Cinematic production originating in the South is often understood as a cinema of transition. Unique luxury, it takes the time to paint a world that is distant and yet so close, both in its refusal of entertainment and in its maintenance of the auteur status. In reality it is a cinema of the refusal of transitional space because there is no passage It is a cinema of ellipse, not so much in its aesthetic form but in its parsimony. It relies on a concrete reality that would like to take control of the phenomena that contribute to its production, distribution and consumption. That is without a doubt where its ambitions are thwarted, and what the term Cinema of the South ought to be based on. Not only the Sub-Saharan South, but all the Souths. Those lived and those gazed upon. The term Cinemas of the South calls to mind several propositions that we are intending to examine.
Gazing at One Another
In this way, the expression Cinemas of the South, in opposition to the [cinema] of the North corresponds to a Eurocentric vision, a Western construction of a particular representation, often frozen, of images originating from the South. This vision elaborates on a list of what it believes to be representative of cultures and behaviors and does not take into account diversity and the modernity of a South in perpetual motion. As a result, we end up with a manual of what defines it (authenticity) and, by exclusion, what it is not (non conformity). When new propositions surface, it is not uncommon to hear “This is not African!”, “This is not [representative of] the South!”, translate: “This is the way of the North and therefore in relation to whom has committed it, it is acculturated, which sounds like a verdict with no appeal.
Cinemas of the South is also the space in which stories develop differently and in parallel to the cinemas of the North, and, although they are connected to discordant humanity, they distinguish themselves by their own rhythms thus creating a sacred distance, in particular in the choice of themes, priorities, the discovery of cultures, therefore new sketches of lives, a plurality of expression of ideas. An open approach that invites us to gaze at one another, to become interested in the other because of what he has to share, who he is and not because of what we expect him to be.
The South, My Passion
Cinemas of the South is lastly a set of conditions that contribute to its existence: economic criteria, legislations, professional training, etc. A well-oiled machinery in the North, but, with rare exceptions, still in its infancy in the South. In addition, in this South there are also inequalities, glass ceilings. But overall, the cinema of the South remains on life support, which is problematic in the long run because it is important to have complete control over one’s creations. If those who give it existence are animated by the same passion found in auteurs of all continents, the difference is that when they are in the South of the South, they will have more difficulty in preserving their independence, their integrity, without having to count on economic aid or create political interest in developing an environment that is less hostile to creation. All the while preserving their autonomy. Digital video is a saving grace in the sense that it matches our resources best, and the cinema of tomorrow will be less characterized by the nature of the medium than by the treatment of the subject matter.
Cinémacité and Otherness
The fact is that we are evolving in a world where we play leap border. And thus we need not be surprised to see the South transported to the North, which adds to the confusion of those who extol authenticity. The propositions are many: a filmmaker from the South established in the North and developing themes typical of the North in the South, or Southern themes in the North. How to distinguish and characterize his work? What to make of an Alain Gomis who made L’Afrance? Or a Zeka Laplaine with his Paris XY? Only to speak of those two. What to say of films from the South taking on more readily nationalities of the North than their “illegal immigrant” auteurs? In reality, the early definitions are quickly transcended by the desires of the creators, their status resisting simple definition . So-called filmmakers of the South are auteurs who define themselves along the same lines as Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Rivette, Chabrol, all auteurs of the New Wave. They do not reject the heat that runs in their films, but that is not the epicenter nor the bottom line of the debate. That would be to remain on the surface of things. Here, cinema still remains a political act with all the consequences it engenders, which will be as strong as the engagement of the filmmaker.
If there were to be a definition of our cinema, it would articulate itself around two notions, the one I dare call cinémacité, a neologism, and the notion of otherness. The notion of cinémacité is what makes a work a cinematographic work taking into account external factors such as mobility and diversity. To that, let’s attach the notion of otherness in the sense of confronting one’s work to the Other. Once we are fully in control of these two propositions, let us see what the South will make of Cinema and let us get exhilarated by boundless titles forecasting everlasting stories.