The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

30 September 2010

A Conversation with M Beatrix Mugishagwe

Image: M Beatrix Mugishagwe
From the African Women in Cinema Collection, 2010

Beatrix, could you tell me a bit about yourself, how you became interested in filmmaking?

Actually I am a TV-journalist by profession; my filmmaking is a natural consequence of that - I began as TV documentary director and then later on I took it to the next level by getting involved in film production. I did not attend a film school but am trained as TV/Radio journalist.

Tanzanian cinema is perhaps small in comparison to other countries in Africa, could you give a bit of history of filmmaking in Tanzania and what you see as its future?

Cinema? If am honest, it hardly exist; after the demise of the Tanzania Film Company as well as the Tanzania Audio Visual in the late eighties, most of those people who were trained in various aspects of filmmaking simply gave up and looked for other jobs to survive. Film/Cinema as we know it simply died in Tanzania till in the mid-nineties when the medium of television brought the art of visual storytelling back to Tanzania - this time though in a different manner. Anybody who could get a camcorder and editing facility became a PRODUZA (this is a bastardization form of producer here) cum Director. That was what the democratization of equipment has meant to the Tanzania film landscape. A curse and maybe a blessing at the same time. A curse in the sense that what is globally accepted as minimum production value does not count in most productions in Tanzania. This leads to marginalization of the content out of Tanzania. A blessing in as much as I see a chance of developing a particular brand of films not encumbered by the western or eastern ideals and values of visual narration - I am ambivalent of this though, because I believe in knowing the rules first in order to break them effectively for my own use - our PRODUZAs just have the latest equipment and not the basic film education.

Women have been visible since the 1980s with Flora Mmbugu-Schelling who is now based in the United States. What is the current status of women filmmakers?

Again, it's difficult for me to talk of women filmmakers - we have TV production which is led mostly by women - nearly all the production houses in Tanzania are managed by women - I believe this is because most of us don't compromise easily and as such we could hardly find a broadcasting house ready to employ us at our own terms.

Tumaini is a feature film which you wrote and directed, how did it evolve?

TUMAINI - which means HOPE in Kiswahili, is a film, which again, came out of my documentary background - Tanzania is one of the countries which has been ravaged but HIV/AIDS since the early 80s. So much has been said and done for the affected adult population. But it’s only till recent that one began thinking of the plight of the children left behind. Children don't vote and as such they are what I consider voiceless. They don't have a politically threatening constituent. Having traveled throughout the country my colleague and I encountered the same story all over: misery, abandoned and desperate children leading to a big number of street children. Children who had run away from their homes, and they still do in order to look for a better life elsewhere after they lose their parents to HIV/AIDS. Most of these children still have relatives but in most cases these relatives are overburdened by the number of children they have to take care of. And some of them like in the case of TUMAINI, they cheat the orphans of the little inheritance left by their parents in the name of family oversight. The film was and still is an appeal to the society and sensitization about the plight of HIV/AIDS orphans.

What has been the reception?

The reception so far has been very positive but we need to distribute it more widely than has been the case to date.

The very ambitious project, UNSUNG HEROINES is a wonderful documentary series about African female leaders. How was it conceived, who are the African women included?

It’s a fact that people on the continent of Africa today continue to survive because of women: if there are no women who till the land for food, fetch water, collect firewood, bear children, run the market stalls, the continent would have long perished given its history. Yet when you look in the top decision making positions of governments, companies and the likes throughout the African continent women hardly feature therein. Is it a wonder then that a young African girl looks around for a role model and all she sees is men and if women then non-African? Today we have gone so far even as to negate figures like Winnie Mandela - a woman who if for 28 years had not kept that torch/fire burning for her Nelson, the world would not have gotten its much revered and adored Nelson Mandela - so the question was what happened to her? From there I started looking into the absence of great African women visibility not only in Africa itself but the entire world. Who do our children look up to as role models when they are growing up?

At the same time, the choice of women is difficult since there are so many African women leaders out there who must be constantly and continuously featured, spotlighted so that our youth know of them and emulate them, instead of looking up to mostly western cinema, music and football idols-because that's what they get to see daily in their homes.

How do you plan to promote and distribute the series?

Distribution is our Achilles heel - originally we had planned to promote the series through the various national television stations by using the SABC Africa back then. We also planned working with the ministries of education in their gender and civic education programmes - but that was theory. In reality SABC Africa no longer exist and most African TV stations demand payment for airing the series. We are partnering with various NGOs who deal with youth and gender-related issues across the continent and we piggyback on their distribution vehicles. In Tanzania we even make road shows ourselves to major centers - so we will for awhile stop producing and become distributors in order to make sure our series does reach the target audience.

Interview with M Beatrix Mugishagwe by Beti Ellerson, September 2013

Unsung Heroines (Trailer) by M Beatrix Mugishagwe (Abantu Visions International)

Links

29 September 2010

Remembering Chantal Bagilishya

From Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema (2002)

A year after her death, a tribute to Chantal Bagilishya. At the African Women Filmmakers Forum in Johannesburg in September 2010, Monique Mbeka Phoba reminded us of the difficulty and isolation that Chantal felt in this very demanding field of film production. See the link to the 2009 post at her passing: In Memory of Chantal Bagalishya

Also, in this video clip, Chantal talks about her interest in producing films about Africa:

From Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema (2002) by Beti Ellerson

Link | Lien




21 September 2010

Annette Mbaye d'Erneville: Mère-bi

Published September 21, 2010


Poster of Mère-bi (2009) a film about Annette Mbaye d'Erneville by Ousmane William Mbaye

Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, veteran journalist, communications specialist, media activist, critic and writer, is the pioneer of Senegalese media culture. Born in the Sokone region of Senegal in 1926, she studied in Paris in the late 1940s where she immediately plunged into the intellectual life of the 1950s and was actively involved in the African independence movement. The first Senegalese to earn a degree in journalism, she returns to Senegal in 1957 to serve her country.

Avid feminist, deeply proud of her culture, she is the founder and director of the Maison de la Femme Henriette Bathily (The Henriette Bathily Women’s House) located on Gorée Island, Senegal, created in 1994. She was the director of RECIDAK, Rencontres cinématographiques de Dakar for many years. An annual film festival that she initiated in 1990 and with which she continues to have close ties. The 1996 edition of RECIDAK, Femmes et Cinéma (Women and Cinema) paid homage to African women. She was also a founding member of the Association Sénégalaise des Critiques de Cinéma (ASSECCI) created by filmmaker and critic Paulin Soumanou Vieyra and journalist Djib Diedhiou.

Reflecting on the role of women as cultural producers, she declares: "The goal is to allow women to express themselves, to be witnesses to their era and to reflect a realistic image of Africa in their own lives."


Madame Annette Mbaye d’Erneville carries with aplomb the name that her son, Ousmane William Mbaye attributes to her in Mére-bi, a documentary film that he made about her life. Below is a French to English translation of an interview with him regarding the film, along with the video clip from TV5Monde.



Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

Patrick Simonin TV5Monde: Ousmane William Mbaye, Senegalese filmmaker, has made a documentary film about his own mother. Welcome to the show.

This film is dedicated to your own mother, why devote an entire film to this amazing Senegalese personage?

Ousmane William Mbaye: It is not just a portait of my mother, it is a film about the first Senegalese journalist, who is at the same time my mother.

Patrick Simonin: She has always been independent, and she is still with us…

Ousmane William Mbaye: Yes she is, knock on wood. And very independent as you stated. But what really interested me was her journey. Here is a woman who has lived through three generations, who fought for the emancipation of women, who was a media innovator, who initiated the first center for women. She has the mindset of openness and tolerance, which has been fascinating for me.

Patrick Simonin: Ten years to make this film about Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, we will see excerpts of the film, and in its entirety tomorrow on TV5Monde. She opened up to you…

Ousmane William Mbaye: She opened up to me, inspite of herself. I filmed her during a ten-year period with my video camera, though at the beginning she did not take me seriously. I have 150 hours of footage, scenes and sequences that no one else could have had. Because of my proximity and intimacy with her, I could have real situations.

Patrick Simonin: Let’s look at the atmosphere in the film…

Annette Mbaye d’Erneville: “I was raised with a great deal of affection…at 9 years old I did not speak a word of French, at home my aunt taught me how to read, as I spoke impeccable Wolof, amid this mix-raced milieu of St. Louis…”

Patrick Simonin: It is a family album and at the same time the history of Senegal, as well as the history of an Africa fighting for its existence.

Ousmane William Mbaye: It is a history of an Africa that stands tall, of its fight for independence, (as we are speaking about its 50th year of independence), of this generation of men and women. She was not alone, there is an entire generation that forged it. Hence, they have a mentality of “fighters”, though perhaps at present they are older and perhaps a bit weaker, they continue.

Patrick Simonin: She enters this colonial world and liberates herself. She goes to Paris and discovers for the first time that she can be served by white women in the cafés.

Ousmane William Mbaye: Yes, during the colonial period, the image of white people was as superior. When she arrives in Paris in the late 40s among which are other African students, she finds that there are white people who are streetsweepers, waiters in the cafes and and most important for her, that there are white people who are not racist, there was a type of harmony.

Patrick Simonin: There were white people who were not part of this cadre of colonialist, and for her there is a feeling of harmony…

Ousmane William Mbaye: There is the intellectual movement in France in the 1950s whose members are both white and African.

Patrick Simonin: She meets Senghor and becomes part of a group…which becomes a kind of Africa outside of Africa.

Ousmane William Mbaye: Yes, they created the Federation of African Students in France. And these students return to Africa in 1957 to become part of the African independence movements.

Patrick Simonin: She also becomes involved in music and dance…

Ousmane William Mbaye: Yes, there is not a barrier between the intellectualism and culture, she meets Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Sartre and Senghor, it was this type of harmony. I wanted to show in 2010 how Africans lived in Europe in the 1950s. I think there are important memories to preserve and show.

Patrick Simonin: It’s outstanding! We will return to watch some images from the film. You stated that she, among others, saw the importance of returning to their country.

Ousmane William Mbaye: She uses the expression: “to serve my country”. This was a generation who believed in the development of Africa. Rather than stay in Europe, no, they wanted to return to Africa, to Senegal to develop it. I want the young people of Africa today to have this same sentiment.

Patrick Simonin: Thus to serve, and to remember. We see in these images that she has been rewarded for her efforts, for all of Africa. This is an extraordinary woman, she is a role model.

Ousmane William Mbaye: I want to also say that I did not make the film alone, a few others were involved, though we were not many. Laurence Attali was the editor and co-producer of the film, she brought a great deal to the project, as well as musician Doudou Doukouré…

Patrick Simonin: But was it not she who brought the most, she is being herself. You filmed it in a certain way. You followed her as she lived from day to day.

Ousmane William Mbaye: I followed her, she had to endure the contant presence of my camera. And there were moments also when she forgot about the camera. When I wanted to put on the lavalier she resisted.

Patrick Simonin: She is still a rebel.

Ousmane William Mbaye: Yes, she is still a rebel, still active with the Henriette Bathily Women’s House and its exhibitions.

Patrick Simonin: She continues forward, and TV5Monde will present these beautiful images of her. The film is called Mere-bi, The Mother. It has won international prizes…So you feel this is Africa?

Ousmane William Mbaye: Yes, she is the role model for Africa…

Patrick Simonin: And women…

Ousmane William Mbaye: And for women. Because African women as they are viewed in the West do not conform to their reality…








17 September 2010

Alexandra Duah of Blessed Memory

African Women in Cinema Archives (FESPACO 1997)

It has been a decade since Alexandra passed away. The acclaimed veteran actor from Ghana will be remembered as the fearless Nunu in Sankofa (1993) by Haile Gerima, and for her stunning performance as Efua Atta, the mother of the protagonist Kwesi Atta Bosomefi, in Kwaw Ansah’s Heritage Africa (1989).

I have fond memories of a conversation with Alexandra in 1997, during an interview with her, which is included here as a tribute to her.

I initially trained in cinematography and qualified as a film editor.  People say that I am not very easy to live with because any time I go out of a place and return I am able to detect that a chair has been moved; that a flower has been touched.  My children know how I am and they have begun calling me "Radio Ghana" because I query every thing that I see. I got my actor training from an old actress named Jean P. Martin in London.
I have, over the years, taken acting seriously.  Every little word, every little statement, I make sure that I conduct enough research to be able to know the bearing my statement has on the entire script or story and my relationship to the other actors.  I think about costuming and everything.  When I am on location, I am not just an actress, I am more like a mother who tries to solve problems between artists and producer, but then, having done all these things, I am satisfied with having my name only as actress in the credits. READ ENTIRE INTERVIEW

15 September 2010

Vénus Noire the Saga of Saartjie Baartman

Vénus Noire (2010) by Abdellatif Kechiche

The saga of Saartjie Baartman has been the subject of documentaries, plays, novels and poems for more than a decade. For the first time it is recounted in a feature film by French director Abdellatif Kechiche, with Cuban actress Yamina Torres as the heroine of Vénus Noire, presented at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival.


Synopsis

“Paris, 1817: inside the Royal Academy of Medicine. “I have never seen a human head more similar to that of an ape’s.” Standing in front of a cast made of Saartjie Baartman’s body, anatomist Georges Cuvier is categorical.

A group of his distinguished colleagues cheers. Seven years earlier, Saartjie had left South Africa with her master Caezar and abandoned her body to the audiences of London’s freak shows. Both free and a slave, she was the icon of the slums, the “Hottentot Venus” who was sacrificed to the mirage of golden success.”

13 September 2010

Report on the African Women Filmmakers Forum 2010 - Johannesburg



Photo montage by Beti Ellerson


The African Women Filmmakers Forum, organized and sponsored by the Goethe Institut, was held from 1-4 September 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Women of the Sun Film Festival organized alongside the forum ran from 2-9 September. Most of the women who attended the forum also screened works at the festival.

Twenty-five women from more than fifteen countries, representing most regions of the continent and the diaspora, convened to discuss as a group the various issues that they had vowed to keep alive since their last gathering.

Diverse approaches were employed throughout the meeting to ensure an environment of empowerment, trust, mutual exchange and sharing. A variety of strategies were used to get to know each other, to talk about relevant experiences, interests and ideas. The sister circle, a common arrangement within women’s groups, was the designated format for the larger group discussions. Informal meetings took place during lunch and tea breaks in the courtyard.

Key women of the Goethe Institut and German cinema and studies provided a welcoming and structured space to share and network. Among these women were scholar Christina von Braun, one of the keynote speakers, and filmmaker Dorothee Wenner who moderated the various activities.

The purpose of the meeting, according to the organizers, was to contribute to existing structures and build upon long-term strategies, thus working alongside African women filmmakers who are already leading the way.

The keynote speakers explored gendered perspectives on film studies in general, African film history, and the role of African women filmmakers. Christina von Braun’s talk, entitled “Film and Gender”, focused on representations of women from the beginning of the moving image, Beti Ellerson presented an overview of the evolution of African women in cinema, and Peace Anyiam-Osigwe discussed current trends, the future of African cinema and the role of African women filmmakers.

The forum unfolded under the theme, “Chances and Challenges for Women Filmmakers in Africa: Exploring Local and International Aspects”, examined within four breakout groups:

1) Education/training
2) Pre-Production and Production
4) Distribution/Exhibition/Festivals
5) Television and Cinema

The various components of the forum provided a space for reflection, troubleshooting, discussion and workshopping. Thus participants from different regions shared experiences and received feedback and suggestions. At the same time as accomplishments were highlighted, less successful stories demanded problem-solving with an emphasis on how to turn the next project into triumph.

While the working language was English, the translation into French and Portuguese was informal, spontaneous and amicable.

Throughout the forum the participants assessed the current situation in their respective countries and the continent as a whole and offered recommendations to the various proposals presented in the larger group and during the breakout sessions.

On the final day, The Open Forum “To screen and be seen: Female perspectives on African filmmaking”, moderated by Dorothee Wenner, brought together the forum participants and the larger cinema community of Johannesburg within a space of dialogue and exchange. June Givanni summarized the forum events, providing highlights, after which filmmakers Rumbi Katedzi, Jyoti Mistry, Fanta Nacro and Monique Mbeka shared their experiences, while Katarina Hédren gave French-English translations.

The following compilation of reflections by the women during the forum is indicative of the myriad experiences, themes and ideas discussed and explored throughout the meeting:

We need you to make films about Africa to counterbalance the images that we don’t see.

Do not allow what we are perceived to be, to become what we are.

Women write stories that perpetuate stereotypes, such as the wicked mother-in-law. Often times they are women scriptwriters.

African women are traditional storytellers, why are we not creating the stories that need to be told?

African cinema is about economics, what people can afford.

Television has lead to New Media. When we speak about television we speak about New Media.

The future of Africa depends on what we will do for the women of our generation.

What we are trying to do is to build structures and institutionalize.

Training cannot be done outside of the context of distribution.

It is a luxury to make films that we like/want. We must address what the audience wants.

We are alone, working in isolation. There is tremendous pressure working in this business.

Women cannot underestimate the power of coming together.

We must create an interest in order to promote young women.

African women filmmakers must have their space whether it be virtual or real.

Alot of the films by African women are not very feminist.

Let’s work together rather than in isolation.

Young people tell stories about hope. We want to see films about it.

Creating a culture where we love and venerate our film.

Safi Faye has been a role model, an inspiration for me, giving me the desire to make films, to fight for the right to do so.

The group of women here represents and reinforces what I see happening throughout the continent.

REPORT BY BETI ELLERSON

Names of participants (in alphabetical order) included in photo:
Peace Anyiam-Osigwe (Nigeria), Seipati Bulani-Hopa (South Africa), Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), Taghreed Elsanhouri (Sudan), Jihan El-Tahri (France-Egypt), Beti Ellerson (USA), Hawa Essuman (Ghana-Kenya), Maria João Ganga (Angola), June Givanni (UK), Katarina Hedrén (Sweden-South Africa), Marie Ka (Senegal), Musola Catherine Kaseketi (Zambia), Rumbi Katedza (Zimbabwe), Jyoti Mistry (South Africa), M Beatrix Mugishagwe (Tanzania), Jane Murago-Munene (Kenya), Fanta Nacro (Burkina Faso), Maren Niemeyer (Goethe-Institut, Munich), Isabel Noronha (Mozambique), Monique Phoba (DRC-Belgium), Eve Rantseli (South Africa), Yewbdar Anbessie Setegn (Ethiopia), Arice Siapi (Cameroon), Dorothee Wenner (Germany), Debra Zimmerman (Women Make Movies, USA)

Also read about other proceedings on conferences, forums and meetings of African Women in Cinema on the African Women in Cinema Blog:

Keynote: "40 years of cinema by women of Africa" by Beti Ellerson. Colloquy: Francophone African Women Filmmakers: 40 years of cinema (1972-2012), Paris, 23 and 24 November 2012. Follow link

Report on the Colloquium-Meeting "Francophone African Women Filmmakers: 40 years of cinema (1972-2012)" - Paris, 23-24 November 2012. Follow link

Report on Afrikamera 2012 Women on and behind the screen. Follow link

Women and Film in Africa: Overcoming Social Barriers, University of Westminster, London, 19–20 November 2011. A report by Bronwen Pugsley. Follow link

Report on the International Images Film Festival for Women 2011 (Harare, Zimbabwe). Follow link


09 September 2010

Barakat! by Djamila Sahraoui


Since its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2006, Djamila Sahraoui's Barakat! has traveled the world with much enthusiasm from its audiences. Also featured at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2006, it won the Muhr Awards for Best Arab Feature Film. In 2007, Barakat! grabbed several prizes at FESPACO, the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou: the Oumarou Ganda Award for the Best First Work, the award for Best Music and the award for Best Screenplay. The same year the film showed at the Mostra de Cinema Àrab i Mediterrani de Catalunya in Barcelona.

In 2008, the film was screened at African in Motion, the Edinburgh African Film Festival. The next year it was presented at Cannes: Pavillon "les Cinémas du Monde". Presently Barakat! is screening at the Women of the Sun Film Festival in Johannesburg in the presence of Djamila Sahraoui.

Synopsis

Set in wartorn Algeria in the 1990s, Barakat! follows two women's dangerous search for the younger woman's husband, a journalist whose writings resulted in his disappearance. Both women represent anachronisms in Islamist Algeria the younger woman, Amel, is a doctor. The older, Khadija, is a nurse with vivid memories of Algeria's fight for independence.

Ignoring curfews and facing the constant threat of ambush by armed militias, the two women challenge the men they encounter to accept them and help them with their search. Their journey leads them across the picturesque landscapes of Algeria, to a deeper understanding of how their lives were shaped by their country's history.

Barakat! (2006) by Djamila Sahraoui (Mostra de Cinema Àrab i Mediterrani de Catalunya)


Barakat! (2006) by Djamila Sahraoui (AIM Film Festival)

Trailer translation from French to English by Beti Ellerson

Excuse me, my husband has disappeared

Barakat, the journalist, where is he?

I don't know if they killed him,
or if they are the killers.

My child,
listen to what I tell you.

I am going to find him by myself.

Okay go find him by yourself!

Repeat it, now!
Repeat it!

Barakat!

07 September 2010

Caroline Kamya's Imani

ImaniMovie

FROM THE AFRICAN WOMEN IN CINEMA ARCHIVES

Caroline Kamya has come full circle in Berlin.  From participating in the fifth  Berlinale Talent Campus held there in 2007, the Ugandan film-maker has produced her first feature film, Imani, which [premiered] at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival in February.  By doing so, Kamya embodies the goals of such a program: to enhance the natural talents and abilities of film artists from around the world, while providing them the contacts and creative tools that they need to succeed. This screening is truly a happy ending to the story.

Kamya has been steadily building her production company and her award-winning film repertoire since completing her education in the UK. She received her BA in Architecture from the University of London, though she frankly acknowledges that she knew after one year the subject was not for her. She then made her move and received an MA in TV Documentary at Goldsmith College (also at the University of London).

Like architecture, at some point during her studies she became aware of her inclination to control content and found herself attracted to the concept of fiction films. Her professional development included training and work at the BBC in London and in 1999 she founded her own company, IVAD Productions.  READ ENTIRE ARTICLE "AFRICAN FILM-MAKER ON THE RED CARPET IN BERLIN"




Imani (2009) by Caroline Kamya





Making the Movie Imani



Behind the Scenes of Imani