West African Cinema

During the 1996 spring semester, the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics is offering a course entitled West African Cinema, MLL 310. This course is part of Espaces 1995-1996: An Exploration in Culture and Communication which features courses and public events on West Africa. Espaces is sponsored by UMBC's Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics in cooperation with the Department of African-American Studies. For more information on Espaces, contact the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at 455-2109.

The West African Cinema series is free and open to the public. Screenings are on Wednesday nights in Lecture Hall IV. Screening times are 7:30 pm with the exception of February 28, when the screening will begin at 7 pm.

Following is the schedule with a brief description of each film:

JANUARY 31 AFRICA, I WILL FLEECE YOU (AFRIQUE, JE TE PLUMERAI), Cameroon, 1992, dir. By Jean-Marie Teno, video, 88 min., in French with English sub-titles

"Afrique, je te plumerai provides a devastating overview of one hundred years of cultural genocide in Africa. Director Jean-Marie Teno uses Cameroon, the only African country colonized by three European powers, for a carefully researched case study of the continuing damage done to traditional African societies by alien neo-colonial cultures." (California Newsreel)

Note: While this is not a West African film, it will be screened to give an introduction to the socio-political conflicts which many African nations are currently experiencing.

FEBRUARY 7 BOROM SARET (1963, b/w, 19 min., in French with English sub-titles) and MANDABI (1967,color, 90 min., in Wolof with English sub-titles), both directed by Ousmane Sembene, Senegal

A short and one of the first features of famed Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene. BOROM SARET tells the story of a poor cart driver in Dakar. MANDABI tells the story of a poor man who faces many obstacles when he wants to cash a money order.

FEBRUARY 14 EMITAI (Senegal, 1971, color, 101 min., in Diola and French, with English sub-titles) directed by Ousmane Sembene

A film about the clash between the Diolas, a mystical Senegalese tribe, and French colonialists in the closing days of World War II. The film visualizes the myths, rituals, and history of this tribe.

FEBRUARY 21 CEDDO (Senegal, 1977, color, 120 min., in Wolof with English sub-titles) directed by Ousmane Sembene

A classic epic of the African experience, comparable to the films of Griffith and Renoir. "An exciting political thriller concerning the kidnaping of a beautiful princess is used to examine the confrontation between opposing forces in the face of Moslem expansion." (New Yorker Films)

FEBRUARY 28 CAMP DE THIAROYE (Senegal, 1987, color, in Wolof and French with English sub-titles, 152 minutes) directed by Ousmane Sembene and Thiermo Faty Sow

Based on a real story, this film deals with the fate of African troops who had served in the French Army in World War II. Interned at the end of the War, a group of men stage a rebellion against their white oppressors, which ends in a massacre inviting "comparison with Eisenstein's Odessa Steps in its ruthlessness and artistry." (New Yorker Films)

Note: The screening for this film will begin at 7pm!

MARCH 6 YEELEN (Mali, 1987, 105 min., video) directed by Souleymane Cissé

"Film Comment named Yeelen, 'the best African film ever made.' Set during the powerful Mali Empire of the 13th century, it may remind viewers of 2001: A Space Odyssey... The film represents a highly imaginative contemporary response to the seminal West African quest myth, The Sundjata Epic." (California Newsreel)

MARCH 13 YAABA (Burkina Faso, 1989, 90 min., color, 16mm, in Mooré with English sub-titles) directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo

"The debut film from the most acclaimed African director since the great Sembene, Idrissa Ouedraogo's Yaaba is a haunting and humanistic tale of a 12-year old boy who strikes up a friendship with an old woman who has been shunned as a witch by the rest of the community." (New Yorker Films)

MARCH 27 TILAI (Burkina Faso, 1990, 81 min., color, 16mm, in Mooré with English sub-titles)

Awarded the Special Jury Prize at Cannes. "..a moving tale of honor and family ties on the African plains. A man returns home after two years to be told that his fiancée has married his father.... Tilai has a directness and a purity that makes most recent cinema seem needlessly affected." (New Yorker Films)

APRIL 3 SAMBA TRAORE (Burkina Faso, 1993, 85 min., color, 16mm, in Mooré with English sub-titles)

"A universal morality tale set in the austerely beautiful plains of the African Sahel region. Samba Traoré, on the run after a gas station hold-up, returns to his native village a rich man and becomes both benefactor and enigma to his neighbors." (New Yorker Films)

APRIL 10 KEITA: THE HERITAGE OF THE GRIOT (Burkina Faso, 1995, video, 94 min., in Jula and French with English subtitles) directed by Dani Kouyaté

"Keita creates a unique world where the West Africa of the 13th Century Sundjata Epic and the West Africa of today co-exist and interpenetrate." Young Mabo is on a quest which "requires the successful reconciliation or integration of two types of power represented by his paternal and maternal lineages /Islamic and pre-Islamic/." He is helped by Djéliba Koyaté (Great Griot) who tells him the medieval epic. "Keita makes the case for an 'Afrocentric' education, where African tradition, not imported Western curricula, is the necessary starting point for African development." (California Newsreel)

APRIL 17 ALLAH TANTOU (GOD'S WILL) (Guinea/France, 1991, video, 62 min, in French with English sub-titles) directed by David Achkar

"Allah Tantou is the first African film to confront the immense personal and political costs of the widespread human rights abuses on the continent. It follows filmmaker David Achkar's search for his father, his father's search for himself inside a Guinean prison and Africa's search for a new beginning amid the disillusionment of the post-independent era." (California Newsreel)

APRIL 24 FACES OF WOMEN (Ivory Coast, 1985, color, 105 min, in French and indigenous languages with English sub-titles) directed by Désiré Ecaré

"This politically and stylistically adventurous two-part film explores the links between feminism, economics and tradition in modern-day Africa. The film creates a rich tapestry of the textures and rhythms of village life as well as pointing out wryly ironic comparisons between the economic and the sexual stratagems adopted by African women in a patriarchal society." (New Yorker Films)

MAY 1 THE BLUE EYES OF YONTA (Guinea-Bissau, 1991, video, 90 min., in Criolo with English sub-titles) directed by Flora Gomes

"The blue Eyes of Yonta is one of the few recent African films to make the disillusionment of the revolutionary generation its primary subject - and offer a glimmer of hope for the future. Flora Gomes (born 1949) is a member of the generation which fought for Guinea-Bissau's independence." The films end with Yonta and the children of Bissau dancing. Flora Gomes hopes "that the young will come up with dreams of their own, dreams which ... will not hold them hostage, but inspire them to make something real in the real Africa around them." (California Newsreel)

MAY 8 WOMEN WITH OPEN EYES (FEMMES AUX YEUX OUVERTS) (Togo, 1994, video, 52 min., video) directed by Anne-Laure Folly

In Femmes aux yeux ouverts, award-winning Togolese filmmaker, Anne-Laure Folly presents portraits of contemporary African women from four West African nations: Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Benin. The film shows how African women are speaking out and organizing around five key issues: marital rights, reproductive health, female genital mutilation, women's role in the economy, and political rights." (California Newsreel)

For more information, contact Renate Fischetti, fischett@umbc.edu.