music group Nass El Ghiwane.
New or classic, documentary or narrative, the films of the African Film Festival spotlight the changes, moods, and conflicts of a continent then, as now, in flux. While challenging and expanding our image of Africa, they also confirm the importance of self-representation.
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