“Tigritudes”, African cinema from all angles – Jeune Afrique

From January 1 to February 27, the Forum des Images de Paris presents a selection of 126 African films of all genres. A selection that should then circulate on the continent, starting with Burkina Faso.

Just reading this title Tigritudes, allows us to understand that this vast anthology offered by the Forum des Images is not simply one more look at the history of African cinema and its diasporas (United States, Caribbean, Cuba, etc.). This beautiful title is inspired by the famous expression of the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize for Literature, who declared in 1962 during a meeting in Kampala: “The tiger does not proclaim its tigritude, it leaps on its prey and devours. Which then amounted to criticizing, with a certain ferocity, the literary movement of negritude in vogue since the 1930s in the French-speaking sphere, well before the era of decolonization. He thus wanted to oppose the “vain rhetoric” of this intellectual and literary current whose leaders were Senghor and Césaire and the need, at the time of independence, to take action to obtain results.

Applying the formula to the cinema is therefore, for the directors Dyana Gaye and Valérie Osouf who designed this cycle, a way of presenting a program that would ignore the divisions of the continent, mixing ethical, aesthetic and political dimensions of the seventh art, emphasizing the importance of self-determination. A tribute to Soyinka that also honors the continent’s struggles and diversity. Remembering, comments Valérie Osouf with a smile on her face, that a tiger is a very uneven animal, “with its welts that refer to the plural”.

It is therefore, wishes to clarify Dyana Gaye, neither a retrospective nor a festival: the choice of programming is subjective and assumed as such by the two filmmakers who met a quarter of a century ago. in Senegal and who wanted to share the pleasure of discovering, or getting to know better, a cinematography that is still underexposed. Admittedly, the period explored only runs from 1956 to today and the screenings, 64 in number, make it possible to present a total of 126 films, all formats combined, in a chronological approach. But it is not a question of recapitulating the history of African cinema – a formula which, moreover, unsurprisingly rejects the two programmers who hear about “cinemas from Africa and the diaspora”.

Two thirds of a century of struggles of an Africa “not outside but, no offense to Nicolas Sarkozy, in history”

The starting date of 1956, for example, is not at all intended to coincide with that of the supposed beginnings of this cinema which is most often fixed (forgetting the previous existence of an Egyptian cinema) with Africa on the Seine Beninese naturalized Senegalese Paulin Soumanou Vieyra. 1956 represents for them above all the date of the independence of Sudan, from which one records “a seismography of the struggles”, according to the title of the work of the art historian Zahia Rahmani who inspired them. Two thirds of a century of struggles of an Africa “not outside but, with all due respect to Nicolas Sarkozy, in history” which lead us to today.

Unknown films by great directors

How was the choice of films made, inevitably draconian given the extent of the field explored? The main concern being to discover works, the organizers decided not to exclude the big names but rather to show some of their little-known films. So we won’t see Yeelen corn Finye by Souleymane Cissé, not Bamako Where Timbuktu of Abderrrahmane Sissako but Heremakono (Waiting for Happiness)not Borrom Cart Where The Black of… Where moolaade of Ousmane Sembene but Emitainot yaaba Where Kini and Adams of Idrissa Ouedraogo but Samba Traorenot Central Station Where Destiny by Youssef Chahine but Black Watersnot A screaming man of Mahamat Saleh Haroun but Bye bye Africanot Do the right thing of Spike Lee but school dazenot Touki Bouki Where hyenas by Djibril Diop Mambety but Badou Boy. Diversity has been favored, even if it means giving up showing big-name films like those by Burkinabè Gaston Kaboré, Nigerian Ola Balogun or Algerian Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina, the only African Palme d’Or at Cannes to date with Chronicle of the Ember Years. Not without regret since, for example, Hassan Terro by the Algerian director was still in the penultimate list of films.

This desire to favor the discovery and cinematography of countries with little exposure, avoiding an over-representation of Senegalese films dear to the two programmers or of the prolific Algeria, has however come up against impasses. Dyana Gueye and Valérie Osouf know that there are three Libyan films but they couldn’t get their hands on the copies. And if they did not find films from the Central African Republic or Uganda worthy of screening, they were surprised to find that sometimes relatively recent films had “disappeared” such as Drum by South African Zola Maseko, winner of Fespaco in 2005, fangs of Mohammed Shebl or those of the Algerian Djamila Sahraoui. In addition, it was necessary to bow before certain questions of rights and exclusivity on works such as that of the Ethiopian installed in the United States Hailé Gerima, of which they would have liked to show The Three Thousand Year Harvest which symbolizes better than any other the link between Africa and its diaspora.

The emergence of a hybrid cinema

Having seen or re-watched a large number of films from the past sixty-five years, have the directors spotted periods or moments that were particularly creative or, on the contrary, disappointing? They reply without hesitation that the years that aged the worst were the 1990s, which are often considered to be good times for African cinema, because many films from this period, especially French-speaking ones, appear “formatted”. An effect of European funding? On the other hand, the 1970s, and in the first place the year 1975, have retained their relevance with many films having not aged a bit.

Bold new generations that offer freer writing

Encouragingly, they think we are probably living in exciting new times today. With bold new generations who offer freer writing, subjects and new forms, freeing themselves from codes. In particular, we observe the appearance of a hybrid cinema, on the edge of the plastic arts. To illustrate this evolution in the cycle presented at the Forum des images, we will discover the film by Lesotho director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Mother, I’m suffocating. Or a short film by Moroccan Randa Maroufi Bab Sebta.

Sessions for young audiences and Master class

Apart from the films, which will often be the subject of debates in the presence of the directors or other guests, tigritudes will also offer screenings for young audiences, master classes (including one by Billy Woodberry, co-founder of the LA Rebellion African-American cinema revival movement in the 1960s-70s, on February 26) and film lessons. Among these, in addition to a look at Algerian cinematography (by critic Saad Chakali, January 14) and a dive into the cinema of Djibril Diop Manbety (February 11 by Catherine Ruelle), a presentation by Nigerian director Newton Aduaka explaining that his country’s cinema is not just about Nollywood (January 28), a history of pan-African political documentary by Egyptian Jihan El-Tahri (February 18) or an exploration of “Lusophone cinemas in the turmoil of conflict” by producer Pedro Pimento (February 25).

From next March in Burkina Faso

Open this January 13 in the evening with the projection in a restored version of the superb film by Cameroonian Jean-Pierre Dikongué Pipa Muna Motorcycle who obtained the Yennenga Stallion at Fespaco in 1975, tigritudes will end on February 27 with a preview screening of a recent Ethiopian documentary by Jessica Beshir. But that won’t be the end of the story. Because Dyana Gaye and Valérie Osouf, before devoting themselves again to their personal cinematographic projects (a musical to be shot in Dakar for the first time, a documentary made with Patrick Chamoiseau from an adaptation of the book Sartorius by Edouard Glissant for the second), intend to circulate tigritudes beyond Paris. In American universities and in the Caribbean, but especially on the African continent. This will begin next March in Burkina Faso, in Bobo Dioulasso, and projects are in the process of being implemented in Senegal, Benin, Cameroon, Tunisia and Algeria.

Tigritudes, a subjective history of African cinema, designed by Dyana Gaye and Valérie Osouf, at the Forum des images in Paris from January 12 to February 27

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“Tigritudes”, African cinema from all angles – Jeune Afrique