The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

31 January 2010

Horria Saihi: A Portrait

Algerian Horria Saïhi is perhaps best known for her indefatigable work as journalist, reporter, and filmmaker against government censorship and religious fundamentalism. A 1995 laureate of the "Courage Award" presented by the International Women's Media Foundation, she currently lives in exile in France.
I recall a very touching moment as she reflected on this celebratory occasion during our conversation at the 15th edition of FESPACO in 1997:
In 1995 I was invited to the United States and never imagined that on the other side of the ocean there existed, Americans—whites as well as blacks, who had their eyes on Algeria. They were listening and watching; I was very touched. I was invited to receive the "Courage Award" by the International Women’s Media Foundation. It was heartwarming to find myself in the middle of New York, it was a dream. I had tears in my eyes, it was very powerful. I received the prize in the name of the Algerian people; I dedicated it to the women of Algeria. The award was represented as an eagle with widespread wings, which represented force but also fragility, because it was made of crystal…
In France, Horria continues her struggle against political violence against women and religious extremism. More than a decade after the release of Algérie en Femmes in 1996, her film continues to be relevant as evident in the venues to which she is invited to screen and discuss the film. Notably, at the 2008 meeting of the French-based Union des Familles Laïques (Mouvement laïque d’education populaire) of which she holds the post of president of the UFAL-Saint-Denis.

Horria also presented Algérie en Femmes at the Maison René-Ginouvès, Archéologie et Ethnologie in November 2009, and in 2007 the film was featured at two events: as part of International Women’s Day she participated in the colloquium, Rencontre féministe sur les Femmes et l'Algérie organized by the Marche Mondiale des Femmes contre les Violences et la Pauvreté, and at the Festival Cineffable at which the film won the ProChoix Award—all venues are based in France.
Also during our conversation Horria had this to say regarding Algérie en Femmes:

Algerie en femmes resembles the title of a film that was made by René Vautier, which is called Algerie en flamme, it was about the war of liberation. In Algerie en femmes, I speak of the struggle of women. It is an intersecting perspective of a woman filmmaker and a woman photographer. The latter makes an imprint of the moment, the former speaks about her profession. There is also another realm of women: an artist-painter who continues to paint although it is prohibited; a peasant woman who takes up arms; and the wife of a director of fine arts—her husband assassinated at the same time as their son. I speak both of life and death simultaneously. It is this combat of which we are in the midst at the moment.

Relevant Links about Horria Saïhi

27 January 2010

A Profile of Sarah Maldoror

I play a cultural role as filmmaker. What interests me is to research films about African history, because our history has been written by others, not by us. Therefore, if I don't take an interest in my own history, then who is going to do it? I think it is up to us to defend our own history, to make it known—with all of our qualities and faults, our hopes and despair. (1)
For Sarah Maldoror, Guadeloupian of African descent, respectfully regarded as the matriarch of African cinema, filmmaking was a weapon for struggle and liberation from the very beginning of her experiences in cinema. Though before embarking on a career in filmmaking she co-founded the theatre group the Compagnie d’Art Dramatique des Griots in Paris in 1956. She left the company in the early 1960s to study cinema in the Soviet Union on a scholarship—there she met Ousmane Sembene who was also studying at the time. After residing briefly in Morocco in 1963, she went to Algeria to work as Gillo Pontecorvo’s assistant on the classic film, The Battle of Algiers, released in 1966. Her 1968 debut film Monangambee was selected for the Quinzaine des réalisateurs/Directors' Fortnight at Cannes in 1971 representing the country Angola (2). In 1972 she made her emblematic oeuvre, Sambizanga, which relates a woman's experience during the Angola liberation struggle. The film shared the prestigious Tanit d’Or prize at the Carthage Film Festival that same year.

Inspired by the film Sambizanga, some twenty-five years later Togolese Anne-Laure Folly Reimann focuses her camera on women's experiences of war in Angola in the 1996 documentary film Les Oubliées. In her 1998 film, Sarah Maldoror ou la nostalgie de l'utopie, she pays tribute to her mentor, tracing her life and work. Anne-Laure Folly Reimann honors Sarah Maldoror with these remarks at the 1997 FESPACO press conference for the film Les Oubliées:
Sarah inspired me to do this film. She made a film called Sambizanga, which in my opinion is one of the masterpieces of African cinema. When I saw it, I had a desire to make a film about Angola. She cleared the way by showing the Angola liberation war from a woman’s perspective. My film is not groundbreaking; she has already done that (3).

Pioneer, trailblazer, mentor, Sarah Maldoror continues to show the way. She had this to say in an interview with Jadot Sezirahiga: “African women must be everywhere. They must be in the images, behind the camera, in the editing room and involved in every stage of the making of a film. They must be the ones to talk about their problems” (4).

Notes
(4) Interview with Sarah Maldoror by Jadot Sezirahiga in Ecrans d'Afrique/African Screens - No. 12 1995

Relevant works about Sarah Maldoror

11 January 2010

2010: Showcasing African Women in Cinema

The main objective of the Blog in 2010 is to showcase African women in the diverse areas of the moving image. This format is an effective way to profile emerging talents as they begin their experiences in cinema at the same time highlighting the trailblazers, pioneers and veterans--and those in various stages of their career. I am especially interested in making visible the important players that are often behind the scenes, such as producers, editors, film festival organizers, scriptwriters, media activists and advocates, and the many others involved in the filmmaking process. The posts will be shorter and more frequent, as the purpose is to provide a portrait, at a glance. The choice of women or theme will be spontaneous, of course, privileging current events and topics; but also delving into the rich archives to foreground films and stories of the past.