At the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Africa advances out of competition

What is Africa’s place at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival? The absence of an African director in the running for the Palme d’Or should not make us lose sight of the fact that Africa remains very present in the official selection of this 75th edition, and beyond.

In 2019 the Franco-Senegalese Mati Diop won the Grand Prize for Atlantic. In 2020, the Egyptian Sameh Alaa won the Palme d’or for his short film I am afraid to forget your face. And in 2021, High and loud Moroccan Nabil Ayouch and Chadian Lingui Mahamat-Saleh Haroun were in the running for the Palme d’Or. This year, no African film was selected in competition at the biggest cinema event in the world.

On the other hand, Africa remains omnipresent in the subjects treated, in connection with the African world: we talk about integration, the weight of religion, the challenge of reconciliation after a war, sexual identity, struggle for dignity, but also of the history of African cinema.

The first images shown on the big screen at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival came from Africa. A few hours before the official opening of the 75th edition, the first film screened on Tuesday May 17 for the press was called For the Sake of Peace (In the name of peace). This documentary, programmed in a special session in the official selection, tells a powerful and poignant story in South Sudan, a country rarely seen in the cinema.

Forest Whitaker, Ambassador for Peace in Africa

We meet Nandege, a young mother traumatized by the war, who has dedicated her life to her new mission: to become a mediator of peace in her country troubled by violence and war. 350,000 people have been killed since 2011, the year of independence for the youngest state on the planet. With simple words, but full of empathy and hope, Nandege manages to reconcile two small communities of cattle herders, sworn enemies for generations. In order to be able to pay the dowry for marriages, each tribe steals the cattle of the other, and, if necessary, also kills the men, women and children of the other camp. As a result, assault rifles are almost as numerous as cows, and school and peace have become foreign words. Despite his fragile appearance, Nandege convinces the two leaders of the communities to repent and embrace each other in front of their gathered communities during the peace talks. Not easy when you hear one of the leaders say that he has killed in the last four years a thousand people, many of whom are members of the tribe on the other side of the Kidepo valley…

Read also : Akuol de Mabior tells his South Sudan, a very political family story

African-American actor Forest Whitakerdistinguished yesterday by a Palme d’honneur for his exceptional career as “ actor, filmmaker, Unesco ambassador for peace and reconciliation, citizen of the world », makes two very short appearances in this film. At the same time, he occupies the main role. Because he is the founder and president of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative Foundation. Created ten years ago, the WPDI, dedicated to the promotion of peace, made it possible to produce this film directed by Christophe Castagne and Thomas Sametin, after other initiatives in African countries such as Uganda.

“Boy from Heaven” by Tarik Saleh. Born in Stockholm, of Egyptian origin, he is the only filmmaker of African origin in the running for the Palme d'or 2022.
“Boy from Heaven” by Tarik Saleh. Born in Stockholm, of Egyptian origin, he is the only filmmaker of African origin in the running for the Palme d’or 2022. © Atmo Righs AB

“Boy from Heaven », the politico-religious struggle in Egypt today

Tarik Saleh, born in 1972 in Stockholm, of Egyptian origin, will indeed be the only filmmaker of African origin in the running for the Palme d’Or, even if Boy from Heavenshot in Sweden and Morocco, was made possible thanks to production companies based in France, Sweden, Morocco and Finland… Saleh’s film focuses on the son of a fisherman who attends the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo to speak through this personal destiny of the power struggles between religious and political elites in contemporary Egypt.

Read also : The 2022 Cannes Film Festival opens, but towards what horizon?

In other words, after a dozen African directors in competition for ten years (including the Jury Prize in 2010 for A screaming man by Chadian Mahamat Saleh Haroun had paved the way for a revival of African cinema), we will always be waiting for the second African Palme d’or after that of the Chronicle of the Ember Years of the Algerian Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina in 1975.

Marion Cotillard in Benin

Nevertheless, on the screen, Africa is very much in demand in the competition. The young French director Leonor Serraille will tell us in his second film A little brother the story of the African Rose who settled in the late 1980s with her two sons in the Paris region. The Dardenne brothers, already double Palme d’or, have also chosen to paint the portrait of two African exiles, Tori and Lokita, a boy and a teenager, but this time in Belgium. Not to mention the fight between Brother and sister of Arnaud Desplechin where Marion Cotillard will find herself in a very surprising way in Benin.

“Ttsutsué”, a Ghanaian story

And then, despite everything, there is still a chance that an African director will win a Palme d’Or. Ghanaian director Amartei Armar, 31, son of a Ghanaian father and an American mother, is in the running for the Palme d’or for short films. Its Franco-Ghanaian co-production Tsutsue is the testimony of a fisherman’s son, Okai, haunted by the disappearance of his big brother at sea.

Ali Cherri: “The Dam” (Le Barrage), presented at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival 2022.
Ali Cherri: “The Dam” (Le Barrage), presented at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival 2022. © The Directors’ Fortnight

When Omar Sy embodies one of the “ Skirmishers »

In a completely different register, Omar Sy drew our attention as an actor and co-producer to the long-forgotten story of the Senegalese skirmishers in the First World War. In Skirmishers, a Franco-Senegalese co-production directed by Mathieu Vadepied, the favorite actor of the French, who also became a Netflix star, sets the story of Bakara Diallo, enlisted in 1917 in the French army to find his son Thierno, recruited by force. The film will be screened at the opening of Un Certain Regard.

Maryam Touzani, Lotfy Nathan and Rachid Bouchareb

Highly anticipated in this prestigious parallel section is also the second film by Maryam Touzani. In The blue of the caftan, the Moroccan actress and director takes us once again into the undergrounds of her country’s society. It is the story of a couple of man and woman put to the test by the homosexuality of the husband and the illness of his wife.

There will also be a modern parable about resistance. Harkathe first film by Lotfy Nathan, an American director of Egyptian origin, depicts the fight of a young Tunisian for his dreams and his dignity after the death of his father.

Reda Kateb will play the student Malik Oussekine beaten to death by police in Paris in 1986. Presented in the Cannes Première section, Our brothersdirected by the Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb (who had filmed in 2014 with Forest Whitaker), will look into this case which had also inspired Disney for its mini-series recently released online.

“Ashkal”, the first feature film by Youssef Chebbi, presented at the Directors’ Fortnight at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. © The Directors’ Fortnight

Tribute to Souleymane Cissé

In Cannes Classics, Malian director Fatou Cissé will present her documentary about her father Souleymane Cisseborn in 1940, one of the legends of African cinema. A daughter’s tribute to her father will evoke the childhood, the youth and the cinematographic career of the Malian master, but also his family relations.

rebel is presented in a midnight session at the Cannes Film Festival by Adil el Arbi and Bilall Fallah. The directors of Moroccan origin follow in the footsteps of Kamal, a young Moroccan from Molenbeek, who decided to go to Syria to help the victims of the war. Kidnapped, he is forced to join an armed group… At the same time, his mother tries to dissuade Kamal’s younger brother from becoming a jihadist.

But the presence of African cinema at the Cannes Film Festival is not limited to films. At the International Pavilion, the Africas Pavilion (the s represents the inclusion of the African diaspora) invites for the third time to discover French-speaking and English-speaking African excellence in the film industry, with conferences, round tables and the unprecedented screening of Haiti Is A Nation Of Artists by Haitian-born American filmmaker Jacquil Constant. And Unesco will organize a conference on May 24 to discuss its report on the cinema industry in Africa.

Algeria, Sudan and Tunisia on the screens of La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs

At the Directors’ Fortnight, Africa is represented by four films. The Harkis, by Moroccan Philippe Faucon, born in Oujda in 1958, talks about the early 1960s when the Algerian war dragged on and poor young Algerians joined the French army. When the independence of Algeria approaches, the question arises of the future of the harkis.

The Lebanese Ali Cherri, visual artist and director based in Paris, sets up his camera in Sudan during the revolution. In his first feature film, The Dam (The dam), it tells the story of Maher, a worker in a brickyard fed by the waters of the Nile. At night, in secret, he builds a mysterious work made of mud. When the Sudanese prepare to rise up for their freedom, his creation seems to come to life.

Tunisia is even represented by two feature films at the Fortnight. Ashkal, the first feature film by Youssef Chebbi, born in 1984, is a metaphysical thriller where two cops discover a charred body, followed by a disconcerting investigation… And the Tunisian Erige Sehiri, known for her documentary The Normal Wayreleased in 2018, sends us into his first fiction feature in the middle of the fig trees. under the fig trees is a sentimental chronicle observing the changing relationships between young women and men during the summer harvest.

Fatou Cissé: “Tribute from a daughter to her father”, presented in the Cannes Classics section.
Fatou Cissé: “Tribute from a daughter to her father”, presented in the Cannes Classics section. © Cannes Film Festival 2022

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At the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Africa advances out of competition