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.

28 August 2010

Hawa Essuman and the Soul Boy Project



Soul Boy, written by Kenyan author Billy Kahora, evolved from a film workshop initiated by the German association One Fine Day with filmmaker Tom Tykwer. Shortly into the film production, Ghanaian-Kenyan Hawa Essuman undertook directorship with Tykwer as her mentor. The film Soul Boy is the result of this mentorship and collaboration.


Following are three clips: the Soul Boy trailer, a discussion with Hawa Essuman and Tom Tykwer, and an interview with Hawa Essuman at the Göteborg International Film Festival, 2010.



Source of texts: SOUL BOY FILM


Soul Boy (2009) by Hawa Essuman

SYNOPSIS

Nairobi, Kenya. 14 year-old Abila lives with his parents in Kibera, one of the largest slums in East Africa. One morning the teenager discovers his father ill and delirious. Someone has stolen his soul, mumbles the father as he sits huddled in a corner. Abila is shocked and confused but wants to help his father and goes in search of a suitable cure.Supported by his friend Shiku who is the same age as him, he learns that his father has gambled his soul away in the company of a spiritual woman.

The teenager doesn’t want to believe it and sets about looking for the witch. When he finally discovers her in the darkest corner of the ghetto, she gives him seven challenging tasks to save his father’s lost soul. Abila embarks on an adventurous journey which leads him right through the microcosm of his home town.

KIBERA

SOUL BOY is set in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the African continent, in the middle of Nairobi, Kenya. Kibera is a chaotic slum-city built out of temporary housing and is infamous for its high level of squalor. Children have to grow up quickly here as they learn to fend for themselves. Suspicion and fear still lingers as the Luo and Kikuyu communities recover from the 2007/2008 post election violence which saw neighbour turn on neighbour. Despite all of this the cohesion and the dignity of the people who live here is remarkable. Alongside the day to day tension, the social environment is dominated by a universal solidarity and common desire to maintain a working community.

Hawa Essuman and Tom Tykwer during the Göteborg International Film Festival 2010

THE PROJECT

In September 2008 Marie Steinmann and Tom Tykwer teamed up with Ginger and Guy Wilson (from the Nairobi based production company Ginger Ink) to set up a project which would build on the work of their One Fine Day association and the British NGO partnership Anno’s Africa – both of which have specialised in developing creative opportunities for those working in developing countries.

Operating within the framework of a manageable budget, the project was intended to develop a film workshop in Nairobi. Led by Tom Tykwer, a small team of professional filmmakers would create a feature film in Kibera by working together with a much larger crew of young local apprentices. The first goal was to integrate Nairobi’s residents, especially the slum inhabitants, those who were curious and wanted to learn the practical skills offeature film making, so that they could learn technical skills which would create job prospects and leave inspiration in the communities.

The project quickly developed its own dynamic energy. The Kenyan author Billy Kahora outlined the idea for a film, which translated the secrets and myths of this multilayered social microcosm into a modern, inspiring fairytale-like story: Soul Boy. The young Ghanaian-Kenyan filmmaker Hawa Essuman (born in 1980) took over the directing reigns. Soul Boy is her film debut, having worked successfully in local theatre. In the meantime she is developing her second feature film, which is set on the coast of Kenya. Following an intensive period of research in Kibera the screenplay took approximately six weeks to complete. Casting the film was spread out across the whole city: with the support of Anno’s Africa, the production searched for their young lead actors in Kibera’s slums, schools and alleyways. One week of pre-production was all that remained to prepare for the 13-day shoot. Soul Boy was finally shot between 17 November and 1 December 2008.

Interview with Hawa Essuman at the Göteborg International Film Festival 2010

27 August 2010

Meeting of African Women Filmmakers at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, South Africa

Source: FilmContact.com


From 1-4 September 2010 two events at the Goethe-Institut will focus on professional women in the African film industry.

In Arts Work: Meeting of African women filmmakers from 1-3 September 2010 (on invitation only), 25 women filmmakers from sub-Saharan Africa will explore chances and challenges for women in the film world and steps to be taken to strengthen their voices.

During an open forum on 4 September, the public is invited to join the discussion at the Goethe-Institut from 10-1pm. The events take part in conjunction with the Women of the Sun Film Festival, the First African Women Film Festival to take place in South Africa.

"The film industry is a very challenging sector where women are still underrepresented worldwide," the filmmaker Marie Ka from Senegal wrote. The meeting of the filmmakers marks the beginning of a series of platforms, with the objective to improve the intra-African exchanges and professional situation of women artists and women working in the cultural sector titled "Arts Work". The project is interested in the situation of female artists, their limitations and possibilities, their access to resources, their acknowledgement or lack thereof - in brief: the gendered aspects of making or breaking.

For the first women's platform in September, the Goethe-Institut has invited successful filmmakers who contribute actively to change the working patterns in their field and in their country. Their biographies and their experiences, their goals and ideas are the starting point of the two-day meeting, which also represents the beginning of joint activities. Among the speakers e.g. the known Fanta Regina Nacro director and producer, culture scholars and filmmakers Christina von Braun and Beti Ellerson, director of the Center for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema. The meeting was developed together with the filmmaker and film curator Dorothee Wenner.

Arts Work: Open Forum

Saturday, 4 September 2010: 10am to 1pm (public)
To Screen and Be Seen - Female Perspectives on Filmmaking in Africa
Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, 119 Jan Smuts Avenue

The audiovisual industries on the African continent are undergoing dramatic changes. The digital revolution has led to the dawn of a new filmmaking era that opens up opportunities for filmmaking in Africa. Increased African audiences for films that are screened on a variety of platforms, mean more filmmakers, including women, will enter the industry in the coming years.

What are the perspectives and challenges for women in this traditionally male dominated field? What lessons can be learned from experienced women of the craft? What impact will an increased numbers of women behind the camera and in decision making positions have on films yet to be made? What stories shall be told and how? Will choices of genre and aesthetics be affected? Finally, how are African women filmmakers claiming their space and with what vision?
These will be some of the discussion points during the open forum at the Goethe-Institut. This public forum will be following a two day meeting of 25 African women filmmakers and guests with the objective to strengthen the intra-African exchanges and presence of women filmmakers on the continent.

In partnership with the Women of the Sun Film Festival, and with so many important voices from the African film industry present, we want to use the occasion to engage in an open discussion about operating as a woman in the film industry.

The forum participants come from all over sub-Saharan Africa. The forum will be moderated by the filmmaker and programmer of the Berlinale Dorothee Wenner and film curator June Givanni.

Women of the Sun Making HERstory

WOMEN OF THE SUN, in conjunction with the Goethe Institut, the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) and the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), are putting African women filmmakers on the map with the launch of a seven day film festival to celebrate African Women Filmmakers, in Johannesburg (2nd – 9th September). The Women Of the Sun Film Festival (WoS Film Festival) will be the First African Women Film Festival to take place in South Africa, featuring 25 films by 23 talented women filmmakers from 15 African Countries with 15 of the filmmakers present at the screenings.

The festival offers a unique opportunity to see great films and to meet the exceptional women behind them. It’s open to all – and there’s something for everyone. The selection will showcase some of the best examples of the filmmaking craft, crossing a diverse range of genres and styles, from family drama to social justice documentaries to experimental films. 


Guests include Jyoti Mistry with her film The Bull on the Roof (South Africa), from the Sudan Tagreed Elsanhouri Mother Unknown and All About Darfur, from Kenya Hawa Essuman’s and her latest film festival sensation Soul Boy, produced by acclaimed German director Tom Tywker (Run Lola Run/Perfume). Other guests are Burkina Faso’s Fanta Nacro (Night of Truth), highly acclaimed Algerian director Djamila Sahraoui (Barakat!), Zimbabwe’s award winning novelist and film director, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and the first Angolan woman to ever make a feature film, Maria Joao Ganga (Hollow City).


This is a festival that will challenge the notion that only certain people make films and that only certain places/countries have a film industry. It will open our eyes and ears to distinct female voices from far flung places across the continent and highlight emerging industry and talent.

“The time is ripe to change the widely held belief that filmmaking is a male domain,” says Eve Rantseli, Director of Women of the Sun. “Women in film have much to say and are saying it with unique vision and flair. The launch of this annual women’s film festival will be the start of getting women filmmakers and their works part of the mainstream.”

The Women of the Sun Film Festival is running alongside the African Women Filmmaker’s Forum. Hosted by the Goethe Institute, the forum gathers a delegation of 25 women filmmakers of all levels of experience from sub-Saharan Africa, the USA and Germany to network with and gain inspiration from colleagues. The Forum is a platform for Africa women filmmakers to assess the situation and develop strategies to strengthen their presence in the industry. It’s all about creating inspiration and supporting women in the industry to make more films, and once films are made, getting work widely distributed to audiences. Invited participants include world-renowned women filmmakers and festival programmers, distributors and local and international directors, producers and academics.

The festival’s red carpet launch will take place at Arts on Main on the evening of the 2nd and will be attended by some of the biggest names associated with women and film. Among them are renowned professor of media, culture and gender theory, Dr. Christina von Braun (Germany), Berlinale Programme Director, filmmaker and journalist Dorothee Wenner and Director of New York based distribution company, Women Make Movies, Debra Zimmerman.

  • The festival runs from Friday 3rd September to Thursday 9th September at the Bioscope Cinema on Fox Street.
  • Opening Night Thursday the 2nd at Arts on Main (RSVP crucial).
  • The Forum takes place from 1st to 4th September at the Goethe Institute. Day 4 is open to members of the public (all filmmakers).

Eve Rantseli
(Executive Officer of Women of the Sun)

26 August 2010

Maria João Ganga's Hollow City


Notes on the filmmaker's intentions: (Translated from French)

The film looks at the time that has passed between two different periods: the years of the revolutionary epoch and the period of disruption which emerged in the 80s.

We are confronted with the irreparable breakdown of a dream.

The perspectives and realities of these two periods are symbolized by the parallel drawn between the lives of two children Ngunga and N'dala. Ngunga is the symbolic hero of the revolutionary phase. A brave child who is conscious of the need to change the world and the consciousness of adults.

Ngunga, the little fighter, has grown in each of us, as an example to follow. Were we not, this "New Person" that he was constructing?

In the late 80s, N'Dala is an orphan and a refugee of war. He travels in a world devoid of prospects, living at the fast and reckless pace of survival.

N'Dala's story is fairly common in the everyday life of Angola and it would be too easy to fall into the sensationalism of war. Our good conscience, eased, will survive the gunshots, but N'Dala will not.

As an Angolan woman I saw the day-to-day turbulence of Luanda, which, despite the recently-established peace, will continue to see for years to come, many children in its streets.

Na cidade vazia/Hollow City (2004) by Maria João Ganga

Translation from French to English: Clip 1

Wait my brother, wait!

Translation from French to English: Clip 2

What are you doing here?

What are you doing here?

Nothing. I was tired.

I slept.

Where do you come from?

From Bié...

And your family?

Killed...

And how did you get here?

With the nuns.

Translation from French to English: Clip 3

She is not going to want to.

But yes, I know her.

We must come back at night, when she
is tipsy

This evening, you will get your things,
that will make her change her mind.

But I need to stay with her.

This suits me...
It is not the first time.

This is not good for you! Do you think that you
can just hang about like this?

This city is very big.

All Translation from French by Beti Ellerson


LINKS
Synopsis of Hollow City


25 August 2010

Emem Isong's Contribution to Nigerian Cinema


Emem Isong is among an increasingly long list of women who are making important contributions to the burgeoning movie-making industry in Nigeria. Nollywooduncut.com features her in an interview published on 14 March 2010. READ THE INTERVIEW: EMEM ISONG THE STORY BEHIND THE GLORY

In addition to her role as director and producer, Emen Isong wears the additional hat of director of the acting school, Royal Arts Academy. Journalist Azuh Amatus of Nigerian Best Forum, devotes an article to the school opening:

After several years of planning, researching and fine-tuning arrangements, leading female producer in Nollywood, Emem Isong, has finally opened her long-awaited acting school. Known as Royal Arts Academy, the Surulere-Lagos-based institute, according to Isong, will seek to continually provide education through the arts.
It is also a training academy that offers courses on various aspects of the film industry with emphasis on script writing, acting, directing, dance and children theatre. Speaking on her reasons for establishing the academy, Isong argued that is has become necessary to improve and develop skills in order to meet the international standards of film making. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

Emen Isong's films include Guilty Pleasures and Uyai which she produced, and directed with Desmond Elliot.

Guilty Pleasures (2009)

Uyai (2008)

17 August 2010

A Conversation with Branwen Okpako

Photo by Ines Johnson Spain, Cotonou, April 2009
Branwen, could you first talk a bit about yourself, your background, how you developed the desire to make films?

My name is Branwen Okpako and I was born in Lagos, Nigeria to a Nigerian (Uhrobo) pharmacologist father and a Welsh librarian mother. My younger brother and I had a happy childhood on the beautiful campus of the University of Ibadan.

I later attended Atlantic College in Wales where I completed my International Baccalaureate, before going to University of Bristol where I studied politics. After that I came to Berlin to study at the DFFB (German Film and Television Academy), here I met Tsitsi Dangarembga, Wanjiru Kinyanjui and Auma Obama.

I have stayed in Berlin where I continue to make films and raise my children.

The decision to study film came from a desire to combine all my passions: painting, telling stories and directing actors, all of which I had enjoyed doing since I was very young. Storytelling runs in our family. My father‘s brother Kpeha was a famous poet of Udje. Film seemed to synthesize these loves and has brought an added element that I didn't know about before—montage (which is the poetry of film).

You are Afro-Welsh, living and working in Germany. What have been your experiences both on a personal and professional level?

My experiences have been the experiences of a Diaspora person settling into a new environment finding her place and defending her ideas, trying to serve a useful function and at the same time educate herself. 

Last year I had the most rewarding experience of teaching courses at the Humbolt University and the University of Art here in Berlin. With the students, we examined my films and their themes using literature and academic texts. We discussed the medium of film and the way images are used to manipulate perception. Teaching is one of the most fun ways to learn because you get to read and think about things deeply.

Much of your work has focused on Afro-European identities, a theme that several European women of African descent have addressed in their films. Could you give some reflections on this subject as it relates to your own work and as it relates to the broader issue of how Europe is dealing with its identity in an evolving multicultural, multiethnic continent? And also, there is an increasingly visible Afro-German community and of course, several of your films have focused on Germans of African descent. How do you locate yourself as an Afro-European?

I focus on experiences that resonate with me. Filmmaking is hard work and spiritually demanding work too. So for me it is key that I get some new understanding out of it for my own personal growth. I am not making films one to one about my situation. But I know what it means to feel "other", I felt that growing up in Nigeria too, so when I came to Germany and started to get to know the culture and the people, I was fascinated by the culture of the Afro-Germans and how they were working towards building an identity for themselves in an uncharted territory. The courage and resilience was inspirational and I found many universal themes to talk about that resonated with me. Now, I have Afro-German children so my involvement has deepened.

I locate myself where I am geographically and spiritually. My films are my witness to life as I see it. It is a great honour to be able to make films so I use every opportunity seriously. It takes so long to gather and order experience and then to translate what one has learned into a piece of work to share with others, it takes years.

If my films about Afro-German experiences help to enhance the visibility of Afro-German experiences, that is useful. One of my short films that was shown at the Berlin film festival in 2007 is called Landing it is about a black woman who wakes up in Berlin to find herself invisible. It's a horrible experience being invisible. But nevertheless being visible does not automatically mean being seen. So the process is still ongoing.

Your films are very intense and very specific, in the sense that they on a very emotional level, deal with the psychological, social and political gut of the society. How do you choose the topics of your films?

Maybe I have answered this question already, but I would just add that the subjects for all the films I have made, including the one I am currently finishing, came to me. I was asked to do them sort of by circumstance, by people’s expressed wish sometimes. Certainly with Dreckfresser, a friend came over to my house with a newspaper article and said " you need to make a film about this brother", so from a sense of obligation, from a feeling that not just I want to know more about what is happening but others do too. And I just start from that impulse.

Do you continue to work in Britain and connect with the British culture in terms of your work?

Wales is my ancestral home as is Nigeria but I never lived in Wales as an adult, the two years spent there were in boarding school.

But I got my first commission from Britain while I was still in film school. It was a short for Channel Four about my Welsh roots. The film, Searching for Taid, is available to watch on the British Film Institute website. That is the beginning of my journey as a filmmaker. My brother is the protagonist and the film is really lovely and people get something out of it.

Since then I have not had the chance to make another film in Wales but I have a story. If it wants to be made it will come and get me.

Do you have contacts, connections with Nigeria? Have you had film projects that you would like to do in Nigeria?

My parents are there as I said, so I visit with my children whenever I can afford it. I have also made a film there in 2007 called "The Pilot and the Passenger" it is yet to be fully completed (it is self funded) because my current project (a commission) interrupted it, but I will be finishing it soon. It is about the poet Christopher Okigbo.

Some reflections on future projects, interests?      

For the past two years I have been shooting a highly demanding documentary in Kenya, Germany, Britain and the USA it is nearly finished so I hope to share it with people soon.

My interests are painting and teaching, as well.

Interview with Branwen Okapako by Beti Ellerson, August 2010


09 August 2010

Wanjiru Kairu Talks with ActNow Foundation






 Weakness (2009) by Wanjiru Kairu

Interview with ActNow Foundation: Black Film and Theater published on their ActNow Foundation Blog

Wanjiru Kairu is a filmmaker based in Kenya. Her primary goal is to create films that promote social dialogue. Her film "Weakness" was the official selection at: Kenya International Film Festival 2009, Amakula International film Festival 2009, Umoja Film Festival 2010, Pan African Film Festival 2010 and New York African Film Festival 2010.

We caught up with the filmmaker. She talks about creating "Weakness", filmmaking and her future projects. READ ENTIRE INTERVIEW

03 August 2010

"Pour la nuit" by Isabelle Boni-Claverie



Pour la nuit (For the Night), the stirring film by Isabelle Boni-Claverie, is available online and may be downloaded on the French website Cine4me, payment through PayPal. Video-on-Demand, a distribution system that is gaining popularity, may well be the future distribution outlet for African films, often plagued by limited distribution. The film is in French with English subtitles.

Pour la nuit (2004) by Isabelle Boni-Claverie


Synopsis of Pour la Nuit:
On the eve of two events that mark an emotional and rapid departure from all that is familiar, Muriel and Sam are thrown together in a chance encounter.
With her mother's funeral the next morning, Muriel, the daughter of a French father and African mother, struggles to escape her sorrow and unrest.
Shot in black and white and set in Marseilles, Pour la Nuit opens with  death. Muriel, a beautiful young woman of mixed-race, has just lost her mother. She escapes from the tragedy in a taxi whose driver warns her of "hot-blooded men" that frequent the district where she asks to be dropped off. She meets a man in a down-town nightclub and they share one night of passion and stark honesty. In the early morning they part - Muriel to attend her mother's funeral, the man to attend his wedding.
This evocative short film, by French/Ivorian filmmaker Isabelle Boni-Claverie, is a passionate depiction of beginnings and endings.
During a recent interview with Isabelle Boni-Claverie for the African Women in Cinema Blog, she had this to say to my questions about the film:

Could you talk about the film Pour la nuit and its reception?
It is a story that I wrote spontaneously in one night. I submitted the synopsis to my producer who said, “let’s do it!” At the time, I do not know why, I wanted to shoot in Sweden. I wanted my character to be in a city where she would feel completely foreign. And I like the North Sea, its vast desert beaches. The producer thought that Sweden was a bit expensive... So I suggested Côte d'Ivoire, a very urban film where Abidjan would be a character in itself. I crisscrossed Abidjan a lot at night when I was a teenager. I had very unique experiences, often poetic, that I've never seen transcribed in a film. The producer gave the OK. Yet, it was not that much cheaper! While waiting for replies for funding the political situation began to worsen in Côte d'Ivoire. There was so much distrust, so much violence, including the lugubrious "death squads", that it no longer seemed possible to make a film there that would be shot almost entirely in the exterior and at night. I settled for Marseille, which like Abidjan, is a city built on the edge of the water, with long roads, and a cosmopolitan environment. Of course, I did not make the same film. But I think that I was able to keep most of what I wanted to say: How each copes with life’s grief, even in a less conventional way. I was very touched by the reactions of audiences at various festivals in which I presented. Many times women came to me spontaneously, saying they had responded similarly during a loss. While this is a film about death, many have said it was a wonderful call to life. I very much appreciated receiving the Signis Ecumenical Jury Prize or that of the "prix du public" at the Amiens prison. The prisoners told me that they felt good to hear about love and to see a "little rascal" who also had her share of humanity. These are the kinds of reactions that give meaning to the films that one makes.

I really like the film. I see it in the context of identity, especially identity in movement, in Africa and Europe. Muriel seems very at ease as a Frenchwoman but I sense ambivalence in her bi-racial identity, especially vis-à-vis her mother, though I also feel a tension with her father. In reflecting on the debate raging about identity in France right now, could you reflect on your identity as a Franco-Ivorian and your film Pour la nuit in this context?
The debate over national identity in France is a false debate about a false problem. The French nation has always been diverse. This diversity is visible more now than ever and people no longer want to deny a part of themselves in order to melt into a model of assimilation. It irritates some disgruntled people. But the French have rejected this debate by an overwhelming majority. However, there is still some way to go for a “metissage”, whether cultural or ethnic, to become fully accepted. When you are mixed, you are always asked to choose. As if you could amputate a part of yourself! I feel completely French in France and fully Ivorian in Côte d'Ivoire. I'm not accountable to anyone, and certainly am under no obligation to prove my nationality, which, in fact, from the very start I had no choice in the matter! As I enjoy saying sometimes, the only person in my family who actually migrated was my grandmother. She was white, French, and she came to settle in Côte d'Ivoire.

Undoubtedly, it is hard to situate my character Muriel in Pour la nuit. She made her choice, to identify with her father who is white. Perhaps her mother did not give her sufficient reason to be proud of her African-ness or, she simply did not transmit her culture to her daughter. So, Muriel finds it very difficult to connect to the black part of herself. At the same time she feels that if she does not, something is missing, hence her aggression towards her father. Her encounter with a young man of Arab origin will enable her to connect with that part of herself which comes from elsewhere. Then and only then, will she finally be able to mourn her deceased mother.