Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Africa: African Cinema and the New Wave

In the lastest issue of Senses of Cinema, Wes Felton clarifies the origins of African cinema to shed light on the pioneering work of Beninois director, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra...
The earliest known film made by an African, was Congolese filmmaker Albert Mongita’s The Cinema Lesson in 1951. The second is Mamadou TourĂ©’s twenty-three minute film from Guinea titled Mouramani, about a man and his dog, produced in 1953. Additionally, in the same year Emmanuel Lubalu released his film Inflated Tires in the Congo. For quite some time most historians falsely believed that a film entitled Africa on the Seine held the honour of being the first film made by an African. Even though this is not so, Africa on the Seine, directed by Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, holds a special place in film history for being one of the first films made by an African, and more importantly, one that actively investigates the then present day situation of African immigrants living in Paris, as well as critiquing the French colonialist establishment.
...and like we've argued in past of the special debt French New Wave owes Jean Rouch's Moi Noir ('58), Felton argues the inclusion of Vieyra's film, Africa on the Seine (1955), in the New Wave cannon:
One of the fascinating things about Africa on the Seine is that it almost provides scenes, shots, and sequences that could or should have been placated within the French New Wave films. Figuratively speaking, Africa on the Seine could almost be seen as made of the ‘cut-off’ footage removed from films of the French New Wave. As if white filmmakers in France at the time cut out any evidence of an African presence and whenever there just so happened to be an African captured within the frame of a shot, they were left on the cutting room floor. It is almost like Vieyra somehow stumbled upon the pieces of film in a New Wave garbage can and brought them back as if to say, “See? We are here!”
Below, Frank Schneider (prod. Jadot Sezirahiga) discuss the origins of African and Arab cinema with Tahar Cheria, founder of the Carthage Cinema Days. It includes a profile of Paulin Vieyra and stills from Africa on the Seine:

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