It all began in Khouribga: the 15th Festival du Cinéma Africain de Khouribga

“An African film is a miracle, like the rain.”
– Youssef Ait Hamou

“’No wind is favorable to a sailor who does not know what port he is headed for.’”
– Seneca, quoted by Nour-Eddine Saïl

I first heard of Khouribga, located inland an hour south of Casablanca, while reading Fouad Laroui’s hilarious novel Méfiez-vous des parachutistes(1) about his brief time as an engineer in the city of phosphate. It was the discovery of that mineral in 1923 that encouraged authorities of the French Protectorate to settle there. The colonists rapidly developed mines, and today Khouribga remains a world exporter of phosphate.

In their Khouribga enclave, the French inaugurated, in 1934, a film club that would be the first not just in Morocco, but on the continent too: Khouribga is the cradle of African film. (2) If Morocco, like the rest of the Africa, has recently been hard hit by the decimation of its film theatres, (3) we still should not underestimate the ongoing social and educational function played by those film clubs.

Writing in the aftermath of World War 2, André Bazin, one of their staunchest supporters, presciently foresaw the crucial role they would play:

It is possible that in twenty years, future historians will consider that one of the most important events of film, since 1944, will have been the propagation of the film clubs. […] The recent development of the film clubs in France has assumed a different magnitude from what they were before the war. (4)

[…] Today, we are in the presence of a truly popular institution that may very well influence the quality of film production. (5)

Bazin was speaking about France, but it’s well known he occasionally animated film debates in the Maghreb too.

The clubs’ many dividends included the burgeoning of film festivals, and the Khouribga African Film Festival (FCAK) was Morocco’s very first. It was founded in 1977, during the golden age of the film club movement, in the revolutionary spirit that gave birth first to the Journées cinématographiques de Carthage in Tunisia in 1966 and then to FESPACO (6) (Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ougadougou) in Burkina Faso in 1969. Since 2004, the FCAK has been run by a Foundation, with Nour-Eddine Saïl as its President and Lahoussaine N’doufi its Executive Director. Like so many of the country’s leaders, N’doufi and Saïl, who directs the Centre Cinématographique Marocain (CCM), began their careers in the Moroccan film clubs.

Presiding over the festival, Saïl reiterated his remarks made last January at the National Film Festival in Tangier: “Morocco, we must not forget, exists in Africa.” In addition, he emphasised Morocco’s longstanding commitment to stimulating film production on the continent, noting that African directors, like Ousmane Sembène, have regularly edited their films at the CCM. For years held intermittently, the FCAK is now established as an annual event, attracting some of the biggest names in contemporary African cinema.

This year’s FCAK paid tribute to the Mauritanian filmmaker, Abderrahmane Sissako. Four of my students accompanied me, and since they had never had the opportunity to see his work, I only regret that the homage didn’t include a screening of his magisterial Bamako (2006). Accepting the award, Sissako observed that Mali, his second homeland, (7) is currently going through difficult times and that the cinema is a “universal family”.

The festival began with a panel discussion, moderated by Saïl, on the future of film in Africa, with representatives from Tunisia (Mohamed Nejib Ayed, a producer and film critic), Senegal (Ababacar Diop, a journalist and critic), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Balufu Bakupa Kanyinda, a filmmaker, critic, and poet). With the exception of Antarctica, Africa was the last continent to develop film production, and activity there remains undeveloped. Its production centres form a peripheral triangle, with Egypt (30 films a year) and Morocco (now up to 25 film annually) at the base, and South Africa (12 films per year) forming the apex. But sadly, within this triangle, the rest of Africa produces no more than fifteen feature films per year. Someone mentioned the mind-boggling Nigerian example, where 900 films are made annually, but hastily added that in that plethora of images, there is not a single film. (8) Nour-Eddine Saïl touted the Moroccan “miracle”, which is due to the French-derived system of advances on receipts, adding that Morocco is proud to be a model for other African countries; as director of the CCM, he continues to follow the policies set in place by his predecessor, Souheil Ben Barka. Nejib Ayed acknowledged that Tunisia is inspired by the Moroccan experience; currently, the two countries are envisaging co-productions. It was Balufu Kanyinda who struck the most militant note on the panel: “We were colonised by the cinema. We must decolonise ourselves with the cinema.”

African film is often divided up into North vs South (Maghrebin film vs Sub-Saharan film) and into Francophone vs non-Francophone film. The FCAK, however, ignores such distinctions, and twelve feature-length films from eleven different countries competed this year for the Ousmane Sembène Grand Prix. The Moroccan film critic and blogger Mohamed Dahane headed the jury. The official selection included two Moroccan entries:Andalousie, mon amour and Mort à vendre.Andalousie, mon amour Mohamed Nadef

Based on Omar Saghi’s screenplay,Andalousie, mon amour is the first feature-length film by actor-director Mohamed Nadef, who also stars. Two friends in northern Morocco, Saïd and Amine, dream of immigrating to Spain, for lack of opportunities at home. It’s an important societal theme that Nadef treats as a comedy. And it works. The two friends get separated in their crossover attempt; Saïd mistakenly thinks he makes it to Spain, and Amin happily returns home to pursue his new love interest. Cross cutting between their different experiences, the film focuses on the corruption endemic to Moroccan society, while the dream of a better life on the other side of the Mediterranean remains well out of reach. During the debate, several audience members expressed disbelief as well as discontent at Nadef’s portrayal of a small-town teacher, who augments his salary by drug trafficking. Nour-Eddine Saïl countered that the teacher’s many contradictions are simply representative of the average Moroccan. When criticised for having performed in his own film, Nadef legitimately spoke of his desire to also be in front of the camera. (9) Expertly filmed by the doyen of Moroccan directors of photography, Kamal Derkaoui, (10) Andalousie, mon amour won a special mention for its cinematography. Incontestably the audience favourite, it garnered the prize for best direction.

Nadef’s film intimates the role of Andalusia in the imaginary of many Moroccans in their search for origins. In 1492, Spain expulsed its non-Catholic population; it’s a key date, of course, for Americans too. My immigrant ancestors, however, are closer in time (they emigrated from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries), and I have a hard time understanding that sense of nostalgia for a paradise lost so long ago. I’m reminded, though, of meeting a woman, in Paris, several years ago at the Barbès-Rochechouart market whose Jewish family was exiled at the same time as the Arabs: she too spoke with incredible longing for Andalusia.

With the fall of the city of Grenada and the ensuing Spanish, Christian Reconquista, Arabs and Jews fled to North Africa: many of them settled in Tetouan, featured in Faouzi Bensaïdi’s Mort à vendre. If Bensaïdi is not interested in the city’s Andalusian roots per se, he has nonetheless created an urban portrait so strong that the city becomes a central character in his film. Nestled against the Rif mountains and situated on the Mediterranean, Tetouan tops my list of places to visit in the kingdom. (11) Bensaïdi’s family moved there when he was three; his memory, he told us, began in Tetouan.

Mort à vendre tells the story of three down-on-their-luck friends – Malik, Soufiane and Allal – who prepare the heist of a jewelry shop. Still living at home, the main character, Malik (Fehd Benchemsi), detests his stepfather. Visually stunning, Mort à vendre is characterised by sequence shots that envelop the characters in their environment, a rare practice in current filmmaking. I also loved the way the characters are framed against the mountains. The next day, when I commented on his stylistic choices in the Q&A, Bensmaïl acknowledged that as a filmmaker he remains firmly anchored in the previous century.

In addition, the frontal shots, to which Bensmaïl is also partial, lend his film a theatrical feel. In one of my favourite scenes, Malik is watching television in the foreground, while his stepfather rants about his good-for-nothing stepson in the background. Suddenly, a brawl breaks out between them over the television set; the centre of action shifts to the middle-ground as the two men struggle over the large box, evoking Delacroix’s painting of Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. It’s a very funny scene.

Malik’s mission with his male friends ultimately takes a back seat to his interest in a prostitute, appropriately named Dounia: in Arabic, the name means “worldly”, meaning the temporal world as opposed to the eternal one, and as such connotes something low and base. (12) At one point, Malik is framed behind bars, a strong visual clue to his personal stalemate. He’s the protagonist, but the film also features an important ensemble cast with Bensaidi’s companion, Nezha Rahile, playing Malik’s sister and Bensaïdi himself (the director originally trained as an actor) playing a tough-guy cop.

The actors in Bensaïdi’s film are all very strong and in the Q&A, Rahile emphasised the difficulty of speaking about acting, of verbally expressing the alchemy of an actor’s art. Strangely, the film came up empty-handed in the awards, but no matter: Faouzi Bensaïdi’s third feature is further proof, if proof were needed, of his own talent and the current vitality of Moroccan cinema. Mort à vendrehas just been chosen to represent Morocco in the foreign film competition for the 2013 Oscars. (13)

The other popular film in this year’s line-up (and undoubtedly the biggest budget, with its lion and CGI) came from Gabon: Henri-Josef Koumba’s Le Collier du Makoko that was five years in the making. It’s an adventure story à la Indiana Jones of a queen, played by the popular singer Patience Dabany, who is also the mother of the current Gabonese president; she wants to recover an ancestral necklace that she believes will restore peace and prosperity to her country. Her story is interwoven with that of an African ecologist, who is working to reintroduce lions in his country, and a circus orphan, who has been separated from his beloved lion. The French actress, Hélène de Fougerolles, stars as a journalist covering the scientist, played by the Cameroon actor Eriq Ebouaney, while Philippe Mory plays the boy’s grandfather. Mory deserves special mention here: a founding father of Gabonese cinema, he was the first African to play the principal role in a French film, Michel Drach’s 1959 On n’enterre pas le dimanche, for which he won the 1960 Louis Delluc prize. (14)

The scenery in Le Collier du Makoko is breathtaking, the screenplay well written, and the actors all excellent, but the closing clinch between the blonde, French journalist and the African preservationist felt all wrong. That embrace, a little forced, conjures up Africa’s relationship to la Françafrique, and reminds me of the awkward turn of a foot and the bad cut, for which Serge Daney demolished Jean-Jacques Annaud’s L’Amant. (15)

The film’s story – the search for a sacred necklace – sparked an animated debate the next morning. How can Africa repatriate its many cultural goods, pilfered during the colonial period, including filmed images? Because of my own background as a museum administrator, it’s a subject of keen interest to me. The Senegalese critic, Ababacar Diop, and Clément Tapsoba of FESPACO agreed that in an ideal world, Africa would someday be able to recuperate its lost possessions but to do so, it had also to prepare itself, physically as well as psychologically.(16)

One of my favourite films in this year’s festival was by the acclaimed Tunisian director Ridha Behi. (17) Premiering last year at the Toronto Film Festival, Always Brando won the prize for best screenplay at Khouribga. It’s the true story of the filmmaker’s discovery, a decade ago, of a Tunisian youth resembling the young Marlon Brando. Wanting to make a film with him and Brando, Behi contacted the aging American actor, who invited him to Mulholland Drive. Brando signed on for the film, but then his untimely death in 2004 derailed the project, until Behi, realising that themonstre sacré was just a pretext, decided to rewrite the film. The final movie navigates between fiction and documentary. In the first, a gay actor, James, playing in an American movie being shot in Tunisia, discovers Anis, a Brando look-alike. James has the production company offer Anis a small role, and then, after seducing him, tries to entice him to Hollywood, allegedly in the hope of making it big time. The film’s other narrative strand consists of Behi’s meta-cinematic reflections on Brando as a human rights activist, and on the meaning of a Hollywood-mega star to a marginalised audience in the Magreb.

Behi shot the film in Kairouan, his hometown, which seems to be the Ouarzazate of Tunisia: Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is just one of the many films shot in Kairouan. For a Moroccan audience, Always Brandoreadily evokes Daoud Aoulad-Syad’s En attendant Pasolini (2007), shot in Ouarzazate, that similarly treats the issue of film extras in a third world context. It also brings to mind Rabii El Jawhari’s documentary The Silence’s Echo, for its poignant interview with the young Moroccan, who shot Cate Blanchett’s character in Babel. Having attended the film’s premiere at Cannes with Blanchett, the boy tragically assumed a career would follow. Already in his first feature, Soleil des hyènes (1979), Behi, who studied with Jean Rouch and earned a doctorate in sociology in Paris, dealt with the problematic results of tourism in Morocco and Tunisia. The filmmaker beganAlways Brando in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, courtesy of George W. Bush; not surprisingly, the final film is imbued with a strong anti-yankee attitude, countered only by Marlon Brando, who symbolises another kind of American.

During the Q&A, I asked the filmmaker if his own Pygmalion role in Anis’ life wasn’t comparable to that of the predatory, American actor. He candidly admitted that the real-life Anis had not fared well after making the movie; he, too, had confused his on- and off-screen personae. Currently, he is serving out a prison term. The critic for the Huffington Post mistakenly calls the film “a heartwarming story that could easily be that of Mohamed Bouazizi or any of the heroes of the Arab Spring.” (18)Heartwarming story? Behi’s film is more a heartbreaking, cautionary tale to young Africans on the perils of the West. Ironically, the recent political developments in the Arab world have softened Behi’s political views: “Between a Western tourist and a Salafist [an ultra-conservative Muslim],” he told us, “there would be a greater chance for dialogue . . . with the tourist.”

In one of the debates, Baba Diop noted that this year’s crop of films represent a major advance over previous years, because several films featured strong female protagonists, something of a novelty in African film. (However, the festival featured only one film by a female director, Fatima Zohra Zamoun’s Combien tu m’aimes[Algeria, 2011], which unfortunately I missed.) There was Pierre Yaméogo’s Bayiri, La Patrie(Burkina Faso) that tells the exodus of Biba, a young woman from Burkina Faso separated from her mother and living in a village in the Ivory Coast. For the director, the film provides a “veritable description of life in a refugee camp where international aid always arrives too late.” The rape scene is not easy to forget: the soldier restrains Biba in a guillotine-like contraption that allows him to violate her, while shielding him from her gaze. Bayiri, La Patrie was awarded the festival’s Osmane Sembène prize.

Toiles d’araignées, from Mali, another film featuring a female protagonist, took its director, Ibrahima Touré, seven years to complete. Mariama (Viviane Sidibé) refuses to follow her father’s wishes to marry a much older man with three wives. Years ago, American feminists took as their rallying cry, “The personal is political”, in an effort to get their menfolk to do more housework. In Mali and much of Africa, the personal is inescapably political, particularly for women. The Ivorian filmmaker Roger Gnoan M’Bala, who was also honoured at this year’s FCAK, reminds us why this is so:

[In Africa,] the father’s authority is normally exercised, not only on children, but also on women and wives, and belongs to a tradition. This is the reality; this is how it is. There is no psychological dimension to it. What is more perceived here as a problem, is the refusal of children to submit to the rule, which is condemned as rebellion. [. . .] (19)

Mariama’s insistence on marrying her sweetheart is thus seen as a political act. She is thrown into jail with terrible conditions, where she encounters Yoro, a politician and fierce opponent of the military regime.

In fact, Yoro’s story is based on the eponymous, autobiographical novel by Ibrahima Ly, a young math professor, who was imprisoned during Mali’s leaden years in the 1970s for a tract denouncing the junta. (20) Notwithstanding the veracity of Yoro/Ly’s account, his story was considerably less well developed than Mariama’s (her character also exists in the novel). Ibrahima Touré purposefully didn’t centre the film on Yoro, for fear of reprisals.

The title’s image – spiders’ webs – suggests being ensnared in a web that one can’t escape. The closing shot is a dramatic freeze-frame on Mariama; she’s been inextricably caught in the patriarchal, societal web, as she runs for her life. It’s a brave film and I appreciate its depiction of an everyday reality, unfortunately still familiar to too many African women.

The youngest filmmaker and one of the most promising in this year’s lineup (at Tribeca in 2011, he won for Best Emerging Director) was Kivu Ruhorahoza from Rwanda. Shot by the Australian director of photography, Ari Wegner, and entirely self-financed, his film, Grey Matter, has been hailed as the first Rwandan feature film. Ruhorahoza is quick to point out that other films preceded his, but those other films are the equivalent of Nigerian productions, made on the fly: “They are written, shot, and edited in less than two months, and shot with handycams and directly released on DVDs or VCDs, with titles like The Consequences of Sin andA Man’s True Worth is Demonstrated in Adversity.”(21) Interestingly, Grey Matter begins by distinguishing itself from such moralising films.

A young director, Balthazar wants to make a film treating the traumatic memory of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsis, as the culmination of a long-standing animosity between the two ethnic groups. His request for funding is denied, because the government prefers backing straightforward, didactic films on topics like HIV prevention and gender-based violence, like the Rwandan films regularly made for a mass market.

Despite this setback, Balthazar decides to move ahead with his project. This narrative frame then gives way to the film-within-the film entitled “The Cockroach Cycle”, where we first encounter a former Hutu soldier in an asylum who “rapes” a cockroach (a scene that Balthazar had earlier prepared us for). In the lead-up to the 1994 massacre, Kivu told us, the Tutsis were represented by the Tutus in the media as cockroaches to be exterminated, “Operation Insecticide”. The film also presents a twenty-something brother and sister, Tutsis, whose parents were violently murdered in the bloodbath. Clearly disturbed, Yvan has difficulty eating and sleeping, and never takes off his helmet. From his sister, Mary, we learn that his wounds are psychological rather than physical (“You don’t have any scars. You were in Belgium. You weren’t even here during the war,” she tells him), but no less real for that. One audience member querulously interrogated the filmmaker on the dramaturgic meaning of Yvan’s omnipresent helmet: Was it, he wondered, meant to protect Yvan’s brain (grey matter)? Yvan wears it, Ruhorahoza told us, because he thinks he’s been hurt in the head with a machete.

For this viewer, though, the film’s title refers less to the protagonist’s mental faculties and more to the nebulous, grey zone of human relations in pre- and post-war Rwanda. Mary, for instance, is forced into granting sexual favours to a psychiatrist in return for medical treatment for her brother. As for his headgear, Yvan wears it less for protection and more because it makes him look like a giant insect, thus visually emphasising his empathy with the victims and perhaps too assuaging his feelings of guilt for not having been there. Grey Matter was awarded a special jury prize.

The Senegalese entry, Alain Gomis’ Aujourd’hui (Today), which premiered in Berlin in February, received a lot of attention; its producer, Oumar Sall hopes that it will help jump start Senegalese production, which has been floundering since Sembène’s death in 2007.

According to Gomis, “Aujourd’hui is the kind of tale that takes place in an imaginary society in which death comes looking for someone. The film starts when he [the protagonist] opens his eyes and ends when they close.” (22) Initially, I thought Aujourd’hui would be an African remake of Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962). The pace is purposefully slow and dialogue kept to a minimum: after immigrating to the U.S. for fifteen years, Satché (played by the American musician and poet, Saul Williams, who lives in Paris), returns to Dakar. On his last day alive, he meets several people, before finally heading home to his wife and children.

Varda’s Cléo undergoes a physical as well as spiritual transformation, almost in real time, as she comes face-to-face with her mortality; Satché’s meanderings, on the other hand, offer little narrative resolution. Cleo’s metamorphosis from a frivolous, petulant yé-yé singer to an adult facing a stark truth is entirely credible, while Satché flits from encounter to encounter. His imminent demise never comes alive for me, no doubt because he’s a kind of nowhere man. Besides the beautiful cinematography by Crystel Fournier (Youssef Ait Hamou wonderfully noted that the actors seem to be sculpted by the light, adding that sculpture is the African art, par excellence), what I remember most about the film is the wife’s anger. Aujourd’hui’s real subject is not Satché’s death at the end of the day, but rather his no-man’s status as a bi-national.

Some critics believe that an artist has only one or perhaps two themes, which over a lifetime he or she succeeds in constantly retelling. Such a reading appears valid for Alain Gomis. He grew up in Paris with a French mother and Senegalese father, and his work to date reflects on the in-betweenness of his dual nationality. Remarks, for instance, that he made in a 2003 interview provide insight into his current film:

There is no intention to be French or Senegalese. My ways of being are very Senegalese, and the way my characters behave shows a background closer to Africa. […] What I want to bring to the screen is the basic conflict you face when you are an outsider. Living somewhere but coming from somewhere else. […]

Actually, creating this character was a way for me to understand my own situation. […] I grew up with that idea of that far away, magical, extraordinary land called Senegal, to where I would go back. Emigrants come and plan to stay five years, ten years, or plan to go back when they stop working. They are continually dreaming of this return. They never think that the longer they stay, the more difficult it will be to go back. And it turns out to be an obstacle to living a full life where you are. […] And this becomes a problem for me because it is like running away from myself at the time. That is how I lived. (23)

Cleo’s death is concretely imagined (she fears she has cancer and in the closing scene, her doctor confirms the diagnosis), while Satché’s death remains metaphorical. His former girlfriend tells him: “You’re going to die, but you haven’t ever lived.” Straddling life on two continents, Gomis suggests, is already a form of dying.

In addition to the screening of new African films and their press conferences the following morning, the Khouribga Festival distinguishes itself by a series of Midnight debates. One of these nocturnal discussions was dedicated to the Moroccan film journalCiné Mag. It was founded in 2006 by a generous Moroccan cinephile. If the review is currently suspended for insufficient funding, the passion for discussing and debating films, judging from my own experiences these past two years, is very much alive in the country. Perhaps Ciné Mag should now consider becoming an online film journal, like Senses of Cinema? Baba Diop sadly noted that Senegal currently has not one film journal. Paraphrasing Henri Langlois who maintained that a film had to be screened in order to exist, Diop added that films must be discussed and written about, otherwise they become invisible. The discussion lingered at length on the French New Wave and film journals like Cahiers du cinéma andPositif, but at least one participant, Clément Tapsoba from Fespaco, wondered if an African film critic really needed to be citing the old Eurocentric models. He certainly has a point, but if we agree with Abderrahmane Sissako, who studied in Moscow where he discovered an affinity for Russian literature, that the cinema is a universal family, then a young film director or critic in Ougagdougou or Dakar or Douala or Timbuktu or Ouarzazate should have the ability – or rather, let’s call it the right – to dialogue with the best minds and talents wherever, regardless of nationality.

The role of the film critic was also intensely debated. Evoking Roland Barthes, Youssef Ait Hamou one of the most engaged among the Moroccan critics, asked us if we were we a “mille fleurs” or an “apricot” critic? (24) The latter searches out the essential core of a work of art, while the former prefers entertaining a work of art in a polysemic plurality. Ait Hamou also reminded us of a simple and yet crucial fact that bears repeating: “An African film is a miracle, like the rain.” It took five years to make Le Collier de Makoko, seven for Les Toiles d’Araginées, while Ridha Behi averages between five to six years between films. Someone commented thatAlways Brando felt like a “testament film”: Behi responded that having made just seven films in forty years, every one for him was a “testament film”. As for Sissako, he told us his career choice represents a permanent, ongoing sacrifice for his family.

One final remark: I realise that the FCAK only programs feature-length films. Still, I regret that the Moroccan short, Inch’allah, which I saw last January in the National Film Festival, wasn’t included. A film about reverse immigration where a young Frenchman struggles as a clandestine worker in Morocco, it would have stimulated debate in a festival of African film.

The late-night sessions closed with a tribute to Ousmane Sembène that featured a screening of Christine Delorme’s moving documentary, Ousmane Sembène: tout à la fois(2011). Although she finished the film last year, her footage dates from twenty years before, shortly after Sembène finished shooting Guelwaar (1992)It’s a valuable document, because Sembène rarely allowed himself to be filmed and because what he says therein is pertinent, reminding us of the fundamentals of African film.

It was in a Moroccan film club, in 1970, that Nour-Eddine Saïl first encountered the Senegalese filmmaker; at the time, Sembène was already an important reference in Africa. Saïl called him a “great conscience”. From its inception, the Festival du Cinéma Africain de Khouribga was tied to Sembène’s ideas, which explains why the festival’s Grand Prix is named after him. Nour-Eddine Saïl, an erstwhile philosophy professor, is a muscular speaker and his paraphrase of Seneca, at 1:00 am, brought me to full attention: “No wind is favorable to a sailor who does not know what port he is headed for.” “ Sembène,” he told us, “was someone who always knew the port.”

Festival du Cinéma Africain de Khouribga
30 June – 7 July 2012

First published in Senses of Cinema, no. 64 (September 2012)

http://festivalkhouribga.com/site/

 

Endnotes

  1. Paris: Julliard, 1999. I highly recommend Laroui’s two most recent novels: Une année chez les français, which was in the running for the 2010 Prix Goncourt, and La vieille dame du riad (2012).
  2. Maman Abdoul-Razag, the Secretary General of the Centre National de la cinématographie in Niger, in an interview with the MAP, “Le Maroc est le berceau du 7e art africain,” Le Matin, 4 July 2012.http://www.lematin.ma/journal/-/168632.html [Last consulted 16 August 2012].
  3. Morocco numbers 65 screens, while in Burkina Faso, for instance, there are just ten. Gabon currently has no cinemas: they have all been reconverted into places of worship. The cities of Bamako and Dakar each have one screen.
  4. André Bazin, “Le movement des ciné-clubs en France depuis la Libération,” Doc Education Populaire,1948, p. 7. Unless otherwise noted, translations from the French are my own. My warm thanks to Dudley Andrew for making available to me the Bazin archives at Yale University.
  5. André Bazin, “L’Ecran et le monde: Où en sont les ciné clubs,” Parisien libéré, 5 July 1946, no. 588.
  6. Morocco has thrice won the top award at FESPACO, most recently in 2011 for Mohamed Mouftakir’sPégase, in 2001 for Nabil Ayouch’s Ali Zaoua, and in 1973 for Souheil Ben Barka’s Les Mille et une mains. 
  7. Born in Kiffa, Mauritania, in 1961, Sissako grew up in Mali, his father’s homeland.
  8. Film production in Nigeria, popularly known as Nollywood, is in fact up to 1,500 films a year and at least some scholars are taking its activities seriously. See: Pierre Barrot (ed.), Nollywood: The Video Phenomenon in Nigeria, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2008 (first published in French, L’Harmattan 2005).
  9. Nadef reminds me of the friend of Nana’s pimp in Godard’s Vivre sa vie, who plays the clown for her when she is bored.
  10. After studying in film school at Lodz in Poland, Derkaoui trained under Vadim Yuso, Tarkovsky’s renowned cameraman, at the VGIK school in Russia. Derkaoui has won many awards.
  11. S. Afoulous, “Tetouan: the most Andalusian of Moroccan Cities,” Royal Air Maroc Magazine, no. 174 (July – August 2012), pp. 108 – 118. With photos by Younes Chahyd.
  12. See: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=482824 [Accessed on 16 July 2012].
  13. MAP, “Mort à vendre de Faouzi Bensaïdi représente le Maroc aux Oscars 2013,” Au fait Maroc, 9 August 2012: http://www.aufaitmaroc.com/actualites/culture/2012/8/9/mort-a-vendre-de-faouzi-bensaidi-represente-le-maroc-aux-oscars-2013_186991.html [Last consulted 23 August 2012].
  14. Guy Désiré Yameogo, “Meeting with Philippe Mory, the Founding Father of Gabonese Cinema,”http://www.fespaco-bf.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=110:allo-ouaga-ici-amiens&catid=46:actualites&Itemid=68&lang=en [Accessed July 20, 2012].
  15. Serge Daney, “Falling Out of Love,” available online at:http://home.earthlink.net/~steevee/Daney_lover.html [Accessed on 1 August 2012]. First published inLibération (1992); First published in English in Sight & Sound (1992).
  16. For an up-to-date account of pillaging in Africa, see: Holland Cotter, “Imperiled Legacy for African Art,”New York Times, 2 August 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/arts/design/african-art-is-under-threat-in-djenne-djenno.html?adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1344348158-Sz6f91Ma9UFX3nqZ35QFAw
  17. Behi shot Soleil des hyènes in Morocco, with the help of Souheil Ben Barka and presented it at the Quinzaine des réalisateurs in 1977.
  18. Nina Rothe, “Ridha Behi’s Always Brando at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival: Spellbinding,” Huffington Post,2 November 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/e-nina-rothe/ridha-behis-always-brando_b_1069166.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share [Accessed July 24, 2012].
  19. Roger Gnoan M’Bala with Dan Talbot, “I prefer the idea of a debate,” Through African Eyes: Dialogues with the Directors (eds), Mahen Bonetti and Preranna Reddy, New York: 10th African Film Festival, 2003, p. 65.
  20. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1985.
  21. Email from the filmmaker, dated 27 July 2012.
  22. Gomis quoted in Tambay A. Obenson’s “Cannes 2012 – Wide Management Picks up Alain Gomis’Aujourd’hui and Patrick-Ian Polk’s The Skinny,” http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/cannes-2012-wide-management-picks-up-alain-gomis-aujourdhui-patrik-ian-polks-the-skinny#.UAiCAkSqSwM[Accessed July 15, 2012].
  23. Alain Gomis with Jonathan Demme, “It happened to my brother,” Through African Eyes: Dialogues with the Directors, op. cit., p. 103.
  24. Ait Hamou cited a conference that Barthes delivered in Rabat in 1970.

About the Director

Sally Shafto

Sally Shafto is the author of The Zanzibar Films and the Dandies of May 1968 (Paris Expérimental, 2007). A regular contributor to Senses of Cinema, she has recently published a critique of Luc Moullet’s Genèse d’un repas in Gastronomica. She currently teaches at the Faculté Polydisciplinaire of Ourarzazate, University of Ibn Zohn in Morocco.