Sunday, September 10, 2017

African cinema and the future of a continent

African cinema and the future of a continent

By   Abderrazak Ezzaher 

One of the rare cases in which the continental identity is attributed to an art form without risk of ambiguity is that of African cinema.
African countries, related to modern inventions, have known the same fate and nearly during all periods. Indeed, the 20th century, the era of invention and promotion of cinematographic art, was also the century during which Africa was almost entirely under foreign colonization. During this period, the continent underwent and consumed cinematic products of the colonizer. The latter has used it to assert its policy and ideology.

After the independence movements, we witnessed two main trends:
The first one was about the departure of many young people from African countries freshly liberated from the burden of the colonization to Europe namely France, the Soviet Union and Ukraine in order to pursue their education in cinema, and that is the case of the veteran Souleyman Cissé, Merzak Alouach, Gaston Kaboré…
The second trend was the direct interference of the state in film production and Algeria remains one of the examples illustrating this situation. For years, the Algerian state was the mere African country that produced films. As a result, we witnessed a real emergence of cinema and this lasted until the 90s.

For other countries, a part from South Africa, Egypt and Morocco recently, cinema suffers from problems of production and distribution. African film budgets were too much limited and constrained, therefore, the artists would make concessions sacrificing art. However, certain filmmakers have known, apart from all the difficulties, how to sign works that have marked the receiver either from Africa or elsewhere. We cite examples of films: From Mali/Mauritania; Abderrahman Sissako (Waiting for Happiness, Timbuktu), Mohamed Salah Haroun (Abouna) from Tchad, Haile Gerima (Teza) from Ethiopia.

During the last two decades, we witness a new wave of directors who have chosen to express themselves through the 7th art by taking the same paths of formation as the pioneers and sometimes appearing in the most prestigious festivals of the world: Nabil Ayouch in Cannes, Hicham Lasri in Berlin, etc. At the same time, new practices have emerged, such as low-budget video films, in which the case of Nigeria is known as Nollywood and produces up to 200 films a year, distributed on the local market.
As far as the cooperation of South - South is concerned, speeches abound in this sense and acts are rare and the example to be capitalized and put forward is that of Morocco which opened its laboratories of the CCM to all the African producers to carry out the work of post-production.
To conclude, the difficulties facing African cinema, which are mainly linked to production and distribution, are manifestations of the reality of a continent.