It’s good for the future of cinema that Africa exists

Reviving our #MovieNight feature: A fortnightly feature rounding up movie news.

A still from Seye Isikalu's "The Ocean."

It’s only April, but it’s already been a bad year for Hollywood. If you need a reminder: an all-white acting nominee list at The Oscars; a“swag bag” featuring a free trip to IsraelChris Rock’s tone-deaf stereotypical jokes about Asian Americans; Leonardo DiCaprio wins Best Actor trophy for a role “celebrating the resilience of settler colonialism on land constructed as terra nullius;” and the producers of the new Nina Simone biopic thought it would be good to blacken up lead actress Zoe Saldana. Which reminds of something Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety once said: “It’s good for the future of cinema that Africa exists.” Which is why reviving our #MovieNight feature.  From now on this will be a fortnightly feature. Here’s our movie night to right all the celluloid wrongs.

(1) One of the most interesting short films to come out of South Africa recently is  Jas Boude, a documentary by two University of Cape Town film students that chronicles a day in the life of the 20SK8 collective, a group of skateboarders from the city’s Cape Flats. The film touches on overcoming the continuing violence of apartheid-inherited spacial geographies via some beautiful camerawork and a pumping yet emotive soundtrack by BFake. We thought it was pretty jas.

(2) Nigerian American rapper Tunji Ige just dropped a short documentary called Road to Missed Calls which The Fader has described as “…an incredibly insightful and telling vantage point of an artist who’s at that page turning part of their career, and can go in either direction.” The film starts off with a series of missed call voicemails from the filmmaker and the creative team behind Tunji. While clearly not a great communicator, Tunji is definitely a talented musician, and an artist to watch.

(3) Young eco-conscious filmmakers Sinematella Productions have created a ‘video poem’ shot on location in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Lesotho and South Africa as an ‘ode to the continent we get to call home.’

(4) Staying with the visual poem theme, London- based fashion photographer Seye Isikalu has created a short film called The Ocean, dealing with “the complexities that sometimes come along with being completely passionate & committed to who or what you love.”

(5) Activist filmmaker Iara Lee, a Brazilian of Korean decent, has made it her life work to seek a more just and peaceful world through the arts.  She started a foundation called ‘The Cultures of Resistance Network ‘ and recently made a film on “Africa’s last colony” – the Western Sahara. The film focuses on a group of young Sahrawi activists as they risk torture and disappearance at the hands of the Moroccan authorities, who have been occupying their homeland since the Spanish left four decades ago.

(6) On a sweeter note, South African romantic comedies seem to be really taking off.  Happiness is a Four Letter Word is following the success of Tell Me Sweet Something by delivering thick on the rom with a little sprinkle of com. While it presents an imagined Joburg that is more aspirational than realistic, it’s about time black characters get do more than suffer and endure hardship on screen.

(7) In 2012 a blog post by US-based Zambian author Field Ruwe called ‘You Lazy Intellectual African Scum’ caused a social media storm. The story was essentially about a white ex-International Monetary Fund official scolding the writer on a New Year’s eve flight, blaming Zambia’s intelligentsia for its levels of poverty. While it sparked a rigorous debate on the role of intellectuals in African society, it presented a completely skewed version of what Zambians are actually doing to build their country. It also absolved the west of any wrong doing. The film version of the post, by Kenyan student director Kevin Njue has just been released on Buni.TV. You can stream it here.

Further Reading

Goodbye, Piassa

The demolition of an historic district in Addis Ababa shows a central contradiction of modernization: the desire to improve the country while devaluing its people and culture.