Table of Contents:



A. Background Articles


B. Films and Videos


Allah Tantou                                                                                                     


Aristotle’s Plot                                                                                      




Black Girl                                                                                                         


Barom Sarret                                                                                                    


Battle of Algiers 






Cry the Beloved Country (1952)                                                                       


Cry Freedom                                                                                                    


In Darkest Hollywood                                                                                   


A Dry White Season                                                                                               




Everyone’s Child                                                                                               


Femmes aux yeux ouverts (Women with Open Eyes)






Le Franc                                                                                                          


Generations of Resistance                                                                                   




Guimba the Tyrant                                                                                               


Harvest: 3,000 Years                                                                                               


Heritage Africa                                                                                      






Keita: Heritage of the Griot                                                                                                           


Lumumba: La Mort Du Prophete                                                            


Maids and Madams                                                                                               




Monday’s Girls                                                                                     








These Hands                                                                                                     


Touki Bouki (The Journey of the Hyena)           


La Vie Est Belle (Life is Rosy)                                    


Wend Kuuni                                                                                                      


World Apart                                                                                                                              








Zan Boko                                                                                                          



C. Distributor Information                                                                            


D. Appendices                                                                                                 

Africa On-Line                                                                                      

Other Lists                                                                                                       

Web Sites On Africa and Related Topics                                               

Internet Resources for Africa and African Studies                                   



Ciccone, A. (1995).  Teaching with authentic video: theory and practice.  In H. Eckman et al (eds.), Second             Language Acquisition: Theory and Pedagogy.   Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.


Diawara, M. (1992).  Anglophone African production.  In M. Diawara, African Cinema: Politics and                   Culture.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


Diawara, M. (1989).  Oral literature and African film:  narratology in Wend Kuuni.  In J. Pines and P.                     Willemen (eds.), Questions of Third Cinema.  London: British Film Institute.


Gabriel, T. H. (1989).  Towards a critical theory of third world films.  In J. Pines & P. Willemen (eds.),               Questions of Third Cinema.  London: British Film Institute.


Harrow, K.  (1995).  Introduction: shooting forward.   In Research in African Literature (Special Issue on        African Film), 26 (3): 1-5.


Harrow, K. (1997).  Women in African Cinema.  Matutu: Journal for African Culture and Society, 19: vii-       xii.


Racevskis, M. (1996).   Applications of African cinema in the high school curriculum.  Research in African             Literatures, 27 (3): 98 -109.


Tomaselli, K. (1994).  Decolonising film and television (teaching film and TV in Africa).  In                  MATHASEDI, Nov/Dec.


Ukadike, N. F. (1994).  Introduction.  In N. F. Ukadike (ed.),  Black African Cinema.  Berkeley:                   University of California Press.




62 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: David Achkar                                                                       

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $195.00

Rental Price: $95.00                                                                       


Synopsis:  This film confronts the immense personal and political cost of human rights abuses common to some evolutionary governments in post-independent Africa.  Filmmaker David Achkar accomplishes this by following the life of his diplomat father, Marof Achkar, who became a political prisoner in Sekou Touré’s Guinea during the late 1960s.


Critique:  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-independence era.  One of the most courageous and controversial films of recent years, Allah Tantou speaks in an unabashed personal voice not often heard in African cinema.


“The life of Marof Achkar can be seen as emblematic of much recent African history.  In 1958, his countryman, Sekou Touré declared Guinea the first independent French African colony and became a hero of Pan-Africanism.  Marof Achkar, a leading figure in the Ballets Africans, served as U.N. ambassador for the new government.  In 1968, Achkar was suddenly recalled, charged with treason and vanished into the notorious Camp Boiro prison.  His family was exiled and, only after Touré’s death in 1984, did they learn of his execution in 1971.


“In a cinematic tradition which has privileged the calm collective voice of the griot, Allah Tantou speaks with the fragmented, uncertain rhythms of the individual conscience.  Achkar juxtaposes diverse, sometimes contradictory texts -- documentary, newsreel, dramatizations, photos, journals -- to deny us a single, authoritative narrative space.”


(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s Library of African Cinema.  1995-96 Catalog.)



Topics for Discussion: Post-colonialism; African politics; Art and Political Commitment; Biography.




71 minutes French with English subtitles                                                           

Director:  Jean-Pierre Bekolo

Distributor:  JPB Productions

Purchase Price:  $295.00                                                                                               


Synopsis:  This feature film examines the trials of African movie-making in a humorous, and critical, manner.


Critique:  In a southern African town, a group of wanna-be gangstas hangs out at the Cinema Africa, subjecting themselves to megadoses of the latest actions fests.  They’ve taken the names of their screen gods:  Van Damme, Bruce Lee, Nikita, Saddam, and the leader Cinema. Africa of Hollywood, replacing Schwarzenegger with Sembene.  The government is indifferent and the gangsta won’t come quietly, so he takes matters into his hands and becomes a vigilante for an indigenous film culture.


“In its combination of critical questioning and anarchic glee, Aristotle’s Plot harks back to Godard, but with a sense of humor all its own.  Instead of working toward the end of cinema like Godard, Bekolo just wants a new beginning and a decent middle.”


(Critique quoted from article by Cameron Bailey, Toronto Film Festival Catalogue 1997)



Topics for Discussion:  Post-colonialism; Aristotle’s Poetics; Popular Culture; Film and Culture





52 minutes in French with English subtitles: 35mm

Director: Francois Woukoache

Distributor: Francois Woukoache


Synopsis:  This film traces the connections between the history of Goree Island and one man’s place in the present.


Critique:  On Goree Island off the coast of Senegal, a young man seeks refuge from present-day strife in

a journey into history.   Though no pictures captured the brutality of Goree Island’s slave trade,

it retains memories of profound horror and strength.  With keenly perceptive narration,

Woukoache connects an unspeakable past with a forgetful present.  Asientos’s closest relative is perhaps

Alain Resnais’s Holocaust reflection Nuit et Brouillard. But this film remains unique.  Few have

photographed the coast of West Africa or the details of black skin with such unerring beauty.


(Critique quoted from article by Cameron Bailey, Toronto Film Festival Catalogue 1997.)



Discussion Topics: Slavery; The Slave Narrative; Historical Memory. 




60 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Ousmane Sembene                                                                       

Distributor: New Yorker Films

Rental Price: $125.00


Synopsis:  A dramatization depicting the tragic story of a young Senegalese woman who goes to the French Riviera to work for a French family. 


Critique:  This drama is a powerful indictment against neo-colonial and racial insensitivity and ignorance.  In this early work, Ousmane Sembene uses the story of Diouana to point out many injustices perpetrated by Europeans against Africans.  The family that employs Diouana under false pretenses actual perpetuates a slave‑master relationship that should have ended with the abolition of slavery or certainly at Senegal's independence. The pejorative comments of the whites about Africa and Africans are often spoken in front of Diouana, as if she were not a thinking, feeling human being.  The white men discuss the huge profits to be made in Dakar, and the French women, themselves subject to gender stratification, are able to afford domestics for every household chore.  An African mask is used in the film as first a gift to the white couple from Diouana, then a symbol o the European's ignorance of African culture, and finally as an accusing reminder that a young black boy wears to follow Diouana's employer.  The main flaw with the production is that it is literally unrelenting in its one‑sided condemnation of French expatriate relations with Africa; however, the power and message are worth the viewing of this somberproduction. 


(Critique quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Topics for Discussion: gender and class relations, racial & ethnic representations


19 minutes in french with English subtitles

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Distributor: New Yorker Films

Rental price: $25.00


Synopsis:  African cinema of a day in the life of a Barom Sarret (horsecart driver) trying to earn a living in urban Dakar, Senegal.


Critique:  A poignant depiction of the lives of the urban poor throughout the Third World. The film is obviously slanted in order to make its point. The point, therefore, is well made. The driver of the cart cannot bring imself to charge his neighbors, and conversely he is cheated by the wealthy customer. The driver's only crime is poverty, and the system is geared to punish him for it. Sembene, in this early film, addresses the problems that are common to most of his work: the futile dependence on religion by the illiterate the insensitivity of the elite to the problems of their poorer countrymen, and the loss  of even the most basic means of employment and dignity.  The photography and technical  aspects of the film  are somewhat dated, but they only add to the overall impact of the compact indictment of the exploitation of the  poor in  urban areas. (Critique quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Topics for Discussion: early post-colonialism, class representations and relations, equity




123 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

Distributor:  Macmillan Films                                                                                                           

Purchase Price:  $59.95

Rental Price:  This film can be rented from some commercial video stores.


Synopsis:  A story reconstruction in documentary style of Algerian resistance to the French between 1954 and 1957.


Critique:  “This powerful film is a documentary-style reconstruction of the Algerian rebellion against the French between 1954 and 1957.  It focuses on the FLN (National Liberation Front) guerrilla underground and the tactics used by the French to destroy it.  Flashbacks show the rebels’ terrorist campaign and the escalation of torture, murder and destruction on both sides.  A dramatic example of the tragedy of violent revolution.  It is useful in a larger study where alternatives to violent social change are presented.  Sympathetic to the FLN, the film makers portray them as underdogs fighting valiantly for social justice, because of this the film may produce support among viewers for terrorism.”


(Critique quoted from War and Peace Guide 1980, pp. 75-76.)



Discussion Topics: Art and Politics; Colonialism; Identity; Revolution



BOPHA!, 1993

120 minutes in English

Directors: Daniel Riesenfeld and Morgan Freeman.

Distributor: Viewfinders, Inc.

Purchase Price: $19.95


Synopsis:  This video uses a dual media approach to represent the harsh realities of Apartheid South Africa: stark and often violent documentary footage which is interspersed with videotaped scenes from an award winning South African play, Bopha!





Classroom handout: The video addresses  number of central issues in Apartheid South Africa: life in the urban townships, severe racial prejudice and hierarchy, endemic unemployment, inadequate and oppressive educational system, over‑crowded housing, political oppression, and most centrally, police brutality.


The video captures, particularly in the powerful scenes from the play, the deep wounds that Apartheid inflicted on individuals and families.  Of particular relevance to our course is the (a) tension between Njandine (the father) and his teenage son Zulakie, caused by their diametrically opposed perspectives on the current (1970s) situation in South Africa, and (b) the internal angst experienced by Zulakie as he struggles to deal with the deep ambiguities comforting youth in South Africa.


To help us understand the scenes from Bopha! the isiZulu word for arrest or detention,  I have summarized  the characters that appear in the play:


Njandine, the father and a sergeant in the infamous South African Police force (SAP).  Njandine, as the narrator (Sidney Poitier) tells us, is a pejorative term, used by township dwellers to describe black policemen.  The word, in isiZulu, means "running dog."  Njandine, is the quintessential "collaborator."  He does the dirty and violent work necessary to up‑hold the apartheid system. However, though he does the work of the baas, and thus plays an important role in maintaining the system, the play‑write portrays Njandine as a more complicated and not totally unsympathetic character.


Njandine, represents the deep ambiguities and contradictions of the apartheid system.  In order to survive and live a somewhat humane existence, many South African blacks where forced to chose between occupations (such as the SAP, but also teachers and many others) which helped reproduce the system or unemployment and a life a misery.  When criticized by his son for being a policeman Njandine responds with biting sarcasm‑"When I a vagrant where were you? When I was homeless where were you?  When I was starving, where were you?"  When I was starving, where were you?" Watch for ways in which Njandine's character demonstrates this ambiguity and tension.


Lalanki, Njandine's brother, who has just moved from his rural homeland (Qwa Qwa), to live in a township.  Lalanki is, however, an "illegal" since he does not have permission to be in the urban areas; his pass‑book does not have the proper documentation.  Consequently when the police approach a group of men searching for work Lalanki's passbook show that he his an illegal and he is given the choice of joining the police force or deportation to Qwa Qwa.  In resignation he joins the police force stating "If you can't beat them, join them." However, unlike his brother, Lalanki, is a very reluctant "collaborator."

Watch for ways in which he demonstrates resistance and opposition.

Zulakie, the son, is a student in a "typical" township school. The play takes place in the late 1970s when students in the townships took the lead in resisting apartheid.  The immediate focus of their protest is opposition to inferior education and particularly to the policy of using Afrikaans, the "language of particularly to the policy of using Afrikaans, the "language of the oppressor" as the medium of instruction, even in mathematics.   Zulakie is torn between his familial duty to his father, who wants to him to follow him into the police force, and his own sense of justice constructed from his very different perspective (from his father's) of the reality of contemporary (1980s) South Africa and his dreams for the future.


In addition to these three main characters several other characters have "cameo" appearances in Bopha! There are two white characters: the police captain who is in charge of the township police station and training school, and a white employer who in his brief appearance refuses to give Lalanke work because "he lacked proper qualifications."

There is also a brief appearance by a black school teacher, also portrayed as a collaborator, for his  compliant role in carrying out the policy of teaching mathematics in Afrikaans. 



Amandla! is the isiXhosa word for freedom.  It was used with a raised right hand fist in empathic defiance of the apartheid system.  (Used by protesting and arrested students in the play.)


Bopha (isiZulu) Roughly translated as "arrest" or "detection"


Baas (or Bas) Afrikaans word for "boss."  African adults (particularly men)  were expected to address all white men, regardless of age or status, as "master" (English) or "Baas" (Afrikaans)


Homelands: rural areas "officially established" as the "traditional" homes of the nine official designated African ethnic groups.  Africans without permission to work and live in urban areas were forced to live in their ethnically designated homelands, even if they (or their families) had never lived in the designated area. The homelands (referred to at times in the video as "Bantustans") were all in economically depressed and agriculturally marginal areas. The nine designated homelands made up just 13 per cent of the total land area of South Africa.


Passbook violation: occurred when an African was in an urban area without permission of the district office.  Permission to travel and live outside ones "homeland" was indicated in ones passbook.


Liberation Now, Education Later‑‑a frequent chant of protesting township students in the 1970s and early 1980s when they shut down their schools for long periods of time.


Toyi Toyi: The township "dance of resistance."  In almost all of the protest scene in the video students and other township residents are chanting political slogans and dancing the "toyi toyi" (appropriated from traditional "warrior" dances).


Preventative Detention: Official policy which allowed those opposed to apartheid (from all "races") to be detain without trial.


Suppression of Communism Act (1956).  This legislation banned the South African Communist Party and allowed for the detention, without trial of anyone “accused” of being a communist. Note that Njandine accused Zulakie of "becoming a communist" when he joined the school boycott.  Anyone who showed opposition to apartheid was branded as a communist.


(This handout was provided by Dr. John Metzler, Michigan State University)













120 minutes in French and Wolof with English subtitles

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Distributors: New Yorker Films; Third World Newsreel

Purchase price: $250.00

Rental price: $125.00


Synopsis: An African cinematic depiction of events of political intrigue in a fictional pre‑colonial Wolof kingdom in what is today Senegal. 


Critique:  This production is Ousmane Sembene's most ambitious film to date. Many levels of a traditional Wolof kingdom are explored within the framework of a political thriller. The scope of events and the character portrayals suggest a traditional oral epic narrative, while specific themes deal with great political and religious changes which swept West Africa in pre‑colonial times. Unfortunately, the historical content of the film contains some distortions of the spread of Islam in l9th century Senegal. Certainly, conversion was sometimes carried out by force, and Wolof kingdoms only infrequently allowed missionaries or slave traders to live and operate right in the capital. Under no circumstances would the branding of slaves by a white man be allowed in a village. Sembene's period piece is decidedly an impressionistic work, growing in great part from his feelings toward the contemporary Islamic establishment in Senegal. He builds his narrative around the great changes brought by Islam to aspects of succession, religion, participation in government, and the role of women. Sembene creates his interpretation of how a traditional Wolof kingdom came under Islamic rule, but he also is providing a rich glimpse into court protocol, especially the use of griots to offer praise of heroes and royalty and to act as mediators between king and the common people. Sembene is suggesting that complex levels of checks and balances to power existed in these traditional societies and that things have gotten progressively worse in his nation since that time. He is creating a type of origin myth, explaining what he perceives to be Senegal's contemporary situation. While some may argue with the viewpoint, there is no doubt that the production is designed on a grandly evocative scale which, despite its historical interpretations and literary license, constitutes a complex artistic statement. If viewed from the perspective of an impressionistic African cinematic work, this is a production not to be missed by scholars of film or Africanists who can unravel the many threads of the story and interpret its message for students. 


(Critique quoted from the African Media Program’s Database of African Film, Michigan State U)



Discussion Topics: History and Art; Colonialism; Religion












105 minutes in English

Director: Zoltan Korda

Distributors: Facets Multimedia, Inc.;  Afrovisions

Purchase Price: $69.94

Rental Price: Available at most commercial video stores.



A film adaptation of Alan Paton's novel about South African race relations as seen through the relationships among a black minister, a white farmer, and their families. 



This is a highly dated treatment of Alan Paton's novel.  Technically, the production is flawed on several levels. The sound is often garbled or inaudible. The photography is often poorly lighted and contrast is difficult to perceive. Dialogue is written by Paton and closely follows the novel. The film's strength is the strong performances of the lead characters, though the situations are often contrived. Age is the greatest drawback of the production. The apartheid system simply can no longer be viewed as the unfortunate misunderstanding of the black population by the whites. Resettlement, bantustans, and 'independent homelands,' as well as the Soweto and 1970s upheavals, have redefined the South Africa portrayed in the film. There is never any hint of government policy intentionally dehumanizing the black population and declaring them aliens in the country they have lived in for hundreds of years. Despite the humanistic intentions of the producers, the film at best stands as a period piece that should not be used to present modern South Africa. It can be used as an example of an accurate adaptation of literature and 1950s understanding of Apartheid by the small liberal white South African community.



Discussion Topics: From novel to Film; Apartheid



'Illustrated London News' 220 (May 17, 1952): 852

'Commonwealth' 55 (February 8, 1952): 446

'Ebony' 6 (July 1951): 57‑60

'Holiday' 11 (May 1925): 105

'Saturday Review' 35 (February 2, 1952): 31

'New Republic' 126 (February 11, 1952): 21‑22

'Time' 59 (February 18, 1952): 86

'Catholic World' 174 (March 1952): 457

'Our World' 6 (July 1951): 34‑36

'Christian Century' 69 (October 15, 1952): 1207

'New York Times Magazine' (January 20, 1952): 22‑23

'Newsweek' 29 (January 28, 1952): 89

'Library Journal' 77 (February 15, 1952): 311








155 minutes in English

Director: Richard Attenborough

Distributor: Viewfinders, Inc.

Purchase Price: $19.95



“The story of black activist Stephen Biko and the liberal white newspaper editor who risks his own life to bring Biko's message to the world.  After learning of apartheid's true horrors through Biko's eyes, editor Donald Woods discovers that his friend has been silenced by the police.  Woods then undertakes a perilous quest to escape South Africa and bring Biko's remarkable tale of courage to the world.”


(Quoted from Indiana University African Studies Program information)



See: 'Film Review,' Annual (1988?) For 11 U.S. reviews.

Greenberg, James, 'South African Papers Threatened Over,' 'Cry Freedom' Ads, 'Variety,' Jan. 20,        1988

Hoagland, Jim, 'Setback for 'Freedom' WP August 4, 1988

Hochschild, Adam, 'Hollywood Discovers South Africa' Mother Jones, December, 1987

Koapa, Ben, 'Cry Freedom an Incomplete Story,' SASPOST, Vol. 4, No. 4, December 1987

Kraft, Scott, 'New Hurdle for 'Cry Freedom', LA Times, July 26, 1988

'Cry Freedom' Viewed as a History Lesson,' LA Times, August 2, 1988

'Cry Freedom' Gets New Release Date in South Africa,' LA Times, February 20, 1990

Nixon, Rob, 'Cry Freedom,' Cineaste XVI, No. 3, 1988

Pulmmer, William, 'Newsman Donald Woods Still Seeks Justice for Stephen Biko in the Film'

'Cry Freedom' on the MOVE

Sampson, Anthony, 'The Political Implications of Cry Freedom,' Sight and Sound, 57 (1) 87/88

Stern, Gary, 'A Black Gandhi, Horizon, November 1987

Tyson, Cicely, 'Cry Freedom,' pp 61‑66, Ebony, December 1987

van Niekerk, Philip, 'Cry Freedom ' is seen as a test of Censorship in South Africa,' Boston Globe, January            24, 1988

White, Armond, 'Apartheid Chic,' Film Comment December 1987

Washington Diarist, 'Plastics,' The New Republic, November 1987

Cambridge Diarist, 'Black and White,' The New Republic December 1987

















57 minutes in English

Director: Peter Davis and Daniel Riesenfeld

Distributor: Villon Films

Purchase Price: 2 x 56 minute videos, $390.00



In Darkest Hollywood examines the role of cinema during the reign of apartheid in South Africa.  A mosaic of clips from feature, documentary and propaganda films with commentary by writers, directors and actors, this film looks at the film makers whose films fought to destroy, and in some cases supported, apartheid.



The following is an except from an  H‑NET BOOK REVIEW, published by  Afrlitcine@h‑ (October, 1997) on the book on which the film, In Darkest Hollywood, is based.


Other Resources

Peter Davis.  In Darkest Hollywood:  Exploring the Jungles of Cinema's

South Africa.  Athens/Randburg, South Africa:  Ohio University

Press/Ravan Press, 1996.  vii + 214 pages.  Pictures, filmography, bibliography, articles, reviews, index.  $19.95 (paper) ISBN 0‑8214‑1162‑4 (Ohio articles, reviews, index.  $19.95 (paper) ISBN 0‑8214‑1162‑4 (Ohio University Press);  ISBN 0‑86975‑443‑2 (Ravan Press).


Reviewed for H‑Afrlitcine by Maureen N. Eke <>, Central Michigan University.


In the Introduction to his book, In Darkest Hollywood, independent filmmaker Peter Davis states:  "This book is about the power of cinema, and  about the devastating impact of a generic 'Hollywood' that is constantly  protesting that it is apolitical, even while it stamps stereotypes and

projects behavior that is as profoundly political as it is influential."  Davis's critique of Hollywood focuses on what he perceives as the  legendary film industry's influence on South Africa's popular culture.  Davis, however, resists using the term "cultural imperialism," stating that "people everywhere were not coerced into going to the cinema," but  "eagerly allowed themselves to be seduced into an addiction that is  well‑nigh incurable" (4).  But, since Davis likens Hollywood's  "eagerly allowed themselves to be seduced into an addiction that is well‑nigh incurable" (4).  But, since Davis likens Hollywood's overwhelming presence in South Africa to empire building, one wonders whether the same explanation of "voluntary seduction" could be used to explain European colonization of Africa.  The colonized must have "eagerly  allowed themselves to be seduced" into a state of subjugation.  This framework would make for an interesting and invigorating reading of cultural domination.


Davis argues that Hollywood's representation of Africa replicates European  imperialism in Africa, because Europe's "literature of empire that had come into being during the nineteenth century found its second wind in the cinema" (2), beginning with those made in "the earliest years of the century to the latest."  Most of these films "emphasized the supremacy of the white race, directly and indirectly justifying conquest.  Imperial and the white race, directly and indirectly justifying conquest.  Imperial and  racist images, messages, codes, cyphers, attitudes and behavior were copied indiscriminately" (2).  "Up to the present time, Hollywood perpetuates the ethos of empire" (2), he adds.  Consequently, Davis insists that, like Western subordination of Africans even in stories about  themselves, Hollywood's portrayals of Africans placed them only at the periphery of the story.  Africa, Davis says, "was a vast hunting ground for the white man, and when Hollywood seized on Africa, this was the Africa it offered" (2).  In Hollywood's Africa, "the pictures of the native people are scarcely distinguishable from those of the animal trophies" (2).


But Davis is not interested in exploring Hollywood's representation of  Africa, that is, the  continent.  His study is narrowly‑focused,  specifically on the impact of Hollywood on black  South African culture  and  the "creation" of black South Africa by subsequent film makers through and the "creation" of black South Africa by subsequent film makers through Hollywood's eyes.  Consequently, Davis' "principal concern is with an  image‑bank relating to South Africa, especially the way that black South  Africans have been presented on film, how the image‑bank changed (or significantly failed to change) during this century" (5).  Furthermore,  the study is not a "comprehensive history of cinema depicting that country [South Africa]."  It is rather a study of "selected genre films," the author asserts.  Also, the study does not include Afrikaans cinema or African‑language film, because those "categories are relatively  narrow cast."


Davis' book provides a detailed documentation and discussion of the history and often unexplained ideology behind several films about black South Africans and South Africa.  The book explores nearly ninety years of  film making which has transformed South Africa's popular culture.  Using a  combination of archival research and interviews, Davis unearths both the personal visions and politics of the film makers, the actors, as well as the interpersonal relationships and conflicts that developed during filmmaking.  Although the book occasionally reads like a popular magazine, especially when Davis delves into the private lives of the film makers, much of the information he provides about the historical and political conditions under which the films were made is not readily available to the novice of South African cinema.  The filmography at the end of the book identifies about ninety‑one films discussed, beginning with the D. W. Griffith's "The Zulu's Heart" (1908), which according to Davis is the earliest Western‑made film about South Africa, to "The Power of One," the latest and a conflation of "Rocky" and Robinson Crusoe.


From the inception of cinematic production in and about South Africa, the  film producers and directors were whites (either expatriate or South the  film producers and directors were whites (either expatriate or South African), while black South Africans and expatriate blacks were always cast in the roles of characters, a role which Davis describes as "adjuncts  to whites."  Despite this unequal relationship between the producers and actors/actresses there were a few periods which held out a ray of hope for  the emergence of black South African "voice," or presence in the cinema.  In the chapter "Towards a Black cinema in South Africa:  The Promise of  the 1950s," Davis asserts that the 1950s saw various experiments in "black  cinema" articulated through a foregrounding of "African" thematic concerns  and actors/actresses.  For instance, Africans began to play central roles in feature‑length entertainment films.  He credits this development to the  efforts of three "outsiders":  scriptwriter Donald Swanson and actor Eric Rutherford who formed a triad with Gloria Green, the daughter of a  efforts of three "outsiders":  scriptwriter Donald Swanson and actor Eric Rutherford who formed a triad with Gloria Green, the daughter of a wealthy South African Jewish family.  These "outsiders" interrogated established  Hollywood and white South African cinema traditions, which relegated  Africans to the margins, locating them off‑focus on the screen or almost  outside the frame of the picture.  According to Davis, these "outsiders"  asked, "why not [have]...a feature film, a full‑length entertainment film,  with African actors?'" (22).  Conceding that "it is certain the film they made, 'Jim Comes to Jo'burg,' was made with a particular kind of liberal sensibility, a kind that today is sometimes despised" (21), Davis  cautions, however, that "it is equally certain that without it, an  important part of South Africa's black heritage would be totally lost to  succeeding generations" (21).  His application of "black cinema,"  however,  is problematic.  He assumes that an African thematic content and an  all‑black cast signify "black cinema," even if the directors and producers all‑black cast signify "black cinema," even if the directors and producers are white.  The "new" cinema is defined as "African cinema"  because, at the time, black South Africans were "thrilled" to see themselves and  their culture represented on stage, even when such representations "upgraded" Hollywood's earlier images of the culture.


A similar muddying of terms is also evident in the discussion of "buddies," Davis' term for the friendships and collaborations which developed across the color line in the films produced outside South Africa  in the 1960s and later.  These interracial friendships which developed despite the increased racial divisions within South Africa are noticeable in films such as "Dingaka" (1964), "The Wilby Conspiracy" (1975), "The Gods Must be Crazy" (1980), "Cry Freedom" (1987), and "A Dry White Season"  (1989) to mention only a few.  Davis explains that the cross‑racial friendship existed only in a "fictive South Africa that bore little (1989) to mention only a few.  Davis explains that the cross‑racial  friendship existed only in a "fictive South Africa that bore little  resemblance to reality" (61).  He adds that "the stories showed a South  Africa where black/white friendship existed, by misrepresenting the harsh facts of real South African life" (61).


Ironically, the seemingly collaborative interracial environment which the films depicted were often ruptured by the intrusion of the political and social realities of apartheid South Africa into the lives of the black cast members.  Many of the black South Africans and expatriate blacks experienced various forms of racial discrimination, ranging from denial of  accommodation in hotels to police harassment.  Even as these actors and actresses were being recognized internationally, apartheid South Africa was denying their humanity.  In addition, these black artists did not have  the power to write or direct stories about their people.


On the contrary, in his concluding remarks, "A parting of the ways," the power to write or direct stories about their people. Davis perceives an improvement in the representation of black South Africans since D. W. Griffith's "The Zulu's Heart" (1908).  These improvements are evident especially in films produced by white South Africans.  He cites  "Shaka Zulu" (1986), "The Gods Must be Crazy" (1980), and "Mapantsula" (1988) as examples of films which end with choices for the Africans, pointing out that the choices made "are not those that whites in the films  would prefer" (189).  These choices, according to Davis, suggest "an advance in the way South Africa and its black inhabitants were perceived, at least by white South African film‑makers" (190).  Certainly, while "Mapantsula's"  anti‑apartheid message may be appealing, the other two films generally draw harsh criticisms from audiences, although Davis seems  to suggest otherwise.  Interestingly, while admitting that "Shaka Zulu" appropriated the old  stereotypical divisions of Africans into the "Savage Other" and "Faithful  Servant," Davis identifies this film as a "progressive" representation of Africans, because Shaka was "endowed with a personality, as opposed to making him a cipher."  Truly, the film's representation of Shaka as a corrupt, dictatorial, maniacal, and bloodthirsty leader would make an ideal prototype for African leadership and identities in future films!  The film was the project of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which under the apartheid government engaged in various forms of media propaganda for the then South African government.  Davis' conclusions also seem to accept the refashioned "Noble Savage" or "Man Friday" of "The Gods Must be Crazy."  We are invited to laugh and overlook the old exotic images of Africa‑‑wild animals, landscapes, strange and warring peoples for the sake of entertainment, especially, when the "Noble Savage" is given a personality and choice.  One can not resist wondering about the impact of Jamie Uys' closeness to the apartheid hegemony on his construction of the Africa and Africans seen in his film.


Structurally, the book is divided into several chapters, although it is often unclear whether or not Davis meant these divisions as chapters.  The  chapters are occasionally separated by a collection of photographs of actors, film makers, and shots from some of the movies under discussion.  In spite of these minor structural and perspectival weaknesses, the book is an invaluable resource of information on films about South Africa, especially those films which now may be archived or lost.  In addition,  Davis' interviews with several of the film makers, as well as his insightful discussions of the histories which inform both the subject matter, tone, and perspectives, help to foster more comprehensive interpretations of some of these familiar films.  Above all, this book, insightful discussions of the histories which inform both the subject matter, tone, and perspectives, help to foster more comprehensive interpretations of some of these familiar films.  Above all, this book, indeed, reveals the overwhelming presence of Hollywood in South Africa's cinema culture.  In general, In Darkest Hollywood is also a commentary on the consumption of Hollywood and American popular culture by many African national governments and their citizens.

Copyright (c) 1997 by H‑Net, all rights reserved.  This work may be copied for non‑profit educational use if proper credit  is given to the author and the list.  For other permission, please contact ‑Net@h‑



This film might be used to provide background information to the teacher using African film in the classroom.  Discussion topics: Construction of African Identity in Film; Art and Politics; Apartheid




107 minutes in English

Director: Euzhan Palcy

Distributor: Available for rental at most video stores.



”Ben du Toit is a white schoolteacher in South Africa who thinks little about his way of life.  Ben is

politically awakened as he investigates the 'suicide' of his black gardener, who has been killed by the

police.  Ben's transformation alienates him from his family, friends, and the safety of South Africa's

white status quo society.”


(From Indiana University African Studies Program information)



Discussion Topics: Apartheid; Art and Politics



EMITAI, 1971

101 minutes Diola and French with English subtitles

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Distributor:   New Yorker Films

Purchase Price: $175.00



Emitai is a historical film set in the final days of WWII.  The film depicts a conflict between the French colonialists and the Diola ethnic group of Senegal.  It is the Diola women who initiate the resistance.



“ ‘Film should be a school of history,’ says Ousmane Sembene of Senegal, widely considered the father of African cinema.  ‘We have to have the courage to say that in the colonial period we were sometimes colonized with the help of our own leaders.’


“Sembene made these statements concrete with the 1971 premiere of Emitai, his visually rich and  complex drama set in the Diola society of rural Senegal.  Perhaps the ideas struck too close to home.  The film was immediately banned in Senegal, indeed throughout Africa.  Emitai tells the story of key incidents that took place in French colonial Senegal during the Second World War.  The film centers on attempts by the colonial administration to impose a new rice tax in a Diola village and the resistance that followed.  The community becomes divided over what strategy to take.  The traditional elders are backed into a corner and humiliated, while the village women adopt new tactics and take strong action.  In a series of startling and vivid scenes, visions of the gods appear to the elders, while in another part of the village women rapidly organize and hide the substantial rice crop.


“Based on his own screenplay, Emitai was Sembene’s third drama and the film that launched his world reputation.  But reaching an international audience was not his aim.  Rather he wanted to communicate directly with the Diola society.  he is proud that the villagers ‘were happy to hear that there was a beautiful language for them.’  The film is not about the elders, or the women, the act of resistance, the cruelty of the French or the leading characters.  It is all these at once, touching on economics, social structure, religion and culture.  The pace may be slow for those of us raised on Hollywood action, but there is a richness of gesture and a symbolic language that holds the attention of any audience.”


(Critique quoted from a review by Peter Steven in New Internationalist, February 1996, p. 33.)



Cham, Mbye.  “Art and Ideology in the work of Ousmane Sembene and Haile Gerima.”                                     Presence Africaine 129.1 (1984): 79-91.

Ghali, Noureddine.  “An Interview with Sembene Ousmane.”

  Film and Politics in the Third World. Ed. John D.H. Downing.  Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1987.

Peters, Jonathan.  “Aesthetics and Ideology in African Film: Ousmane Sembene’s Emitai.

African Literature in Its Social and Political Dimensions.  Eds. Eileen Julien, Mildred

Mortimer, and Curtis Schade.  Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1986.

Vieyra, Paulin Soumanou.  “Five Major Films by Sembene Ousmane.”  Film and Politics in the

            Third World.  Ed. John D.H. Downing.  Brooklyn: Automedia, 1987.



Discussion Topics: Gender; Film and Literature; Colonialism




96 minutes in English

Director: Tsitsi Dangarembga

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase price: $195.00

Rental Price: $95.00



Everyone's Child is an eloquent call for action on behalf of Africa's millions of parentless children.


Through the tragic story of one Zimbabwean family devastated by AIDS, the film challenges Africans

to reaffirm their tradition that an orphan becomes "Everyone's Child." Everyone's Child is the most

recent production from Zimbabwe's Media for Development Trust (MFD). This prolific production

 company represents one significant trend among African filmmakers: producing feature films to

 intervene explicitly in urgent social issues. For example, MFD's first feature, Neria, which called on

women to exercise their newly won legal rights against patriarchal custom, broke box office records so

 that eventually one in three Zimbabweans saw it.




Everyone's Child was produced in direct response to the prediction that by the year 2000 there will be

over 10,000,000 AIDS orphans on the African continent. At the same time, the film focuses attention

on millions of other children left homeless by civil wars or abandoned because their parents could not

support them. MFD first conceived Everyone's Child as a training tape for community‑based orphan

care programs. But the rapid spread of AIDS made the problem so acute they felt only a feature film

could place the issue at the forefront of the national agenda.  For their production team, MFD drew on

some of the most creative young talent in Zimbabwe. The script was based on a story by novelist

Shimmer Chinodya, author of Harvest of Thorns, and was directed by Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of

the novel Nervous Condition. The exceptional soundtrack features 12 original songs by Zimbabwe's

most popular musicians, including Thomas Mapfumo, Leonard Zhakata and Andy "Tomato Sauce"

Brown. Leading Zimbabwean actors star in the film, but many of the younger roles were played by

actual street-children trained in a special workshop.


Everyone's Child tells the story of four siblings, Itai, Tamari, Norah and Nhamo, whose parents have

both died of AIDS.  After a traditional funeral, the villagers, ignoring custom, shun the orphans

because of the stigma of AIDS. Their guardian, Uncle Ozias, a struggling small businessman, sells the

family's plow and oxen to pay off their father's debts. Without the means to support themselves, the

family inevitably disintegrates.


Itai, the eldest brother, chasing empty promises of high‑paying jobs, leaves for Harare where, alone and

penniless, he inevitably takes up with a gang of homeless boys. Their clothes, music and attitudes

identify them as belonging to an international fraternity of forgotten youth who look to each other for

family and to crime for a living.


Itai's sister, Tamari, played with moving vulnerability by Nomsa Mlambo, is left to care for her younger

brother and sister.  Unable to afford food, deprived of affection, she is an easy victim for the predatory

shopkeeper, Mdara Shaghi. The other villagers ostracize her as a prostitute and we can't help worrying

that her promiscuous "benefactor" may be exposing her to HIV infection. One night, Shaghi brutally

forces Tamari to leave the two younger children alone and accompany him to a club. In her absence

their house catches fire and the younger brother, Nhamo, burns to death. Only the charred remnants of

his toy helicopter remain, symbolizing the ruined dreams and promise of so many of Africa's young



Nhamo's death finally convinces Uncle Ozias and the other villagers of their responsibility to help the

three remaining children rebuild their lives. Everyone's Child offers its audience no easy answers: an

official of an NGO tells the villagers that the problem of orphans is so wide‑spread they cannot look to

outside agencies or government for relief but must create their own self‑reliant solutions.


The audience watches this painful tragedy unfold knowing there is no one but adult society (in other

words themselves) who can save children like these. As the now familiar African proverb says: "It

takes a village to raise a child." If a Zimbabwean film can forthrightly call upon that country's citizens

to shoulder the burden of insuring adequate parenting for every child, one is left to wonder why

American society with all its wealth regards this goal as hopelessly Utopian.


Everyone's Child also illustrates a controversy growing among African filmmakers. Some argue that

films like Everyone's Child show the power of European funding agencies to impose their own social

agendas on African directors. This, they believe, has inhibited the development of a commercially

viable and hence self‑reliant African film industry producing the comedies, romances and action

adventures Africans would pay to see. Sub‑Saharan Africa no doubt needs a commercial film industry

analogous to that in Egypt, India or Hong Kong. Perhaps, it will come now that a technologically

advanced South Africa can again address African markets. At the same time, there is no reason to

believe hard‑pressed aid organizations would feel justified in subsidizing an African entertainment

industry. Nor should we expect this industry, once it exists, to produce more socially useful films than

 its commercial counterparts elsewhere.


The fact that films like Neria and Everyone's Child can be both popular and contain serious social

messages argues that there remains the potential for building in Africa a film‑going public which looks

to cinema for more than mindless diversion. Is it possible that African filmmakers could take the lead

in pioneering a film culture which regards film as a place for collective reflection and community



"A moving tale of the plight of children whose parents have died of AIDS...The performances are

surprisingly subtle."

‑‑Chicago Tribune


"A remarkable film...A wonderful counterbalance to the many didactic AIDS prevention films which

 ignore the wider societal context of the disease."

‑‑Jonathan M. Mann, Founding Director, Global Program on AIDS, WHO


"Challenges us to find sensible and sensitive ways to support those who cope with HIV that reflect

 their, and not our realities"

‑‑David Nabarro, ODA Chief Health and Population Advisor


"It exemplifies the efforts of women filmmakers and will help place Zimbabwean and Southern African

 film on the map."

‑‑Africa Film & TV



FINZAN, 1989

107 minutes in Bambara and French with English subtitles

Director: Cheik Oumar Sissoko

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $295.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



In Bambara, finzan means “rebellion,” a most fitting title for this story of two women steadfastly resisting tradition.  After the death of her husband, Nanyuma refuses to bow to traditional protocol by marrying her brother-in-law.  The younger Fili tries to escape the ritual of female circumcision.  Sissoko deftly balances widely divergent points of view: the determined struggle of some women, the obedient tolerance of others, and the bewilderment of men lost in these times of transition.  The film subtly illustrates relations and conflicts between men and women, women amongst themselves, and finally the small community and the powerful state.



“Finzan is an impassioned cry for the emancipation of African women.  It is one of the boldest examples of socially engaged filmmaking to come out of Africa in recent years.  Malian director Cheick Oumar Sissoko has skillfully designed a film which raises the most urgent issues of rural life in a style accessible to every villager.  Finzan opens with graphic images of birth and motherhood -- its pain, its tenderness, its strength.  Finzan is about birth, African women giving birth to their own freedom.  Director Cheick Sissoko extends the traditional meaning of finzan, “a dance for the heroes,” by making a filmic tribute to African women.


“At its most basic level, Finzan is the story of a woman who says no, no to the men who try to control her life.  Nanyuma, a young widow, resists when her brother-in-law, Bala, the village buffoon, claims his traditional right to “inherit” her as his third wife.  “Wife inheritance” is a common practice in West Africa, retaining a widow and her children as the property of the husband’s family.  Nanyuma escapes to her parents’ home where her mother shelters her but her father forces her to leave.  She flees to the city and finds it no more enlightened; she is kidnaped and returned to the village.  But a group of the local women support Nanyuma’s rebellion, threatening the structure of male privilege in the village.


“A parallel story focuses on one of the most controversial issues in Africa -- clitoridectomy also called ‘female circumcision’ or ‘excision.’  While health workers warn of the dangers of fatal infection, hemorrhaging and infertility, local tradition holds that circumcision discourages extramarital sex by attenuating women’s sexual drives.  Fili is a young city woman sent to Nanyuma’s village by her conservative father to ‘protect’ her from urban vices.  When the villagers discover she is not circumcised, they insist on performing the ritual, even though Fili’s mother bled to death in childbirth and her doctor has advised against the operation.  Fili’s ‘difference’ threatens the sexual identities of the villagers, especially the women, who attack her brutally.


“Finzan presents a complex view of tradition.  Sissoko shows that it can empower the villagers to rebel against the businessmen and corrupt district commissioner who try to force them to sell their millet at a low price.  In Africa it is common for speculators to stockpile grain to resell to villagers at exorbitant prices in time of drought or famine.  On the other hand, defending the tradition of male privilege represents a futile ‘return to the sources,’ a loyalty that weakens and divides rather than unites society.  The film’s final images show the village’s fragmentation.  Fili is rushed to the hospital and an unknown fate; Nanyuma and her children flee to a life of exile.


“In contrast to the films of some Western ethnographic film makers, Sissoko does not romanticize the process of change.  He shows it as a violent rupture like birth itself.  For Sissoko the modernization of African cannot be partial, limited to one sex or one class; it must involve the total emancipation of society.”


(Critique quoted from Manthia Diawara’s article “Finzan: A Dance for the Heroes.”  California Newsreel  Library of African Cinema 1995-96 Catalogue,  pp. 7-9.)



Discussion Topics: Gender; Tradition vs. Modernity; Post-colonialism













FLAME, 1996

90 minutes in English

Director: Ingrid Sinclair

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $195.00

Rental Price: $95.00



Flame is perhaps the most controversial film ever made in Africa ‑‑certainly the only one to be seized by

the police during editing on the grounds it was subversive and pornographic.


Ingrid Sinclair's moving tribute to women fighters in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle aroused the ire

of war veterans and the military because it revealed officers sometimes used female recruits as "comfort

women." Flame's real crime may have been that it exposed not just past abuses but continuing divisions

within Zimbabwean society. Many of the groups which fought hardest during the freedom struggle, for

example, women and peasants, have been left behind in the post‑revolutionary period;  for them the

revolution is still not completed. Flame provides an important and by no means unambiguous case study

of who will control not only the depiction of the African past but also the African present.




Flame is the story of two close friends whose involvement in the liberation struggle lead to very

different outcomes. Florence, impulsive and brave, and Nyasha, scholarly and cautious, are scarcely

more than children when they run away from their village to join the liberation forces in 1975. After a

harrowing trek to the rebel camps in Mozambique, they adopt their new guerilla identities: Nyasha

becomes Liberty, representing her desire for independence, while Florence selects Flame, symbolizing

her passion.


The film accurately reconstructs conditions in the rebel camps: the extreme hardship and constant

danger but also the unprecedented opportunities offered women for education and leadership. At the

same time, it shows that leaders like the charismatic young political commissar, Comrade Che, often

assumed that women would be available to them. When Flame resists his advances, he rapes her leaving

her pregnant. But even Che is not portrayed one‑dimensionally; he genuinely inspires his troops through

political education and, after he apologizes to Flame, she (improbably) does not hesitate to become his

lover. She is devastated when he and their infant son are killed in an aerial bombardment. After that, she

has nothing to live for but combat and becomes a legendary leader of the Chimurenga.


Peace and victory are bittersweet for Flame. She returns to her village, marries an old boyfriend,

Comrade Danger, and accepts the unglamourous, hardscrabble life of the countryside. Danger, however,

adapts badly to civilian life, loses his job, takes to drink and begins to abuse Flame. Like so many others

from the depressed rural areas, Flame must leave to find work in the booming city. There she turns for

help to Liberty, who has used the training she received as an information officer during the war, to

become a comparatively well‑paid administrator. But their reunion is strained because the sense of

mutual support and shared purpose of the revolutionary years has dissipated in the individualistic

post‑independence society.


The two friends finally attend a Heroes' Day party with other members of their old unit but their

participation is limited to watching the ceremonies on television. Here Sinclair pointedly switches from

fiction to documentary footage of Zimbabwe's present‑day leadership, all male, resplendent on the

viewing platform like their colonial predecessors. The old comrades turn away from the television and

salute each other; the two women greet passers‑by with the Pan African freedom cry: "A luta continua"

 ‑ the struggle continues.


"Flame is a bold, powerful, and deeply moving portrayal of the courage and complexity of Zimbabwean

women freedom fighters. It depicts the real‑life relationships among those engaged in national

liberation struggles and of the challenge of sustaining those relationships in times of peace. This is a

very impressive work."

‑‑Angela Davis


"This tremendous film tells a story which is both unfashionable and politically incorrect in its home

 country. . .The applause for this film was the loudest at Cannes."

‑‑The Guardian (U.K.)


"A unique film that personalizes issues often overlooked ‑ the differences between rural and urban,

uneducated and educated, which emerge in post‑revolutionary societies like Zimbabwe's. Anyone

examining the situation of women in post‑colonial countries will find Flame an accessible and engaging


‑‑Joel Samoff, Stanford University


(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s Online Catalogue.)



Discussion Topics: liberation, justice, gender, colonialism and post-colonialism



LE FRANC, 1994

45 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Djibril Diop Mambety

Distributor:  California Newsreel

Purchase Price:  $195.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



Djibril Diop Mambety has already produced two feature-length masterpieces of African storytelling, Hyenas and Touki Bouki. Now in Le Franc, he begins a trilogy of short films, Tales of Little People, whom he describes as, "the only truly consistent, unaffected people in the world, for whom every morning brings the same question: how to preserve what is essential to themselves."



“Mambety uses the French government's 50% devaluation of the West African Franc (CFA) in 1994 as the basis for a whimsical yet trenchant parable of life in today's Africa. For the millions of people impoverished by this devaluation, the national lotteries became the only hope for salvation. Mambety symbolizes the global economy as a game of chance, which the poor are compelled to play, though the odds are heavily stacked against them.   The hero of this tale (and perhaps Mambety's alter ego) is Marigo, a penniless musician living in a shanty town, relentlessly harassed by his formidable landlady. He survives only through dreams of playing his congoma (a kind of guitar) which has been confiscated in lieu of back rent.


“At the end of his luck, he buys a lottery ticket from the dwarf Kus, the god of fortune, and glues it to the back of his door under a poster of his hero, Yaadikoone, a legendary Senegalese Robin Hood. When he wins, Marigo begins a harrowing odyssey across a Dakar of trash heaps, dilapidated buildings and chaotic traffic. Stumbling along under the unwieldy door, he seems to carry the burdens of an absurd world on his shoulders. Played with slapstick gusto by the gangly, rubber-legged Dieye Ma Dieye, Marigo is both comic  and poignant, a Senegalese Charlie Chaplin.  Marigo is told the ticket has to be removed from the door so he carries it down to the shore so the waves can wash it off. He is, of course, swamped in the surf and loses the ticket, only to discover it pasted to his forehead. In the last shot, Marigo is seen exulting on a barren rock, as the breakers which opened the film continue to crash around him. We, the viewers, are left to decide if he is a symbol of hope or its ultimate futility.”


(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s Online Catalogue.)



Discussion Topics: negative impact of globalization; class relations; post-colonialism.



52 minutes in English

Director: Peter Davis

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $195.00

Rental Price: $95.00



A presentation of the history of organized resistance by South African blacks against white minority




This production is immeasurably aided by some fine documentary and archival footage. Interviews with

participants in some of the great resistance campaigns of the last hundred years is another strength of

the film. Two problems of this otherwise excellent production are noteworthy. The first is that, by

focusing mainly on instances of resistance, a good deal of contextual information, so vital to a novice

audience, is lacking. Very little is said which would clearly spell out the total dependence South

Africa's thriving economy has on black labor. Without certain aspects of South African history and

Afrikaner nationalism in mind, it is difficult to under‑stand the situation which faces black resistance

movements. Also, little mention or explanation is made of Soweto and Steve Biko's role in the black

consciousness movement. A second minor problem, related to the first, is that there is a lack of detail of

the various nationalist groups; therefore, the African National Congress, Pan‑Africanist Congress, and

others are not carefully distinguished.


In any case, these problems do not detract from the film's impact. A much needed detailing of 100 years

of resistance is accomplished, as well as making it quite clear that the present generation seems more

determined than ever to pursue the struggle. A good comparison film would be Peter Davis' South

Africa: The White Laager (or the shorter version‑Afikaaner Experience). A film to introduce the racial

politics of South Africa is Last Grave at Dimbaza, a good prelude to Generations of Resistance.


(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)


Discussion Topics: resistance; Apartheid/race;



115 minutes in Wolof and French with English subtitles

Director:  Ousmane Sembene

Distributor:  New Yorker Films



Guelwaar is a trenchant comic portrait of contemporary Africa.   The story revolves around the mysterious death and disappearance after death of Pierre Henri Thioune-Guelwaar, a political activist, philandering patriarch, and pillar of the local Christian community.



To the horror of his fellow Christians, it is discovered that the body of Pierre Henri Thioune, called Guelwaar, the Noble One, was misidentified and mistakenly buried in a Muslin cemetery.  This sets off a tempest of  bureaucratic red tape, family conflicts, and religious factionalism, culminating in a tense standoff at the disputed grave site.  Sembene is a master storyteller.  This film demonstrates his mastery of free-flowing, digressive, richly variegated structures.  It is many films in one: comedy, political allegory, social satire, family drama, and, at the end, thunderous indictment of the twin evils of homegrown African corruption and neocolonial Western aid.


(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Discussion Topics: Gender; Development; Post-colonialism; the Griot




93 minutes in Bambara, Peul, and French with English subtitles

Director: Cheik Oumar Sissoko

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $195.00

Rental Price: $95.00



Guimba tells the timeless tale of a tyrant’s hubris and his downfall at the hands of his people.



“Winner of the most prestigious award in African cinema, the Grand Prize at FESPACO 95,

Guimba has been acclaimed as one of the most visually ravishing African films ever made. This

epic allegory contrasts Africa's tremendous wealth and potential with its present poverty and

plunder. Director Cheick Oumar Sissoko comments, ‘Guimba is a political film, a fable about

power, its atrocities and its absurdities. I was personally influenced by what I experienced not

long ago in Mali, but the ravages of power are, unfortunately, universal.’


“The story has obvious parallels with the 1991 overthrow of Malian dictator Moussa Traore in

which Sissoko was active.  Guimba tells the timeless tale of a tyrant's hubris and his downfall at the

hands of his people, reminiscent of Macbeth or Richard III. The film's narrative embodies the process

of revealing the truth from behind the facade of despotic power. For Guimba, the prince of a once

prosperous trading city, the key to power is spectacle: humiliating court rituals, arbitrary displays of

wrath, occult powers, even the terrifying mask which always covers his face. Guimba's authority begins

to crumble when he demands that a nobleman divorce his wife so that his own son, the physical and

moral dwarf, Janginé, can marry her. This ludicrous demand reveals him to the townspeople as a

unrestrained beast not a prince; they jeer and defy him and abandon the city to join a rebel force.

Isolated, his magic powers exhausted, driven‑mad, Guimba is left with no alternative but to commit



Guimba is thus a story of the restoration of truth and legitimate authority to Djenné, the legendary city

where the film was shot, and, allegorically, of democratic, "transparent" government to present‑day

Africa.  In its opulence and epic scale, Guimba recalls and calls for the return of the continent's own

former greatness and prosperity. Even, the film's striking costumes (themselves simultaneously veilings

and statements) occasioned the revival of several traditional Malian textile crafts.  “Sissoko notes that in

Guimba he adapted to film two traditional Malian types of discourse used to ‘speak  truth to power:’ 

kotéba, a popular form of satiric street theater, and baro, a virtuoso kind of public oratory.  Thus

Sissoko creates through his film not just an allegory of present‑day African politics  but a community of

viewers prepared to mock illicit power whatever its trappings. “


(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s On-line Catalogue)



Discussion Topics: Gender; Corruption; African Tradition




HARVEST: 3,000 YEARS, 1975

138 minutes Amharic with English subtitles

Director: Haile Gerima

Distributor:  Mypheduh Films

Purchase Price:  $34.99



This film is a dramatization of a peasant family’s struggle for survival on the farm of a wealthy landowner in Ethiopia.



In its depiction of Ethiopian peasant life and the struggle to survive, Harvest: 3,000 Years is unique and excellent.  The use of a fictionalized, ethnographic style allows the audience to become involved with the family portrayed and to understand their needs and aspirations.  Though the filmmaker espouses a specific political viewpoint, this viewpoint does not measurably affect the accuracy of the lifestyle presented.  The photography combines with a slowly paced editing style to reflect the centuries of long struggle expressed by the title.  Some background information may be necessary for certain audiences.


(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Discussion Topics: Development (socio-economic); inequality/class relations






110 minutes in English

Director: Kwah Ansah

Distributor: Film African Unlimited



Set in the late forties in Ghana, Heritage Africa tells the story of Kwesi Atta Bosomefi who becomes Europeanized as he rises up the colonial hierarchy.  After a series of humiliating events and a frightening, though revealing dream, he starts to rediscover his heritage.




HYENAS, 1992

113 minutes in Wolof with English subtitles

Director: Djibril Diop Mambety                                               

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $195.00

Rental Price: $95.00



Twenty years after his astonishing first film, Touki Bouki, Djibril Diop Mambety brings us a second feature, Hyenas, as provocative as his first. He adapts a timeless parable of human greed into a biting satire of today's Africa ‑ betraying the hopes of independence for the false promises of Western materialism. Mambety has even been called the avatar of a new mood sweeping the continent ‑ "Afro‑pessimism."



Hyenas had a long and unexpected gestation. Years ago, when Mambety was living in Dakar's port district, a beautiful prostitute would descend from high society each Friday night to treat the poor of the quarter to a lavish meal. They named her Linguère (Unique Queen in Wolof) Ramatou (the red bird of the dead in Egyptian mythology.) Suddenly, one Friday she didn't appear and Mambety decided to invent a history for her. He imagined her to be the sole survivor of an outcast family slaughtered by a superstitious village which still lived in fear of her return.


“Mambety only discovered an ending for his story years later when he saw Ingrid Bergman in a film version of Frederich Dürrenmatt's celebrated play, The Visit of the Old Woman. In this reclusive Swiss master's bitter tale of a wealthy, aged prostitute's vengeance against the man who betrayed her, Mambety recognized the fate of Linguère Ramatou. In appreciation he dedicated his African adaptation to "the great Frederich."


“In Mambety's version, Linguère Ramatou was a beautiful, spirited but poor young woman from the sleepy village of Colobane who had fallen in love with a young man, Dramaan Drameh. When she became pregnant with his child, he denied paternity and bribed two men to say they had slept with her, so he could marry a wealthy wife. Driven from the village, her ideals shattered, Linguhre was forced into prostitution and has miraculously become the richest woman in the world, ‘as rich as the World Bank.’


“Mambety parallels the fate of Colobane in the intervening years with that of Africa, languishing in the decaying shell of the colonial past instead of building a vibrant new society. Dramaan runs a dilapidated bar/general store under the watchful eye of his avaricious wife where the corrupt and indolent townsfolk drown their ennui in cheap wine.


“When Linguère Ramatou finally returns, she offers the impoverished village a trillion dollars ‑ if they will destroy the man who destroyed her. She says: ‘The world made a whore of me, I want to turn the world into a whorehouse. You can't walk in the jungle with a ticket for the zoo. If you want to share the lion's feast, then you must be a lion yourself.’


“Although initially outraged, the villagers are easily seduced by the air conditioners, refrigerators and television sets Linguhre showers on them. In a stunning visual metaphor, Mambety represents ‘consumer society’ as a garish amusement park where even the stars have been replaced by fireworks. Like today's African bourgeoisie, Colobane becomes a ‘credit junkie,’ dependent on foreign debt. In the film's climax, the townspeople literally consume Dramaan, leaving only his clothes behind like hyenas.


“Linguère's revenge can be seen as symbolic retribution for centuries of African (not to say European)

patriarchy. But even she realizes her victory is hollow. She has claimed that money would allow her to abolish time, to buy back the youth and love stolen from her. But her pursuit of power and possessions has left her cold and lifeless, ‘half‑metal,’ as Dramaan rather ungallantly remarks when he sees her gold leg. With his murder, Linguhre metaphorically descends into her grave. Only Dramaan, when he finally recognizes the futility of his past desires, is freed from illusion to confront reality with calm and dignity.


“Towards the end of both his feature films, Mambety interjects a quintessentially Senegalese image ‑ a bright sea glistening with possibility next to the dusty, windswept barrenness of the Sahel. But in Hyenas, an altogether grimmer film, the final shot is of bulldozer tracks relentlessly erasing the past, a lone baobab tree standing amid the endless texts of post‑modernity. Any Senegalese would understand the story's conclusion. Colobane (which was Mambety's actual birthplace) is today a notoriously sleazy market and transit point on the edge of Dakar.


“While Touki Bouki reminded many film goers of the Godard of Pierrot le Fou , Hyenas may suggest the

Pasolini of Medea or Teorema. Mambety creates a stylized, fabular world structured around an implacablelogic, the logic of the marketplace, the ‘reign of the hyena.’ Mambety's 1994 short Le Franc confirms his stature as Africa's master of magic realism. Manthia Diawara of New York University, describes the 1992 premiere of Hyenas as ‘the entry of an altruistic viewpoint into African cinema. Mambety was to Carthage '92 what John Ford and Orson Welles had been to Cannes.’


(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s Online Catalogue at



Discussion Topics: From Literature to Film; Gender; Community; Corruption 














92 minutes in English

Produced by Rory Kilalea

Directed by Michael Raeburn

Distributor: Home Vision

Purchase: $29

Rent: Blockbuster Video




Jit, inspired by the Zimbabwean pop music known as Jit‑jive, is a romantic comedy about one young man's determination to win over the prettiest girl in town. UK (so called because his friends believe he'll go far) travels from his village to the city to seek his fortune. Along the way, he becomes entranced with the beautiful Sofi, whose father demands a high bride‑ price and whose boyfriend is a gangster.


Not only does the fun‑loving UK have to overcome these obstacles to win over Sofi, but his spirit guide Jukawa has better ideas on how UK should be spending his energy in the city. Jit is a funny and uplifting film that shows the struggle of one young man to fulfill his dream.


Many of Zimbabwe's leading musicians contributed to the musical score for Jit which underscores the irresistible beat and basic rhythm of the movie.


(From DRS Reviews)



Discussion Topics: popular culture, gender relations, post colonial society




94 minutes in Jula and French with English subtitles

Director: Dani Kouyati

Distributor:  California Newsreel

Purchase Price:  $195.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



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.



“Director Dani Kouyati frames his dramatization of the epic within a contemporary boy from Burkina Faso, learning the history of his family. During the film, Mabo and his distant ancestor, Sundjata, engage in parallel quests to understand their destinies, to ‘know the meaning of their names.’  In so doing, Keota makes the case for an "Afrocentric" education, where African tradition, not an imported Western curricula is the necessary starting point for African development.


“Both ancient and modern storylines are initiated by the mysterious appearance of a hunter, a passerby representing destiny who intervenes at strategic moments to propel Sundjata and Mabo on their journeys. The hunter both foretells the birth of Sundjata to the Mandi court and, eight centuries later, rouses Djiliba (or Great Griot) Kouyati to go to the city and initiate young Mabo into the secrets of his origin. The Kouyatis have always served as the Keotas' griots, bards (jeli) belonging to a discrete Mandi caste or endogamous occupational group, who alone perform certain types of poetry and divination.


“The griot's arrival creates tension in the Keota household especially between Mabo and his mother and his school-teacher, who stand for a Westernized lifestyle ignorant of African tradition. Mabo becomes so caught up in the griot's story that he stops studying for exams, day-dreams in class and eventually skips school to tell the story to other boys.


“The film pointedly contrasts the moral depth of the griot's teachings with the sterile, culturally irrelevant facts which constitute Mabo's ‘Eurocentric’ education. For example, the griot first comes upon Mabo while he is studying the Western ‘creation myth,’ Darwin's theory of evolution, of a universe ruled only by chance and the "survival of the fittest." In contrast, Mandi myth holds that human history is suffused with purpose and that every person has a particular destiny within it. By listening to The Sundjata Epic present-day Mandi listeners like Mabo can perceive the working out of destiny in history and see their own lives as part of a continuing narrative flow.


“The Sundjata Epic, which Mabo hears recounts the life of Sundjata Keota (sometimes spelled Sundiata or Son-Jara Keyta,) the man responsible for turning his nation into the great Malian trading empire. Set in the early 13th century, the epic provides the wide-spread Mandi people a legend explaining their common origin and subsequent division into castes or clan families. An oral recitation of the complete poem with musical accompaniment can last close to sixty hours. But, this film, like most performances, recounts only a part of the epic, here the events surrounding the birth, boyhood and exile of Sundjata. (This corresponds to lines 356 to 1647 in the standard translation, Johnson, John William. The Epic of Son-Jara: A West African Tradition, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.)


“Sundjata's quest, like Mabo's, requires the successful reconciliation or integration of two types of power represented by his paternal and maternal lineages. His father, Maghan Kon Fatta Konati a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, has brought barika or law and progress to human society. In contrast, Sundjata's mother, Sogolon, and his grandmother, the Buffalo Woman of Do, rely on pre-Islamic occult powers or nyama. Their potentially disruptive effect on human civilization is symbolized by their habit of turning into ferocious animal ‘doubles.’


“Sundjata himself, hexed at birth by his mother's co-wife, must crawl across the earth, scorned as a ‘reptile.’ A Mandi proverb explains: ‘The great tree must first push its roots deep into the earth.’ When the climactic moment arrives for Sundjata to walk erect like a man, he tries to lift himself up with a seven-forged iron rod, symbolizing man-made technology. Even this cracks beneath his strength, so the hunter reappears and instructs Sogolon to fetch a supple branch of the sun tree which has the nyama to hold Sundjata's weight. Thus, the hero must harness natural and supernatural powers to fulfill his heroic destiny.


“In the film's final scene, the griot disappears and for the first time Mabo directly confronts the hunter; after hearing the epic, he is finally in touch with his destiny. At this point, the stories of the two Keotas intersect; history and legend, event and destiny have been brought into alignment. Indeed, in making this film, Dani Kouyati (who shares the name of the griot) succeeds in fulfilling the ‘meaning of his name’ He has used a quintessentially 20th century invention, motion pictures, to insure that The Sundjata Epic is passed on as an inspiring force in the lives of young Africans everywhere.”

(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s Online Catalogue.)


IN THE LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE CLASSROOM Post-colonialism; Tradition V. Modernism; the Griot; Orality; Education



LA VIE EST BELLE (Life is Rosy), 1986

85 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Ngangura Mweze and Benoit Lamy

Distributor: California Newsreel             

Purchase Price: $59.95



La Ville Est Belle tells the story of a poor rural musician who realizes that to succeed in today’s commercial music world he must go to the city and break into radio and television.  In Kinshasa he uses his wit and talent to win a beautiful wife, trick his greedy boss, and succeed in singing his “theme song” on national television.



“To many people in Africa and around the world, Zaire is synonymous with contemporary Africa music at its best.   Musical legends like Franco, Tabu Ley, Papa Wemba, Tahala Muana and Mbila Bel have successfully blended traditional forms with Western instruments and technology to create the most influential music in Africa.  Kinshasha, the sprawling capital of over 4 million people, can claim to be the capital of African music.  La Vie Est Belle, the first major feature form Zaire, capitalizes on the vibrant Congolese musical scene and one of its real superstars, Papa Wemba, Le Roi de la SAPE.  (SAPE stands for Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes, the Society of Good-timers and Fashionabel Folk).  But the Congo is also known as a country with unparalleled experience of colonial brutality at the hands of Belgium and of neo-colonial suffering under one of Africa’s most ruthless autocrats, Mobutu Sese Soko.  Richly endowed with mineral, agricultural and other natural resources, the Congo has potentially one of the strongest economies in Africa.  Yet the majority of Congolese live in abject poverty.


“This inheritance of oppression has given birth to a post-colonial urban culture rooted in survival.  Individual resourcefulness, wit and daring provide the only chance for self-advancement in the face of an all-powerful state and chaotic urban life.  Zairians have appropriated the French slang term. Systeme-D or debrouillez-vous (“fend/hustle for yourself.”) La Vie Est Belle is a joyous hymn to debrouillardise Congolese style.


“The film borrows from traditional Congolese farce the figure of the charming trickster, the defenseless less ingenue, the neglected wife and the gullible husband to explore the cruelties and joys of life in Kinshasa.  Kuru (Pap Wemba) uses an elaborate series of deceptions to win a young woman, Kabibi, back from his boss Nvuandu, and to achieve his dream of ‘playing electric’ in his boss’ club.  Kabibi tricks her ‘husband’ Nvuandu into helping her lover Kuru start his band.  Mamu, Nvuandu’s first wife, helps match up Kuru with her rival Kabibi to win back her husband.


“Diviners play a key role in the film - though it’s never clear whether through supernatural agency or human gullibility.  With the odds against them, the Congolese have a passionate faith in the power of the occult to improve their chances.  The diviner’s remedy for Nvuandu’s impotence (that he must marry a virgin but not have sex with her for thirty days) is the linchpin for the whole comedy.  The diviner symbolizes the successful union of traditional village values with the new urban setting.  At the film’s triumphal climax, Kabibi, the diviner and the traditional dancers join Kuru and his modern band on stage in front of live television cameras.


“La Vie Est Belle can be enjoyed as comedy but must be questioned as social commentary.  For example, the film perpetuates harmful stereotypes of African women.  Kabibi exists only as a pretty reproductive apparatus for Nvuandu and a fantasy object for Kuru.  The film ridicules Mamu’s women’s association or sorority, the Mazic, as a coven of loose liberated women.  Mamu, who seems to have the entrepreneurial skill to be independent, returns in the end to being Nvandu’s obedient wife.


“We can also ask in what sense La Vie Est Belle is an African film.  At the insistence of the funders, the film was co-directed by a Belgian, Benoit Lamy.  But it was scripted and co-directed by a Congolese, Ngangura Mweze who had previously directed a highly acclaimed documentary on Kinshasa, Kin Kiesse.  Does this explain why the film’s plot seems patterned after a French farce or a 40s ‘screwball comedy’?


“Does the film reproduce in African dress the same old ‘rags to riches’ myth so long propagated by Hollywood films?  Does it try to persuade people they can make it through native talent and street smarts rather than fundamental changes in the social system?  Is this just escapism and wish fulfillment Zairian style?  But we can also ask if this makes La Vie Est Belle any less an African film?  After all, it was immensely popular with African audiences.  Perhaps La Vie Est Belle is - for better and worse - an example of an indigenous African commercial cinema.”


(Critique quoted from an article by Mbye Cham, Professor of African Literature and Cinema at Howard University titled “La Vie Est Belle: “Getting Over” Zairian Style.”  California Newsreel’s Library of African Cinema.  1995-96 Catalog.)



Discussion Topics: Gender; Post-colonialism, Human Rights



LUMUMBA: LA MORT DU PROPHETE (Lumumba: Death  of a Prophet), 1992

69 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Raoul Peck

Distributor:  California Newsreel

Purchase Price:  $195.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



This film reviews the life of Patrice Lumumba, first president of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of The Congo).



Lumumba: la mort du Prophte offers a unique opportunity to reconsider the life and legacy of one of the legendary figures of modern African history. Like Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba is remembered less for his lasting achievements than as an enduring symbol of the struggle for self-determination.  This deeply personal reflection on the events of Lumumba's brief twelve month rise and fall is a moving memorial to a man described as a giant, a prophet, a devil, "a mystic of freedom," and "the Elvis Presley of African politics." If Lumumba is a film about remembering, it is even more a film about forgetting. It is not so much a conventional biography as a study of how Lumumba's legacy has been manipulated by politicians, the media and time itself. Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck meditates on his own memories as the privileged son of an agricultural expert working for the regime which displaced Lumumba. He examines home movies, photographs, old newsreels and contemporary interviews with Belgian journalists and Lumumba's own daughter to try to piece together the tragic events and betrayals of 1960.

A film essay in the tradition of Night and Fog or The Sorrow and the Pity, Lumumba explores how any image inevitably represses the multiple stories surrounding it, how the past a preserved by the media is always in a sense the hostage of history's winners. Therefore present-day Europe figures as prominently in Lumumba as the Congo in 1960, because Europe was the unseen hand behind the camera and the events leading to Lumumba's assassination. Peck presents an unfamiliar Europe seen through the eyes of a visitor from the Third World - cold, affluent, a guilty present trying to forget its past. Yet, as this film testifies, Lumumba's prophecy will not be silenced until Africa achieves its second independence where the promises of the first can be fulfilled.


(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Discussion Topics: Biography; Liberation, Cold War




52 minutes in English

Director: Mira Hamermesh



This film is an expose of relationships between maids and madams in South Africa.



Maids and Madams, apparently based on Jackie Cock's book of the same name, explores the relationship between white employers and black domestic servants in South Africa.  The film and the book, however, fundamentally differ in terms of methodology, sample and explanation.  Cock conducted her research in the Eastern Cape, the most economically depressed area in South Africa.  Hamermesh's film is located in the very wealthy northern suburbs of Johannesburg.  Unlike the book, the film makes no mention of the historical dimensions of domestic work, nor does it situate domestic work into the wider matrix of apartheid social relations.


Maids and Madams follows the orthodox BBC style of structured documentary which plays on the codes of 'objectivity,' 'balance', 'fairness' and so on. This creates the impression of a God's‑eye‑view of maid/madam relations, and that the interactions seen have not been mediated by the camera.   The black interviewees speak the 'truth,' but when whites speak, their 'truths' are undermined by photographic style, editing strategies and the use of sound effects like echo, for example, where the pre‑schoolers relate the jobs done by their 'nannies.'


The film treats domestic work as an act of oppression in itself.  On one level, this is true.  However, it obscures the fact that domestic work is both a symptom and example of the larger oppression of apartheid.  It is easy to see how this confusion can arise ‑‑ domestic work accounts for the second largest category of employed black women after agriculture. The film sees this exploitation as a moral one, manifested in poor conditions of service, and not as an inevitable by‑product of black life under apartheid.  To understand the oppression of black women in domestic service, it is necessary first to understand the position of black women under apartheid generally.


Only half way through the film are gender issues raised.  This occurs in the context of a domineering female black social worker harassing the chief and elders at Rooigrond, a rural settlement.  Instead of eliciting explanations from the men on why they feel women should know their places, the social worker preaches back at them. The chief is barely given time to quote a Biblical justification of men's superiority over women before being cut short.  She then speaks 'for' the chief direct to camera, thereby also silencing him through elimination of both his face and his voice. Little information is obtained from this one‑sided interaction about women's position in patriarchal society.   The impression given, then, is that contextual issues are discussed, but that unacceptable patriarchal discussion has been cut from the film. 


A second problem with this sequence concerns the ethics of 'setting up' an interviewee to ridicule his (or her) point of view, through the public use of the chief's humiliation at the hands of the social worker on film. The social worker concludes:  'I find it extremely depressing as a black woman that we have to fight on two fronts:  the racial front and the sexist front.'  No progressive would disagree with this statement, but as for film maker/theorists, questions about methodology need to be asked.


 A fair amount of footage is devoted to the South African Domestic Workers Association (SADWA) which is working towards minimum wages, fair working conditions and informing domestic workers of their rights.  SADWA also intervenes where domestic workers have been unfairly treated. These are purely descriptive scenes. 'Maids and Madams' also documents some of the programmes of the Black Sash and Centres of Concern in their attempts to improve the quality of life of domestic workers.  The film contrasts opulent white‑owned homes with the remote shacks in the black townships and homelands where the maids' families live.  The very skewed sample of interviewees, both among employers and employees, bears no relationship to the broader phenomenon of domestic work and workers.  But the film's codes present it as the norm. Maids and Madams is a victim of Hamermesh's own ideology of 'objectivity'.  The film takes no particular stand, though it does permit, perhaps even encourage, white madams to indict themselves with regard to their patronizing attitudes and practices. In this way, the causes of the domestic's servitude is often de‑centered onto a personal relationship between the white women who are the employers, and the black women who are the employees.  The underlying structures which trap both are over‑looked. 


Ultimately, it is difficult to determine what Hamermesh is trying to say about these Centers.  They are filmed with the same narrative techniques as are the madams who are interacting with their maids or work seekers.  Does this indicate disapproval?  A spurious continuity, for example, is set up with Joyce when she is interviewed by an unnamed madam.  The camera is positioned behind the woman being interviewed, and its penetrating over‑shoulder gaze at the white employer is merciless as it strips the madam of any moral ground. Reverse shots create an impression of unedited snatches of life.  In this way the director makes everything seemingly self‑evident: the madam is condemned by the camera work, the performances of herself (sitting) and the maid (standing) and through the dialogue.  How was this shot set up?  Is it a reconstruction?  A constructed continuity is then sutured as we then see Joyce at a Centre requesting courses in math, English and Afrikaans.  The film thus builds a spurious narrative and flattens the critique of both employers and the Centers. 


The director's assumptions are never explicitly articulated.  Viewers are unaware of how certain incidents were filmed (reconstructed, observational, etc.) or informed how the crew persuaded the white 'madams' to expose their vulnerabilities to the camera.  When ordinary people perform for cameras, they often tend to overplay their quirks and foibles, being on their 'best' behavior. It is doubtful that any of the madams portrayed would have agreed to participating if they thought their behavior would be portrayed as hypocritical or that the very intimate relationships that develop between maids and madams would be portrayed as morally wrong.  The way the camera and crew distort everyday relationships and behavior has always been an epistemological problem for ethnographic film makers.  But more than this, ethical questions are of concern, too.


The film ends with scenes of a massive rally organized by Centers of Concern in the Johannesburg Cathedral.  'Nkosi Sikelile iAfrika' is sung at the rally.  This is  an empowering song, not a song of disempowerment as it is used throughout the film, up until this final sequence.  The song now suggests that the Centers of Concern have provided a positive forum for domestic workers to express their dignity and solidarity.  The film does not resolve the question of whether the Centers ameliorate the status quo or not.


One reviewer argues that Maids and Madams gives us 'an intimate view of South African culture today.  This is a picture from the bedroom and the kitchen' (Fernea 1987).  The film certainly reveals aspects of South African racial culture mediated by the gaze of Hamermesh's camera, but we should be cautious about how the film tries to position viewers vis‑a‑vis maid‑madam relations. And we also need to question the implied reductionism that apartheid equals black servants for whites, or that the camera's 'intimate view' is accurate.  How intimate can set up shots be? Apartheid is far more complicated than either this reviewer or the film would have audiences believe. 


The film presents the master‑servant relationships as a curiosity, rather than as a fundamental criticism of capitalism in general which permits ‑‑ indeed sanctifies ‑‑ the exploitation of labor on massive scales worldwide.  Domestic workers are located at the bottom of this exploitative process.  Domestic service is seen as an evil in itself and what is suppressed is that most women employed in domestic service have no alternative.  While the documentary treatments are useful in making real their experiences, the film does not explain:  a) how this came about; b) the lack of resources available to black women through which  to change their conditions of service and remuneration. 


In conclusion then, both white employers and black workers, wanting to change the situation, have to work through the contradictions to overcome them.  In the context of the South African economy, domestic service cannot be abolished in the foreseeable future, but the whole system needs to be drastically overhauled.  This can't happen until domestic workers themselves are in a position to organize collectively and thereby put pressure on the state to regulate service. Increased public awareness, together with more stringent requirements in terms of hours, remuneration and accommodation conditions, are a first step towards this end.  Ultimately, however, the whole structure of the apartheid economy, with its basis in migrant labor, needs to be restructured before significant changes in domestic labor, among other areas, will come about.


(Critique by Keyan Tomaselli, Professor and Director, Centre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal, Durban)



Cock, J.  'Maids and Madams.'  Ravan, Johannesburg.

Fernea, E.  1987:  'Maids and Madams,' SVA Newsletter, Vol 3 Nos     1 & 2, 16.

Tomaselli, K.G. and Tomaselli, R.E. 1990:  'Maids and Madams ‑ Servants of Apartheid,' SVAReview. 


Discussion Topics: Gender relations; Class and Status; Apartheid













90 minutes in Wolof with English subtitles

Director: Ousman Sembene

Distributor: New Yorker Films



An African Cinema adaptation of Ousmane Sembene's short novel Le Mandat (The Money Order) set in Senegal. 



This is an excellent rendition of Sembene's short novel, Le Mandat (The Money Order). Using non‑professional actors and Dakar as his backdrop, Sembene captures the serio‑comic aspects of an illiterate man of some dignity winding his way through an uncaring bureaucracy. Sembene's protagonist is a simple man who finds comfort in his faith and family but who is, in the end, sobered by the cruel realities of his nation. The contrast between Ibrahima's neighbors who, while seeking a share of his wealth, are supportive of his misery and the slick government officials and businessmen who both despise and cheat him because of his poverty, is poignantly drawn. Humor is not abandoned in these machinations, but the laughter only builds the essential humanity of Ibrahima and his family and increases the sense of outrage at the way they are treated. Only the blatant polemic of the postman at the film's end weakens the aesthetic, subtle unity of this production. But certainly the film's strengths, its charm and frustrations, prove it a valuable educational resource, especially for aspects of African literature, political science, sociology, and problems of urbanization. An audience must, however, be able to assimilate Sembene's measured pacing and editing patterns which seem, compared to Western fast‑paced narrative film, slow and deliberate.


There is some danger that Western audiences unknowledgeable about Africa may see this caricature of the African government and elite classes as a general characteristic of all African government and elites. Other reviewers have typified this film as 'the best single film about development available in the 1970s.' 

(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Discussion Topics: Post Colonial State and Development; Class Relations




49 minutes in Waikiriki and English with English subtitles

Director: Ngozi Onwurah

Distributors:  California Newsreel;  Women Make Movies

Purchase Price:  $195.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



Monday’s Girls explores the conflict between modern individualism and traditional communities in

today’s Africa through the eyes of two young Waikiriki women from the Niger Delta.  Although both come from leading families in the same town, Florence looks at the iria  initiation ceremony as an honor, while Azikiwe, who has lived in the city for ten years, sees it as an indignity.



“Monday's Girls explores the conflict between modern individualism and traditional communities in today's Africa through the eyes of two young Waikiriki women from the Niger delta. Although both come from leading families in the same large island town, Florence looks at the iria women's initiation ceremony as an honor, while Azikiwe, who has lived in the city for ten years, sees it as an indignity. Ngozi Onwurah, director of such feminist classics as Coffee Coloured Children and Body Beautiful, herself an Anglo-Nigerian, turns a wry but sympathetic eye on the cross-cultural confusions.


The five week long iria ritual is overseen by post-menopausal women headed by the redoubtable Monday Moses (hence the title.) The girls are paraded bare-breasted before the entire community so their nipples can be examined to determine whether they are still virgins. They are then confined to the "fattening rooms," their legs immobilized in copper impala rings, where they are pampered and fed. Finally, the girls, now women, are presented to society, wearing yards of fabric around their waists indicating each family's wealth - and suggesting pregnancy.


The film traces the girls' contrasting responses to each stage of the ritual. Florence, who is Monday's granddaughter, comments at the end of the ceremony, "I'm not fat, but I am grown up now," but even she decides to postpone marriage until she completes her education. Azikiwe refuses to bare her breasts and, as a result, her father is fined by the outraged villagers and she is sent back to the city in disgrace. She concludes: "There are some traditions people should forget."   Monday's Girls calls into question the idea of a single, "ethnographically correct" representation of tradition. Rituals are revealed as fluid, polysemous texts, social contracts continuously renegotiated between individuals and communities. For millions of Africans like Azikiwe, tradition is increasingly seen as a matter of individual choice not social coercion.”


(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s Online Catalogue.)




As we have discussed throughout the semester, all societies socially and culturally construct what it means to be a child, an adolescent, and an adult, as well as roles specific to gender.  Moreover we have argued, and hopefully demonstrated with our U.S. and African case studies, all societies develop institutions and practices (formal and informal) of socialization through which children and adolescents are educated with the traditional "core" values of, and the expected normative behavior within, the society.  However, we have also averred that societies and cultures are not static, but dynamic.   "Traditional" institutions, practices, values, perceptions are chronically challenged by new perspectives from outside (such as the case of colonialism and imperialism in Africa) and from

within the society as individuals and groups creatively adapt to (or resist)  changing social, economic, political and cultural influences in their daily lives.


Monday's Girls, is a video representation of a contemporary ("modern") adaptation of a "traditional" process of socialization (and accompanying ceremonies) of young Waikiriki adolescent women, from a small island community in the Niger River delta in Nigeria, into their roles as adult women‑‑mothers and wives.   Given this subject matter, an underlying theme of the video is that of gender roles and relationships.  The narrator clearly states that "traditionally" the Iria ritual's

primary function was to inculcate young women with the values and skills that they would need to fulfill their culturally normative roles as wives and mothers. This socialization function, however, seems to have lost its cogency in the contemporary manifestation of the ritual at least as represented

in or reenacted for the video.


It is naive to view this video representation (really a "re‑construction" of a traditional process) as demonstrating a "clash between modern individualism and tradition," as the U.S. distributors (California Newsreel) of this video assert in their film catalogue.  Rather, this visual representation is a video "fabrication" of a traditional ceremony which has been "distorted" (not  an negative assessment) on multiple levels by the producer and the director.  The intent of the producer seems

to have been to construct a sense of "conflict between modernity and tradition" by featuring two contrasting Iriabos (initiates in the Iria initiation training and ceremonies): Asikiye a young

woman who has lived in Lagos city for 10 years and has return a reluctant initiate, and Florence, a local young woman who, in the words of the film maker "looks at the Iria initiation ceremony as an honor." 


Based on your viewing of the video, do you think that this dualism between modernity and tradition as "framed" by the narrator in the video works?  Are their ways in which the initiation rituals‑‑the opening ceremony, the five week period of training/socialization, and the closing ceremony manifest "modernity" as well as "tradition?"  How different are the views and aspirations articulated by Florence (the adherent of "tradition") than those articulated by Asikiye (the self‑confessed "modernist")?


As we view this film it is important to remember that initiation or coming‑of‑age rituals are not uncommon, even within our own society‑‑for example, the Bar Mitzvah/ Bat Mitzvah and

confirmation/first communion rituals.


General Questions:


1.  What was the role of the Monday Moses and her Iria council?   Why is Monday Moses so interested in seeing the Iria ritual continue?

2.  What role do men play in this the Iria generally, and in story told by this video?  What are their interests?


3.  What does the video representation of the Iria rituals and the story surrounding them, tell us about gender roles and relationships in contemporary Waikiriki society?  What is the significance of the "ticket taking" ceremony that opens the five week ritual?  What evidence does the video give of overt sex‑role socialization, particularly during the five weeks that the young women spend in the "fattening rooms?"


4.  How does the video represent family structure and relationships in Waikiriki culture/society?  From the perspective of the film‑maker/narrator, what role does the Iria play the maintenance of "traditional" family structure and relationships?


5.  What influence, if any,  has the colonial experience and Christianity had on the Iria and the initiates?  (Nearly 95% of the Waikiriki people self‑identify themselves as Christian.)


6.  African traditional societies, we are told by the film‑maker, are community orientated, and individualism is frowned upon.  Apart from Asikiye's "story" are there ways in which this assertion against individualism is belied by the words and actions of the young women who participate in the Iria and by the "modern" adaptation of this ritual?


7.  What role does social economic class play in the Iria as it is represented in this video?


8.  As represented in the video and in light of the avouched contrast between "tradition" and "modernity," what role does music play in (a) the two ceremonies and (b) the five week training period?   

9.  As represented in the film, how is feminine beauty constructed in "traditional" Waikiriki society/culture?  Is constructed in "traditional" Waikiriki society/culture?  Is there any indication that this "normative" representation of beauty is resisted your own perspective, what do you think of

"coming‑of‑age" rituals?  How different is the Waikiriki construction of feminine beauty from the construction of feminine beauty within U.S. cultures.


10.  At the end of the video, in positive assessment of the iria rituals, the film‑maker states that "some traditions have a welcome place in a changing society."  From your perspective do you think that (a) American youth and (b) U.S. society(ies) would benefit from more formalized initiation rituals?  What are some of the pros and cons of formalized coming‑of‑age rituals?


(Teaching material provided by Dr. John Metzler, Michigan State University)



NERIA, 1992

102 minutes in English

Director: Godwin Mawuru

Distributor: DSR

Purchase Price: $79.95



Neria tells the story of a “contemporary” urban family in Harare, Zimbabwe, confronted with a clash of values, traditional/modern, when the husband (Patrick) is killed in an accident.



Patrick and Neria, through shared hard work and resourcefulness, have built a comfortable home, good life and family in the city. But when their loving and equal partnership suddenly ends with the tragic death of Patrick, Neria’s nightmare begins.


Patrick's brother Phineas helps himself to their car, bank book, furniture and house. He takes advantage of tradition to suit his own needs, making no effort to take care of his brother's family. Yet Phineas claims that tradition and law are on his side.


Neria watches helplessly at first, believing there is no legal or moral recourse for her. But when Phineas takes her children, Neria decides she must fight back. In desperation she seeks justice. Neria learns that law and tradition can both be on her side if she remains strong and intelligently fights for her rights.


Neria has won 12 international awards: Carthage Film Festival, National Black Programming Consortium, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, 8th Black Int'l Cinema, Indiana Univ/Berlin, FESPACO‑CCHR, Cinevue, Milan Film Festival ‑ 2 prizes, MNET ‑ 3 prizes.  (Critique from DSR Website)



Discussion Topics: “Modernity,” Tradition; Gender; Family Structure











QUARTIER MOZART, 1992                                     

80 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Jean-Pierre Bekolo

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price:  $195.00                                                                       

Rental price:  $95.00



Quartier Mozart is the story of 48 hours in the life of a working class neighborhood in Yaounde. It recounts the not very sentimental education of a young schoolgirl, Queen of the 'Hood, whom a local sorceress helps enter a young man's body so she can see for herself the real "sexual politics" of the quarter.



“Twenty-six year old Jean-Pierre Bekolo's startlingly original film, Quartier Mozart, will remind viewers of other breakthrough "youth" films like Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It or Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise. Trained in television and music video, Bekolo reveals a sensibility which effortlessly crosses MTV with African folklore and which has delighted festival audiences around the world. He has written: ’I've tried to make a popular film where people can see themselves and be amused. African cinema won't have a future if it does not reach an African public.’   Quartier Mozart is the story of 48 hours in the life of a working class neighborhood in Yaounde. It recounts the not very sentimental education of a young schoolgirl, Queen of the 'Hood, whom a local sorceress helps enter a young man's body so she can see for herself the real "sexual politics" of the quarter. Quartier Mozart is an affectionate celebration of African youth and the vibrant cultural pastiche it is continually inventing.”


(Quoted from California Newsreel’s Online Catalogue)



Quartier Mozart is written and directed by Jean‑Pierre Bekolo from Cameroon and made in 1992.

The film narrates the story of a geographical and cultural space defined by the transmutation of economic poverty into a political poverty ruled by different shades of male chauvinism. Two women introduce us into its narrative, as the only means of subjectivity available to them in the ghetto is to transform themselves and participate in the male centered social life of the community. Mama Thekla, described as a sorcerer, transforms a young woman generally known as "Queen of the Hood" into a stud called ‘My Guy’ and herself into another man called ‘Panka.’ ‘My Guy’ 's sexual prowess assumes a folkloric dimension as well as Panka's ability to erase masculinity. The Queen of the Hood's adventures and encounters with the macho characters in the neighborhood made her conclude that such subcultures must not only be tamed but transcended for any meaningful progress.


“As a cultural commentary, the film describes the processes of socialization available to those condemned to poverty and intense surveillance from domestic neocolonialism and external imperialism. The state of poverty generates a desiring process marked by fantasies about France and America and intense violence to each other. Within the framework of the course, attention should be paid to the critical language of self‑definition employed by the film. If what is left in the ghettos of Africa are communities like Quartier Mozart, how can such communities be named in order to transform them? How are the issues of identity in their local, national and global contexts articulated? Fundamentally, what determines the processes and contradictions of being, becoming and belonging to that country and the world at large? Pay special attention to characterization and the narrative pacing of the film. Its style defies stylistic bigotry and offers the viewer a representation of identities consigned to conditions of non‑being or approximations of otherness to Euro‑American selves and others.


“Made with a scandalous budget of $30,000 in Yaounde, Quartier Mozart brings a stylistic exuberance never before witnessed in African cinema. Montages, blank screens, intriguing sound effects, popular music; the film is a typical "Hip‑Hop" movie created with a pastiche of imageries and stories strung together for maximum effect for the urban youths in most African countries who constitute majority of cinema audiences. If the taste of such audiences is so cosmopolitan to desire cultural subservience, the film offers a clever indictment of such cultural processes with humor and critical effrontery. It articulates issues of post-coloniality and cultural contradictions which disable possibilities of subjectivity by those doubly marginalized by their local neocolonial governments and global capitalism ruled by the USA and its cultural imports.


“Jean‑Pierre Bekolo is one of Africa's youngest filmmakers determined to change how Africans visually represent themselves as well as how the modes of production are effectively monitored and included in the cultural politics of decolonization. Currently 26 years old, he lives in Paris and has developed his own post‑production and distribution outfit. His latest film Compote d'Aristotle or Aristotle's Plot was commissioned by the British Film Institute's project of films commemorating 100 years of cinema. It is a visual analysis of film audiences and the contexts of viewing films as well as the ranges of meaning of foreign films for the urban working class audiences. Like his first feature, Jean‑Pierre thrives on producing a vocabulary of visual decolonization that is fluid and subversive to acceptable cinematic frames and conventions.”


(Quoted from Awam Ampka’s web site at



This film might be used in college level Film studies, Women’s Studies, or African Film courses.          

See Dr. Ampka’s syllabus at the back of the guide.




102 minutes in Portuguese with English subtitles

Director: Sarah Maldoror

Distributor:  New Yorker Films

Rental Price:  $175.00



This film is a dramatization of one family’s role in the Angolan struggle for independence,

Domingos Xavier is arrested for his involvement in the liberation struggle.  The film chronicles the

search undertaken by Xavier’s wife Maria.



Sambizanga is a fine film suitable for general audiences using high quality filmic techniques to

present a simple story.  The early scenes of Xavier and his family at home, seemingly removed

from the oppression of the Portuguese and the risks of the liberation struggle, are moving and

provide a striking contrast to the rest of the film.  However, Sambizanga is also a unique document

of the day- to-day existence of a family in Angola during this period.  Maria’s journey in search of

her husband is also a journey for the audience.  She begins in total ignorance of her husband’s role

in the liberation struggle and so do we.  Though lacking in factual material, Sambizanga presents

the network of the struggle which goes beyond the color line and includes a varied representation of

the Angolan population.  This film is particularly useful when used with films produced later in the

struggle to show the beginnings of the movement which led to armed struggle.


This is one of the few African films made by an African woman and which includes women’s themes.

(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Discussion Topics: Liberation, Colonialism, Gender




125 minutes

Director:  Haile Gerima

Distributor:  Mypheduh Films

Purchase Price:  $39.99



Sankofa is an Akan (Ghana) word that means, "We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today." Written, directed and produced by Ethiopian-born filmmaker Haile Gerima, Sankofa is a powerful film about Maafa-the African holocaust.



“Done from an African/African-American perspective, this story is a vastly different one from the generally distorted representations of African people that Hollywood gives us. This revolutionary feature film connects enslaved black people with their African past and  culture. It empowers Black people on the screen by showing how African peoples desire for freedom made them resist, fight back, and conspire against their enslavers, overseers and collective past through the vision on Mona, who visits her ancestral experience on a new world plantation as Shola. We share the life she endures as a slave and experiences her growing consciousness and transformation. “


(Critique quoted from Mypheduh Online Catalogue.)



Discussion Topics: Slavery; Diaspora, Resistance




45 minutes in Swahili and Kimakonde with English subtitles

Director: Flora M’mbugu-Schelling

Distributor: California Newsreel 

Purchase Price: $195.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



In These Hands, the camera acts as a compassionate witness to a day in the life of Mozambican

women refugees working in a quarry outside Dar es Salaam - the relentless toil, the tender care, the nostalgic songs and joyous dancing at day’s end.  We slowly come to recognize that these women are, in fact, parts of a giant machine, not just the quarry but the international economic system as a whole.



“Who would have suspected that a 45 minute documentary about women crushing rocks, without

narration or plot, would offer one of the most unforgettable and rewarding experiences of recent

African cinema? Flora M'mbugu-Schelling's quiet tribute to women at the very bottom of the

international economic order ultimately deepens into a mediation on human labor itself. 

These Hands will stimulate viewers to rethink documentary and to question their own role a consumers in a global economy.


Director Flora M'mbugu-Schelling has explained why she refused to interpret or romanticize these women's story, to reduce them to a simple political pose or anthropological point. "Certain things you can say with words and certain things you cannot find words for...The time has passed when we can use the classic documentary style. I don't want to offend my audience by telling them what they should see or feel." It is precisely this refusal of premature closure that makes viewers so much  more aware of their relationship to the film and its protagonists.


In These Hands, the camera acts as a compassionate witness to a day in the life of Mozambican

women refugees working in a quarry outside Dar es Salaam - the relentless toil, the tender

childcare, the nostalgic songs and joyous dancing at day's end. We slowly come to recognize that

these women are, in fact, parts of a giant machine, not just the quarry but the international economic

system as a whole. The rocks, the women, the scarred landscape, are being constantly ground into

the common currency of industrial civilization. As the film unspools, we, the viewers, look on

powerless and complicit, realizing we too are enmeshed in this global mechanism of social,

economic and ideological reproduction. “


(Critique quoted from California Newsreel’s on-line catalogue at



Discussion Topics: Under-Development; Gender; Post-Colonialism; Agency



TOUKI BOUKI (The Journey of the Hyena), 1973

85 minutes in Wolof with English subtitles

Director: Djibril diop Mambety

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price:  $195.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



Touki Bouki opens with a mesmerizing shot of a boy leading a herd of prized white cattle to

market. These symbols of Africa's promise and traditions are slaughtered in a sordid abattoir to

feed the insatiable appetite of Dakar's modern consumer society. As the boy returns to the

country, he passes Mory, the film's hero (or anti-hero) riding to the city and a similar fate on a

motorcycle with cattle horns mounted on its handlebars.


Mory and his girlfriend, Anta, are African cousins of the outlaw couples in Bonnie and Clyde and Pierrot le Fou. Like these New Wave heroes, they are alienated from their society but can imagine freedom only in the glittering images of the mass media. They lead us on an exhilarating,

picaresque adventure through a cross-section of Dakar society in a desperate search for the money

to escape to Paris. Just as their ship is about to sail, Mory, realizing perhaps that France is itself an

illusion, darts from the ship leaving Anta to her fate. He is left facing a sea glistening with

possibility but no way to cross it.


‘The theme Touki Bouki introduced in 1973, the search for authentic values in a  "modernizing"

Africa, has preoccupied many African directors. For example, could the deranged, mystical

motorcyclist in fellow Senegalese Amadou Seck's film Saaraba, which means Saaraba and Utopia

in Wolof, represent Mory and Senegal, only twenty years older? Both Saaraba and Touki Bouki

argue that a better life for Africans must be built in Africa not France; that the only sea that needs

to be crossed is one's own imagination.


(Critique by Manthia Diawara, New York University and quoted from California Newsreel’s online



Discussion Topics: Modernity/Post-Modernity/Post-Colonialism



WEND KUUNI (God’s Gift), 1982

70 minutes with English subtitles

Director: Gaston Kaboré

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $150.00

Renal Price:  $95.00



In Wend Kuuni Gaston Kaboré incorporates oral storytelling qualities as he details the story of a

child who is traumatized by the death of his mother and adopted by a warm family.  The film takes

the audience to the period before colonialism.



“The story is set in pre-colonial times in the Mossi empire of the 15th century.  While the story

seems very simple, it deals with issues that are still important.  The movie begins with a scene

where a woman is mourning because her husband has disappeared.  She does not know if he is

dead, but he has been gone for so long that the village community is pressing her to marry another

man.  Viewers don’t know when this scene is happening, today or hundreds of years ago.  But she

decides to run away with her son, because she does not want to marry somebody else.


The action then shifts and we see a traveler finding a child lying in the bush, nearly dead from

thirst.  When the traveler revives the boy, he asks him where he came from.  But the child cannot

speak, even though he hears what the traveler is saying and understands him.  The man leaves the

child with some villagers.  These people can’t locate the child’s relations and let a family with just

one child adopt him.  They give the child the name Wend Kuuni, which means God’s gift.  After a

few years a family quarrel causes such a scandal in the village that the man whose wife does not

want him hangs himself.  Wend finds the body, and he is shocked into speaking again.  Then the

daughter of the family, Poguere (Rosine Yanago), who is very fond of Wend, asks him to tell her

where he came from.  It is then that viewers see what happened to the mother shown at the

beginning of the movie.  We see her and her child being chased from her village for being a

“witch.”  After running as far as she can, she collapses from exhaustion and dies while her child is

sleeping.  When he wakes up, he sees that she is dead.  He runs away from his mother’s body,

collapses, and is found by the traveler.


A strong message in Wend Kuuni is that life before colonization was not perfect for everybody.

Many scenes in the movie make traditional life look democratic, but it also shows that people were

hardly equal at all.  Women have no power and even girls like Poguere are punished more often

and more severely than boys.  Perhaps Wend Kuuni shows that people today need to remember

traditions, but that with democracy news traditions have to be negotiated.”


(Critique by Keyan Tomaselli, Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, University of Natal, Durban.)



Diawara, Manthia.  “Oral Literatures and African Film: Narratology in Wend Kuuni.”  Questions of Third Cinema.  Eds. Jim Pines and Paul Willeman.  London: British Film Institute, 1989.



Discussion Topics: Folklore; Tradition; Gender Relations




113 minutes in English

Director: Chris Menges

Rental: This film is available at most video stores.



“South Africa, 1963, a nation polarized by apartheid and dehumanized by police state terror.  When

idealistic journalist Diana Roth defies the government, she becomes the first white woman arrested

under the infamous 90‑day Detention Act.  Thrown into solitary confinement, Diana is separated

from her home, friends, and lonely young daughter who is struggling to grow up in a country

convulsed by hate and injustice.”

(From Indiana University African Studies Program information.)



Teaching Handout

A World Apart, is a film representation of a four month period in the life of one of South Africa's

most celebrated families: The family of Ruth First and Joe Slovo and their three daughters, are 

represented in the film under the aliases of Gus and Diana Roth. The story is told from the

perspective of Molly and Diana Roth. The story is told from the perspective of Molly

Roth (Shawn Slovo who co‑produced the film) who was a young teenager in 1963.


The story takes place in 1963, the period immediately following the decision of the African

National Congress (ANC), (the primary anti‑Apartheid resistance movement in South Africa), in

the aftermath of the arrest and imprisonment of its top leadership (including Nelson Mandela), to

forsake its 50 year policy of peaceful protest for a new initiative of direct resistance, including

armed struggle.


Diana Roth (Ruth First), imprisoned in the film, was imprisoned under the Preventive Detention Act

on several more occasions and was finally forced into exile in the early 1970s.  She lived for

a number of years in England with her daughters where she continued to be very active in the ANC

and in support of the anti‑apartheid struggle.  In 1977, several years after the independence of

Mozambique, Ms. First moved to Maputo to take a position at Eduardo Mondlane University (the

national university of Mozambique).  In 1982 Ms. First was killed by a letter bomb sent by the

South African Security service.


Gus Roth (Joe Slovo) who is absent from all but the opening scene of the film, was forced into exile

for over 30 years (1963 ‑1994).  For most of this period he lived in Tanzania, Angola, Zambia and

Mozambique where he served as the most senior white official in the ANC, become the commander

in chief of Umkhonto weSizwe (The Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the movement in

1990.  In 1994 Slovo was appointed to be the national Minister of Housing in the post‑liberation

government.  A post that he held until his death in 1996.  Slovo is one of only three whites buried in

the Soweto City cemetery the largest cemetery in South Africa.

(Teaching handout from Dr. John Metzler, Michigan State University)            

WOMEN WITH OPEN EYES (Femmes Aux Yeux Ouverts), 1994

52 minutes French with English subtitles

Director: Anne-Laure Folly

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase Price: $195.00

Rental Price:  $95.00



This film profiles contemporary African women in four West African countries: Burkina Faso,

Mali, Senegal, and Benin.  We meet a woman active in the movement against female genital

mutilation, a health care worker educating women about sexually transmitted diseases, and business

women who describe how they have set up an association to share expertise and provide mutual




“Femmes Aux Yeux Ouverts is visually quite stunning and makes economical use of its 52

minutes to cover many aspects of the roles of African women.  Although it begins with a poem by a

Burkinaabe women and in Burkina Faso, by the end of the film the viewer has also seen footage

from Mali, Senegal, and Benin.  It is organized thematically by titles flashed on the screen.  Most of

the women speak French, with English subtitles provided.  The subjects covered include female

genital mutilation (Burkina Faso), forced marriage and lack of property rights (Burkina Faso),

AIDS, the struggle against poverty (Senegal, Mali, Benin), and political participation for women

(Benin, Burkina Faso).  The narration is multi-vocal, often from activists involved in amelioration

of various aspects of women’s situations.  Although most of these activities come from the elite, a

non-condescending view of the situation of poor women is presented in many contexts; men are

heard from occasionally; and the point is made firmly by a market woman that by discriminating

against women ‘man is destroying himself.’  The tone varies from anger to dispassionate

observation, depending on the speaker.  Many of the women are eminently quotable, and there is

significant footage from the 1991 revolution in Burkina Faso, along with an interview with a

participant whose daughter was killed in the women’s demonstration that was a key event.  Also

included is an extended interview with Mali’s first female governor (of Bamako), who does some of

the narration.  The film therefore has historical ramifications in several aspects, but it is an

unintentional historical document, not a historical documentary.


(Review by Claire Robertson. American Historical Review 101.4 (Oct 1996): 1142-1143.)



Discussion Topics: Gender, Agency; Post-Colonialism



XALA, 1974

135 minutes in Wolof and French with English subtitles

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Distributor: New Yorker Films

Purchase Price: $250.00

Rental  Price: $125.00                 



An African cinematic adaptation of Ousmane Sembene's novel about a wealthy bourgeois

African businessman who is stricken with the curse of impotence on the night he marries a

third wife. 



This is a powerfully build indictment of the corruption and decadence of some wealthy

minorities in African nations. On one level, the film depicts the story of El Hadji, whose

downfall begins with the curse of impotence. On another level, the physical impotence of El

Hadji is actually a reflection of the moral, social, and economic impotence of his entire class.

Despite personal wealth and power, the members of the film's fictitious 'Chamber of

Commerce' achieve little of national or human relevance, while in the end, they are all

subservient to the power of the Europeans they replaced. Throughout, the production is

layered by images of cultural and spiritual poverty. El Hadji refuses to speak Wolof to his

daughter, drinks only imported mineral water, plays the role of a good Muslim only when it

suits his purpose, and completely alienates himself from the people of his rural origins.


It is this latter transgression which proves to be the source of his curse, and it is before these

people that he must beg forgiveness in order to regain his last valued possession, his

manhood. Sembene's message is clear, if not blatantly obvious, though throughout the film,

there are problems with specifics. In part, these details are explained in the novel XALA, but

the gaps in the film are still bothersome. The full reason for the curse is never specified,

except for a relatively vague reference to El Hadji's diversion of vitally needed rice shipments

from a drought‑famine region. The end of the film, though powerful, seems unnecessarily

spectacular, especially since specific motivation was not clearly established. Audiences not

aware of certain customs, such as displaying the marital bed sheets to prove the bride's

virginity, will be puzzled by some images and references. Indeed, the images of corruption

are so strongly drawn as to appear cartoon‑like in the strength of the caricature. Weaknesses

aside, the production is effective in its intended goal, to expose and ridicule the political and

economic policies of 'independence' which allow a few people to grow wealthy and decadent

while the majority continues to be materially poor and powerless. 


(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Discussion Topics: Class Relations; Gender; Post-Colonialism



YAABA, 1989

90 minutes with English subtitles

Director: Idrissa Ouedraogo

Distributor: New Yorker Films



This feature film is a haunting tale of a young boy who strikes up a friendship with an old woman

who has been shunned as a witch by her community.  The boy demonstrates his affection for the old

woman by calling her “Yaaba,” which means grandmother.


(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)


Discussion Topics: Conformity and Difference; Tradition





YEELEN, 1987

105 minutes with English subtitles

Director: Souleymane Cissé

Distributors:  California Newsreel

Purchase price: $350.00



Yeelen is an innovative adaptation of the oral traditions on the Bambara people of Mali.  The film

tells the story of Nianankoro, a young warrior destined to destroy a corrupt older society.



“Yeelen explores the primordial conflict between old and new, between father and son, which

cannot help but remind Western viewers of the Oedipus myth.  In order to maintain the status quo,

Somo Diarra, the father, must prevent his son, Nianankoro, from learning the secrets of the feared

Komo cult.  The elders of the Bambara villages even now join this priestly caste which monopolizes

knowledge of medicine, hunting and the occult.


“Nianankoro must find the wing of Kore, a long wooden scepter symbolizing knowledge, which

alone can destroy Komo.  His mother gives him a missing piece of the wing and tells him to flee the

Bambara land and find his father’s identical twin, the blind prophet, Djigui, (played by the same

actor) who will give him the rest of the wing.


“Nianankoro’s mother offers milk to the goddess of water, the mother of life, to protect him during

his journey.  Along the way, Nianankoro kills his other uncle, Baafing, who tries to stop him.  He

crosses the land of the Peul or Fulani where the king gives him a wife, Attou, who will bear

Nianankoro a son.


“After traveling 500 miles, Nianankoro finds Djigui in the mountains of the land of the Dogon.  His

uncle tells him of a dream which accuses the Komo of using its knowledge for power rather than to

advance science.  As a result, Djigui predicts their descendants will become slaves who will regain

their freed freedom only after many years. 


“Meanwhile, in a forest, Somo Diarra and the rest of the rest of Komo practice their secret ritual

and decide to destroy Nianankoro before he finds the key to their destruction.  His father  tracks

Nianankoro with the pestle (or post) of the Komo, traditionally used by the Bambara to find lost

objects, including thieves.  In a final showdown, Nianankoro and his father, armed with the wing of

Kore and the pestle, not only destroy each other but scorch the Earth.  Attou and Nianankoro’s son

survive to start a new civilization; destruction gives birth to a cleansed society.


“Like all of Cissé’s films Yeelen ends as it begins.  The globe of the sun rises on a day and a child

finds his way into the world.  This reflects the Bambara’s sense of time as circular not linear.  In

the West, clock time proceeds inexorably forward towards an undefined future.  Bambara time

starts and stops, moves at different speeds for different people, ultimately to reencounter its own

beginning.  In Cissé’s African vision of science fiction the future lies inevitably in the past.

The flash of light, of unmediated brightness, which ends the film destroys image, language,

narrative, the overweening pride of human knowledge.  It brings us face to face with the Big Bang

of our own creation.  Past and future are reunited; only we in the present must remember and



(Critique quoted from Manthia Diawara’s article “Seeing Brightness.”  California Newsreel

Catalogue. 1995-96.)  


Sherzer, Dina, ed.  Cinema, Colonialism, Postcolonialism. Austin University of Texas Press, 1996.



Discussion Topics: Folklore; Tradition-Modernity; Time-Space Nexus


ZAN BOKO, 1988

94 minutes in More with English subtitles

Director: Gaston Kabore

Distributor: California Newsreel

Purchase price:

Rental price:



Zan Boko explores the conflict between tradition and modernity, a central theme in many

contemporary African films, such as Keïta and Ta Dona. It tells the poignant story of a village

family swept up in the current tide of urbanization.



Zan Boko expertly reveals the transformation of an agrarian subsistence society into an

Industrialized  commodity economy. Zan Boko is also one of the first African  films to explore the

impact of the mass media in changing an oral society into one where information is  packaged and

sold. The film provides  viewers with a unique opportunity to see our own televised  civilization

through the eyes of the  traditional societies it is replacing.


(Quoted from the African Media Program Database of African Film, Michigan State University)



Discussion Topics: Tradition; Modernity; Urbanization; Impact of Electronic Media
























945 N. Pine

Lansing, MI 48906

Tel: 517-482-6669


California Newsreel

149 Ninth Street/420

San Francisco, CA 94103

Fax: 415/621-6522





113 Roman Road

London E2 OHU, UK

Tel: (44 181) 981 6828/Fax: (44 181) 983 4441


Facets Multimedia, Inc.

1517 West Fullerton Avenue

Chicago, IL 60614


Film Africa, LTD

PO Box 7151

Accra, Ghana

Telex: 2307 FMAFRI GH


Macmillan Films

34 MacQuestion Parkway South

Mount Vernon, NY 10550

Tel.: (914)664-5051

Mypheduh Films

P.O. Box 10035

 Washington, D.C. 20018-0035

Tel: 202-289-6677/ Fax: 202-289-4477

1-800-524-3895 (outside Metro D.C. area)


New Yorker Films

16 West 61st Street,

New York, NY 10023

Tel.: (212)-247-6110


Third World Newsreel

Camera News, Inc.

335 West 38th Street, 5th Floor

New York, NY 10018-2916

Tel: (212)-947-9277

Fax: 212-594-6417


Villon Films

77 W. 28 Avenue

Vancouver, BC  Canada

Tel./Fax:  (604)879-6042


Women Make Movies

462 Broadway, Suite 500D

New York, NY 10013  

Tel.:  (212)-925-0606 

















D. Appendices                                                 

Africa On-Line                                            

Other Lists                                                 

Web Sites On Africa and Related Topics                       

Internet Resources for Africa and African Studies


 D. APPENDICES - Africa On-Line

A list of electronic discussion groups and web sites devoted to the study of African film and related

areas of interest.


I.  Electronic Discussion Groups





H-AFRICA is an international electronic discussion group sponsored by H-Net (Humanities-On-Line) to provide a forum for discussing African history.


Subscribers to H-AFRICA automatically receive messages in their computer mailboxes. These

messages can be saved, deleted, copied, printed out, or forwarded to someone else. It is, in some

ways, like a free, daily newsletter. H-AFRICA might also be compared to an ongoing, moderated

"roundtable" discussion with participants who happen to be all over the world.


H-AFRICA emphasizes both the study and teaching of the African past, including a variety of

disciplines and approaches to the history of the entire continent. We expect informed discussions of

teaching and research at all levels of interest and complexity.



Subscribers may submit questions, comments, reports and replies. H-AFRICA publishes research

reports and inquiries, syllabi and course materials, bibliographies, listings of new sources, library and archive information, and non-commercial announcements of books, software, CD-ROM’s, and other resources in the field. H-AFRICA also publishes announcements of conferences, fellowships, jobs, and commissioned reviews of books, films, and software.


Questions sent to H-AFRICA can range from the nitty-gritty ("I am planning a unit on 19th-century Islamic movements in West Africa; what source materials would be good for my students to read?") to the general and infinitely ponderable ("What teaching strategies have people found successful in encouraging students to take African medical practices seriously ?"). However, inquiries that are too general ("I would like some suggestions for readings on South Africa") or too specific ("Who was Isa M. Lawrence?") often do not advance the dialogue. The editors will work with subscribers to define such issues more clearly so that they will generate more productive professional and scholarly discussion concerning African history.


H-AFRICA IS A MODERATED LIST:  Like all H-Net lists, H-AFRICA is moderated by the editors to filter out inappropriate posts. All submissions must be approved by the editors, who will not send out to the general membership personal attacks (or "flames"), irrelevant material (such as subscription requests, which will be handled privately), commercial announcements, or items that do not further the professional and scholarly dialogue. H-AFRICA is also completely non-partisan and will not publish calls for political action.


The editors of H-AFRICA will not alter the meaning of messages, but will, if necessary, add name

and e-address, and/or modify the subject line of the post, so as to make evident connections to

earlier discussions. The editors will not inhibit the robust exchange of ideas on African history, but do expect that disagreements will focus clearly on issues raised and not on persons making the



In certain cases, the editors will be in touch with contributors either to clarify the content of their

posts or to ask that they frame them more emphatically within the parameters of H-AFRICA's focus.  The intention of such communication is not to censor, but rather to define the professional and scholarly character of H-AFRICA and to ensure that postings evoke the most comprehensive

responses possible from subscribers.


Subscriber complaints regarding the editing of posts to the list will be reviewed by the editorial board, whose members will advise the editors. The decisions of the editors will then be final.



To subscribe to H-AFRICA, send a message with no subject and only this text to :


SUBSCRIBE H-AFRICA Firstname Lastname Affiliation


You will receive a confirmation of your request and a questionnaire with further instructions that you will send back to the listserv. Your subscription should begin shortly after we receive your

completed questionnaire.


(2) H-AfrArts

H-AfrArts is an international electronic discussion group sponsored by H-Net (Humanities-On-Line)to provide a forum for the discussion and exploration of African expressive culture.


Subscribers to H-AfrArts automatically receive messages in their computer mailboxes. These

messages can be saved, deleted, copied, printed out, or forwarded to someone else. It is, in some

ways, like a free, daily newsletter. H- AfrArts might also be compared to an ongoing, moderated

"roundtable" discussion with participants who happen to be all over the world.


H-AfrArts emphasizes both the study and teaching of African expressive culture, both past and present, and invites contributions from individuals engaged in the humanistic study of the entire continent. We expect informed discussions of teaching and research at all levels of interest and complexity.


H-AfrArts also has an editorial board broadly representative of the state of the discipline. For a listing of current members of the editorial board, send a message to: LISTSERV@H-NET.MSU.EDU, with no subject and this text: GET H-AfrArts EDBOARD



Subscribers may submit questions, comments, reports and replies. H-AfrArts publishes research

reports and inquiries (including dissertation and thesis abstracts), syllabi and course materials,

bibliographies, listings of new sources, library and archive information, and non-commercial

announcements of books, software, CD-ROM’s, and other resources in the field. H-AfrArts also publishes announcements of conferences, fellowships, jobs, and commissioned reviews of books, films, and software.


Questions sent to H-AfrArts can range from the nitty-gritty ("I am planning a unit on contemporary

art in Ethiopia; what source materials would be good for my students to read?") to the general and

infinitely ponderable ("What approaches have people found successful in creating a curriculum for a survey of African art that deals with the entire continent?"). However, inquiries that are too general ("I would like some suggestions for readings on the art of West Africa") or too specific ("What is the size of the average Ife terracotta head?") often do not advance the dialogue. The editors will work with subscribers to define such issues more clearly so that they will generate more productive professional and scholarly discussion concerning African history.


H-AFRARTS Subscription Procedures

The easiest way to subscribe to the H-AfrArts discussion list is to use our on-line subscription form.  Alternatively, you may subscribe by sending the following message with no subject and only this text to    subscribe h-afrarts Firstname Lastname, Your affiliation


You will receive a confirmation of your request and a questionnaire with further instructions that you will send back to the listserv. Your subscription should begin shortly after we receive your

completed questionnaire.


(3) H-AfrLitCine

H-AfrLitCine is an international electronic discussion group sponsored by H-Net (Humanities online), H-AFRICA, and officially sponsored by the African Literature Association.  H-AfrLitCine emphasizes both the study and teaching of African literature and cinema.  African Literature Association.  H-AfrLitCine emphasizes both the study and teaching of African literature and cinema.  Completely non-commercial and non-partisan, H-AfrLitCine encourages a wide- ranging exchange of ideas and information on African literature and cinema.


If you wish to join H-AfrLitCine, please return the following information about yourself to:             


We will then add you to the members directory and subscribe you to the list.  Please be patient while your subscription is being processed as it must be done manually.  If you do not hear from

us within one week of returning this form, please contact us at the same address.


             *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *




Graduate students, please

indicate major professor:

Undergrads, please list

recommending H-AfrLitCine

faculty subscriber:







(4) H-AfrTeach

H-AfrTeach encourages a wide consideration of both the possibilities and problems involved in teaching about Africa in many educational settings. Our services are made possible by H-Net, Humanities & Social Sciences OnLine, and through the support of African Studies Centers at Michigan State University, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania.


Our moderated discussion list provides opportunities for teachers to share ideas and teaching materials as well as raise questions concerning their teaching about Africa. From time to time the editors also offer a variety of resources for regular subscribers. Selected discussion threads from the list are available from this site, as well as the complete message logs of H-AfrTeach.


H-AfrTeach generates many resources, such as lesson plans, unit outlines, and course syllabi, plus resource lists and complete bibliographies on topics (including individual countries) for teaching. We also feature an ongoing collection of perspectives on stereotypes often encountered in teaching about Africa. In addition, we have a wide variety of links to other internet resources which may be helpful to teachers.  Each link is reviewed by the editors, classified according to its potential usefulness, and accompanied by a brief review.


With the aid of the H-Net Review Project, H-AfrTeach regularly commissions reviews by teachers, educators, and scholars of a wide variety of materials. In addition to texts, videos, and CD-ROM materials, H-AfrTeach Reviews include general, adolescent and children's literature. We encourage comments on these reviews from authors and users of the materials on our discussion list.


H-AfrTeach Subscription Procedures

Send the following message with no subject and only this text to

subscribe h-afrteach Firstname Lastname, Your affiliation


You will receive a confirmation of your request and a questionnaire with further instructions that you will send back to the listserv.  Your subscription should begin shortly after we receive your completed questionnaire.


(5) H-SAfrica

H-SAfrica, an international electronic discussion group dedicated to the promotion of all aspects of South African history. It is sponsored by the H-Net Humanities Online, centered at the Michigan State University in America, by the East London campus of Rhodes University in South Africa, and by the South African Historical Association.


H-SAfrica can be compared to a cross between an academic journal and a friendly academic newspaper which is delivered to your electronic mailbox on an almost daily basis.  You will be provided with all sorts of useful information, like international job adverts, book reviews, conference announcements and calls for papers. You will be notified at times of new computer software, websites, films and videos.


At the same time we hope that you will join with us in mature discussions of on-going research, of articles and academic papers, books and journals, methods of teaching and debates on historiography. At the same time, H-SAfrica invites you to submit bibliographies and syllabi, guides to term papers and lists of any new sources or archives that you have come across.

In short, it is hoped that H-SAfrica will be a useful voice in the cultivation of all aspects of South

African historical research. 




H-SAfrica works on the Listserv program which is generated from the Michigan State University in America. All messages are transmitted from the editors and are then relayed to our subscribers all over the world.   If you as a subscriber wish to participate in any of the debates, you may do so merely by pressing the reply key on your computer, when reading a message from H-SAfrica. Your contribution will then be dispatched via Listserv to the editor-on-duty who will forward it to all the other  subscribers.


Your contribution can be the provision of useful knowledge or posting a question which seeks information. We would, however, encourage you to provide at least some information before posing your query.   We do not, for instance, encourage such questions as "Can anyone tell me what books I should read to learn about the Mlanjeni War?" It would be far better to explain what books you have already read, describe what your current conclusions are, and then pose your question. In that way the readers may learn something in addition to helping you with your research.


H-SAfrica  Subscription Procedures

Send the following message with no subject and only this text to

subscribe h-safrica Firstname Lastname, Your affiliation


You will receive a confirmation of your request and a questionnaire with further instructions that you will send back to the listserv.  Your subscription should begin shortly after we receive your completed questionnaire.


b. Other Discussion Groups


(1) African-Cinema-Conference

This conference is for the discussion of AFRICAN CINEMA.  It is a moderated conference (so you'll not get unnecessary junk email), and will have about 100 members to start with.  Using a conference/listserver is more efficient to get the news out.  Items to be sent out to subscribers will include all sorts of information on African cinema, including press releases about new books and articles, films and videos and other resources available, or about news, events, information and opinions relating to African cinema.  The moderator is Steve Smith (


Members are encouraged to send in bits of information to be posted to all.  Members are also encouraged to ask questions to the group of information they need, and to introduce themselves to the group with a couple paragraphs about what they are doing that relates to African cinema.


To send a message to this conference, write to: african-cinema-conference@XC.Org


NOTE:  Messages you send will *not* be sent back to you.  They *will* go to all other subscribers to this conference.  If you ever want to remove yourself from this conference, you can send mail to "hub@XC.Org" with the following command in the body of your email message:  unsubscribe african-cinema-conference


II. Internet Resources for Africa and African Studies

a. Web Sites On African Film And Related Topics                       


(1)  PANAFRICAN FILM AND TELEVISION FESTIVAL OF OUAGADOUGOU (FESPACO) Site includes: Awards Winners; Fespaco'97; Publications; The African film library;  information on Burkina Faso.


(2) Extracts and biographical data on African literature writers


(3) Francophone African poets available in English translation


(4) Links to other sites, such as: H-African Literature & Cinema


(5) "In the World of African Literatures”

This site was developed by the French Dept. at the University of Western Australia in Perth.  It includes a bibliography of Francophone African women writers (in French), unpublished interviews, an unpublished novel, and a novel for young readers.



(6) "A-Z of African Studies on the Internet".


(7) Index on Africa. 

The Norwegian Council for Africa is proud to present the most comprehensive guide to Africa on the Internet yet.  Index on Africa is a catalogue of Africa resources on the Net. It contains more than 2000 Africa related links. The links are sorted in categories by theme or country.


(9) California Newsreel.

Major U.S. distributor of African video & film.


b. Africa Links at MSU


(1) African Studies Center.

Includes weekly Tuesday Bulletin newsletter of African studies resources, African Media Program, Study Abroad Programs, and African Studies Outreach Resources.  Outreach Coordinator, John Metzler, and Director, David Wiley, phone: 517-353-1700; email:,; address: 100 International Center, MSU, East Lansing, MI 48824-1035.


(2) National Consortium for Study in Africa.

A list of all Africa study abroad programs in U.S. - E‑mail: (or Wiley & Metzler above)


(3) Office for International Students and Scholars

David Horner, Director, phone: 517‑353‑1720, email:; address: 103 International Center, MSU, East Lansing, MI 48824-1035.


(4) MSU Office of Study Abroad

Cindy Chalou, Assistant Director, phone: 517‑353‑8920,; address: 109 International Center, MSU, East Lansing, MI 48824-1035.



(5) AFRI database of Africana materials in 18 major U.S. university libraries

To access, type in website, then choose: MAGIC via TN3270; tab twice down to “command” line and type “dial magic”; then choose “4 - indexes to articles”; then choose AFRI.


c. Africa-Related Organizations


(1) African Studies Association                                


(2) Africa News On-Line


(3) Association of Concerned Africa Scholars


(4) Africa Policy Information Center/Washington Office on Africa                            


(5) Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) (Dakar)


d. H-Net Africa Discussion List Websites


H-Africa -                    http://www.h‑             (predominantly history)

H-SAfrica -            http://www.h‑            (predominantly SA history)

H‑AfrArts -             http://h‑            (all African arts)

H-AfrLitCine - http://www.h‑   (all Africa literature and cinema)

H-AfrTeach -             http://www.h‑            (college, university, & K-12 education)


e. Websites Indexing Africa Internet Resources and Weblinks


(1) H-Africa Internet Sources



(2) Africa on the Internet: Starting Points for Policy Information


(3) American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Sub‑Saharan Africa Program User's Guide to Electronic Networks in Africa                                        ‑guide/index.html


(4) Africa Weblinks and Resource List (U. Pennsylvania)                                       


(5) Africa South of the Sahara: Selected Internet Resources                                                        http://www‑


(6) Africa News Resources -


f. Study Abroad and International Student & Scholar Resources


(1) State Department Travel Warnings & Consular Information Sheets


(2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Provides travel health information.


(3) Immigration and Naturalization Service at the Department of Justice



An association of international educators is a leading organization in the field of international                    education.

-Council of Advisers to Foreign Students and Scholars (CAFSS)                                    

Section on U.S. Students Abroad (SECUSSA)                                                                          


(Updated March 6, 1998)