The Africa Institute Sharjah delves into the history of African cinema - GulfToday

The Africa Institute Sharjah delves into the history of African cinema

Africa art 2

The Africa Institute, library (rendering).

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The Africa Institute, Sharjah, in collaboration with the June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive, is presenting a film programme titled Decolonizing African Cinema: A History, launching October 21.

Presenting a curated selection of films and critical perspectives, which echo across contemporary debates on filmmaking in Africa and the African diaspora, the programme will explore the impact of the past on present-day African cinema, with its various intersections, continuities and discontinuities.

Structured over four webinar symposiums, the sessions will focus on a theme to be explored by expert discussants. The symposiums will be accompanied by a complimentary set of films for viewing.

The June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive assembles the holdings of pan-African films and film-related materials, built over several decades by June Givanni, a Guyanese-born London-based film curator.

Givanni’s archive embodies her long relationship with the intersecting worlds of African and Asian diasporic cinema, which hold deep connections to Black British heritage through global networks spanning across empire.

Decolonizing African Cinema: A History will examine the influences that have shaped the foundations of African ideas about cinema. The symposiums are open to the public, and will be of particular interest to students of African cinema.


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The Foundations of African Cinema symposium will examine the ideas that led to the emergence of African cinema. Since ‘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’.

Concepts such as ‘Black Africa’, ‘Africa North of the Sahara’, Afrofuturism, Afrosurrealism, and the meaning of cinema in the twenty-first century, will be examined. Films related to the topic will be made available for free streaming via the Africa Institute website, October 21 – 23.

Moderator is Gaston Kabore and discussants are Mamadou Diouf Mbye Cham and Lindiwe Dovey. Films for viewing are Afrique sur Seine (Paulin Soumanou Viyera, 1955, 21mins) and Le Retour d’un aventurier/The Adventurer’s Return (Moustapha Allassanne, 1966, 34 mins).

Cinema Cultures in Africa symposium focuses on the ways in which the moving image has been encountered and used by Africans.

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 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 the symposium is the question of ‘Africa’ and the notion of ‘national cinema’ emerging from colonialism into the post-independence era.

Among other concerns are responses of African filmmakers as cultural producers amidst historical ambiguities and challenges. 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, October 28 — 30.

africa art 1 A still from an African movie.

Moderator is Pedro Pimenta and discussants are Jihan El Tahri and Jude Akudinobi. Films for viewing are Ali Zaoua (Nabil Ayouch, 2000, 99 mins) and Mapantsula (Oliver Schmitz, 1987, 104 mins).

Historicizing the Decolonizing Principle will focus on the need for a critical intervention into contemporary debates on African cinema, including its transnational global reality, intersections across popular cultures and its place within global mediascape and networks.

The symposium deals with ideas around the articulation of ‘African cinema’ and its practices, with the intent to invite new perspectives.

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, against which to examine African cinema.

African independence, development and sovereignty are the focal points of the 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 the continent’s decolonisation process and the impact – nationally and globally — of African filmmaking, in terms of challenging and redefining perceptions, structures and discourses.

The symposium will provide an analysis of various approaches to African cinema and cinema in general. Moderator is Aboubakar Sonogo and discussants are Mahen Bonetti and Keith Shiri Haile Gerima.

Films will be made available for free streaming via the Africa Institute website, November 4 – 6. For viewing are Camp Thiaroye/Camp de Thiaroye (Thierno Faty Sow and Ousmane Sembene, 1988, 157 mins), Harvest: 3,000 Years/Mirt Sost Shi Amit (Haile Gerima, 1976, 150 mins) and The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966, 120 mins).

In the Continuity and Change session, contemporary expressions of ‘African cinema’ showcase a diversity of trends, aesthetic preferences, and audience experiences.

The 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 realised.

Discussants analyse and compare the films’ aesthetic approaches, storytelling techniques, and a diverse range of contemporary concerns for filmmakers.

The symposium will consider ways in which 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 ‘decolonising principle’?

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, 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, November 17 – 19. Moderator is Samantha Iwowo and discussants are Balufu Bakupa Kanyinda and Boukary Sawadogo.

Films being shown are Hyenas (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1992, 110 mins) and This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019, 120 mins).

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