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Hollywood and world cinema influences: tracing intertextuality in the works of two contemporary filmmakers from Francophone Africa; Mahamat Saleh Haroun and Abderrahmane Sissako

Bray, Maryse J. and Gill, Helene (2011) Hollywood and world cinema influences: tracing intertextuality in the works of two contemporary filmmakers from Francophone Africa; Mahamat Saleh Haroun and Abderrahmane Sissako. In: Abecassis, Michaël and Ledegen, Gudrun and Zouaoui, Karen, (eds.) 'La Francophonie ou l'Eloge de la diversité': La Francophonie face à Hollywood et Bollywood. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, pp. 57-76. ISBN 9781443829342

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Abstract

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass Anton Chekhov Representations of Africa in cinema are almost as old as cinema itself and date back to Hollywood’s silent era. Most early examples feature the continent as a mere exotic backdrop and include The Sheik (Melford 1921), soon followed, in 1926, by George Fitzmaurice’s Son of the Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino. The next decade brought Van Dyke’s Tarzan movies, Robert Stevenson’s King Solomon’s Mines (1937), and, on the European side, Duvivier’s Pépé le Moko (1936). For representations of Francophone Africa by Africans themselves, the viewing public more or less had to wait, however, until decolonisation in the 1960s (with, for example, Sembene Ousmane’s Borom Sarret and La Noire de…, both released in 1966 and, in 1968, Mandabi). Since then Francophone African cinema has come a long way and has diversified into various strands. Between Borom Sarret and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s 2006 Daratt, Saison sèche - or the same director’s Un homme qui crie, almost half a century has elapsed. Over this period, films inevitably have addressed a spectrum of visual, ideological and political tropes. They range from unadorned depictions of the newly independent states and their societies to highly aestheticised productions, not to mention surreal and poetic visions as displayed for instance in Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973). Most of the early films send an overt socio-political message which is a clear and explicit denunciation of a corrupt state of affairs (Souleymane Cissé’s Baara, 1977). They aim to trigger strong emotional and political responses from the viewer, in unambiguous support for the film-maker’s stand. Sembene himself declared: “I consider cinema a means of political action” (Murphy 2000: 221). Similarly, the Mauritanian director Med Hondo wishes to “take up this technical medium and to make it a mouthpiece on behalf of [his] fellow Africans and Arabs” (Jeffries 2002: 11). All this echoes the claims of the Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes (FEPACI, founded in 1969), an organisation “dedicated to the liberation of Africa”. In sharp contrast to the incipient momentum given Francophonie by Bourguiba, the Nigerien Hamani Diori and the Senegalese Senghor, who invoked a worldwide communauté organique francophone, FEPACI called for “the creation of an aesthetics of disalienation… [using] didactic... forms to denounce the alienation of countries that were politically independent but culturally and economically dependent on the West” (Diawara 1996: 40). Sembene’s Xala (1974) became the blueprint for this, to this day the best-known vein of Francophone African cinema. Thus considered, this pedigree seems a million miles from mainstream global cinema with its overriding mission to entertain. A question therefore arises: to what extent can a cinema that sprang from such beginnings be seen to interface in any meaningful way with a global film industry that, overwhelmingly and for a century, has indeed entertained the world – with Hollywood at its centre?

Item Type:Book Section
Research Community:University of Westminster > Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, School of
ID Code:8030
Deposited On:27 May 2010 14:11
Last Modified:11 Jul 2013 13:22

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