Widescreen Africa

The world of African cinema has seen glowing – and growing – celebration across the globe, whether on the big screen, in books, at festivals or online…

Words Nana Ocran

Festivals

iREP Documentary Film Festival
March 2017, Lagos
Documentary filmmakers from across the world use the iREP festival as a means to showcase ideas about ‘Africa in conversation’.
irepfilmfestival.com

New York African Film Festival
May 2017, New York
The always highly anticipated New York African Film Festival takes place annually, with May being the scheduled month for films that shine a light on African culture from across the globe.

Encounters Doc Fest
June 2017, Johannesburg and Cape Town
Over 100 screenings of documentary films (including virtual-reality submissions) will be shown across Johannesburg and Cape Town.
encounters.co.za

Jozi Film Festival
September 2017, Johannesburg
Although the sixth Jozi Film Festival doesn’t happen until September 2017, January sees the launch of a partnership competition between the festival and the cable and satellite Discovery Channel. Short films that showcase and celebrate unique African stories will be judged by the channel’s internationally recognised programme commissioners and the winner is set to receive a cash prize.

Blitz Video shoot Behind The Scenes

Blitz Video shoot Behind The Scenes

Books

Shining stars
For the last two months of 2016, the British Film Institute (BFI) hosted Black Star, a huge season of screenings and talks celebrating global black talent – past, present and future. Alongside the live events, a same-named compendium of African and diasporic African cinema was published, with Hollywood, Nollywood, American television and British filmmaking given a much-needed focus within the pages of this slickly produced book. Inside, screen stars of today and yesterday are discussed in 26 essays, penned by a  selection of writers. With a generous collection of dynamic images, mainly sourced from the BFI’s archives, this book’s themes and genres highlight the intimate and highly nuanced history of the black screen experience.

Big topics are essentially packed into what is, at just over 150 pages, a modestly sized publication, but essay-by-essay, Black Star – A BFI Compendium is an absorbing and thought-provoking read. One of the early essays, Who’s The Man? by Guardian US writer Steven W Thrasher deftly traces the limitations of romance and sensuality that are placed on black male actors, while researcher Kelli Weston explores the tricky world of child stars – from the Our Gang comedies of the 1920s to 2012’s Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Hip-hop and Hollywood are the focus of music journalist Jacqueline Springer’s All Eyes On Them, where she documents the impact of rap starts on mainstream Hollywood from the 1980s and onwards. Current perspective comes in cultural critic Gaylene Gould’s Yes We Can, where she zooms in on Barack Obama’s landmark election of 2008 and the screen stars who have risen around him.
Black Star – A BFI Compendium is available from the BFI shop in London and from Amazon (£18.99).

Nollywood & beyond
The Nigerian film industry is diverse, with filmmakers and actors crossing genres, whether Nollywood-style or through other artistic outlets. With Nigerian film constantly deepening its global footprint, it’s no surprise that more and more writers are continuing to put their views of the country’s film industry into print. Here’s a small selection of titles that are available on Amazon.

Nollywood Stars
Noah A Tsika
This book digs into the spread of Nollywood from Nigeria to the rest of the world by focusing in the many ways that the film industry’s stars have made their names known in London, Paris, Burkina Faso, Ghana, the US
and elsewhere.

Female Narratives In Nollywood Melodramas
Culverson & Johnson
This hardcover tome is one for students of film, gender and African studies. The book’s authors focus on nine Nollywood melodramas to unpick the ways in which female characters are depicted.

The Nigerian Filmmaker’s Guide To Success:
Beyond Nollywood
Nadia Denton
Nadia Denton’s book skilfully outlines the steps needed for success in filmmaking from a Nigerian perspective. Although Nollywood is dominant, there are many films and filmmakers that thrive outside this category, and Denton’s consistently popular book provides real-life industry tales from a wide selection of professionals.

Video

A visual trilogy

The luscious cities of Accra, Brooklyn, and Bahia were the shooting locations for Diasporadical, the 2016 EP from Ghanaian-American hip-hop musician Blitz The Ambassador (Samuel Bazawule). Although the album is firmly established, its trio of self-directed publicity videos – collectively titled Diasporadical Trilogia – stand up and stand out as mini cinematic moments that are worth making audio and visual time for.

The first, Yemaya And The Singer, tells of unrequited love in Ghana, while second in the trilogy is Egun And The Princess – a visually mesmerising tale of a father and daughter who are separated in New York City. The third is Ibeji And The Wedding Guest, in which the politics of demolition and the surreal world of magic realism seep into the tale of one woman’s survival in Brazil. Self-directed, each mini film is beautifully shot and high on exquisite imagery, and when viewed in sequence, they show a cohesive example of this particular musician and artist’s finely tuned audio and visual sensibility and imagination.
View at blitz.mvmt.com

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