Access to African Cinema

‘Hyenas’ by Djibril Diop Mambéty

There are hundreds of films released every year in the US and the UK but films from one part of the world are still scarce. African films are screened only rarely and knowledge about African cinema is restricted. We are pleased therefore to promote two organisations doing something to plug the gap.

Cinémathèque Internationale of Philadelphia has launched a new film series in collaboration with the African American Museum of Philadelphia. The series will present one film every third Thursday of the month to be screened at the museum, located at 701 Arch St. Philadelphia, PA 19106. The programme began with Ousmane Sembène’s Black Girl(Senegal/France 1966) and will feature Moustapha Diop’s The Doctor from Gafire (1986) in August. Jean‐Marie Téno’s 1993 political documentary Africa, I Will Fleece You!, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s surreal allegory Hyenas (1992), and Issa Traore de Brahima’s 2006 The World is a Ballet fill out the rest of the programme. The initial series ends in December with the locally shot Night Catches Us, a Black Panther narrative starring Anthony Mackie. Director Tanya Hamilton will be in attendance for a Q&A following the film.

The series programmer Neal Dhand says:

“It’s a great reflection of our combined mission: bring films, some of which have never been screened in Philadelphia, to a larger audience and open a discussion on the politics and issues at play, as well as the evolving cinematic values in African filmmaking and how they compare to the aesthetics that an American audience is accustomed to.”

So, if you can get to Philadelphia, you’ve got the chance to see some rare African films. The Cinémathèque is a repertory foreign film programmme curated by an independent media art collective. It shows a range of international cinema and we like the statement that heads its webpapges:

“Conceived to be hands-on and intimate, screenings are coordinated at various designated venues within Center City Philadelphia. The intention of these screenings is to expand the discussion surrounding international film language.”

You can subscribe to a newsletter from the Cinémathèque (via the website) and keep up to date with events.

In Scotland, African in Motion (AiM) offers something similar with screenings and discussions throughout the year and a festival in Edinburgh which this year runs from 25 October until 2 November with a theme of ‘Modern Africa‘. There will be a Symposium on African Popular Culture and a Short Film Competition. Screenings will be in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

AiM lists a range of events that take place in Edinburgh and Glasgow and also provides news about other African cinema related events elsewhere in the UK and in Europe via its very useful newsletter. The festival has also been on tour around Scotland and the website has a resources section on how to buy African films. AiM also runs a Facebook page and a blog. It really is an excellent access point for African cinema and we like its approach, set out on the website:

“The main aims of the festival have been, since its inception, to introduce Scottish audiences to the brilliance of African cinema and to overcome the under-representation and marginalisation of African film in British film-going culture. We believe that the best way to learn about Africa is to listen to African voices and to view representations created by African themselves, as these often counter the stereotypical representations we see from Africa in mainstream media in the West. But our main reason for screening the films is because we believe they are great films which should be seen the world over. Over the past six years we have screened over 200 African films to audiences totalling around 15,000 people!”

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