African cinema isn’t an also-ran in film history, it’s a vital part of the cinematic canon: luminous inventive, revealing and unpredictable. While there was a movie studio in Egypt since the 1930s, black African filmmakers started making their mark in the 1950s leading to a blossoming of styles and genres in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The IFI is delighted to present this season of African films curated by critic and filmmaker Mark Cousins, a vocal champion of non-Western cinema and the maker of television’s recent The Story of Film: An Odyssey.
Season curator Mark Cousins said ‘The story of African film is too vast and varied to cover in one short season so, here, the IFI is focusing on one vivid chapter of it, West Africa: a place where low literacy levels gave movies extra relevance and where, as you’ll see, movie styles and storytelling were stretched by imaginative directors into splendid, world class guises.’
The oldest film in the season, Ousmane Sembène’s La Noire de… from 1966 exemplifies an artistic response to the decolonising moment and, if any one film kicked off the art of black African cinema, it was this Senegalese story of an African girl in France, by stages entranced then disillusioned by her new circumstances.
Souleymane Cissé’s Yeelen, is every bit as strange and abstract as 2001: A Space Odyssey – think Star Wars meets Jung; it’s often cited as the best African film ever made. A simpler tale can be found in Safi Faye’s Kaddu Beykat. The first black African female feature filmmaker uses a gentle diary voice-over to tell the daily life of her village. This insider’s anthropological story has a beautiful attention to detail, stunning black and white imagery and its own sense of time.
Djibril Diop Mambéty also returned to his own village to make Hyènes but this is no diary – he’s back to excoriate his own people for their avarice and consumerism through a story adapted from a surreal play by Dürrenmatt. The master filmmaker from Senegal builds his corrosive rage towards a gripping and fascinating ending.
There’s also a chance to see Heremakono that shows a 21st century story of existential drift by Abderrahmane Sissako – rightly hailed as a tonal masterpiece at Cannes in 2002. Finally Gaston Kaboré’s Buud Yam, the story of a mute boy trying a healer for his sister by this great filmmaker and educator from Burkina Faso.
Stories from Africa – Screening Schedule
Hyènes October 6th 14.20
Yeelen October 7th 14.20
Heremakono October 13th 13.00
La Noire de… October 14th 13.00
Kaddu Beykat October 20th 14.20
Buud Yam October 22nd 18.30
Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie.