With our African Cinema season drawing to a close this Thursday, with a screening of District 9, we wanted to take a moment to tell you about some of the exceptional African films we weren’t able to bring you this season but believe deserve to be seen just as much as the ones we did.
Tsotsi (2005) dir. Gavin Hood – When a car-jacking goes wrong and a mother is hospitalised, a gang-leader is left holding her baby. Winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this South African street drama follows the titular Tsotsi’s attempts to keep his gang together while at the same time trying to care for the child.
Yeelen (1987) dir. Souleymane Cissé – Set in thirteenth century Mali, Niankoro, a young man who possesses magical powers, seeks the help of his uncle upon hearing he is being tracked by his father, a sorcerer with a mystical staff, who wishes to fight him. Filled with vivid imagery, Yeelen won the Jury Prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.
678 (2010) dir. Mohamed Diab – A series of three separate stories, the controversial 678 tells depicts only a few of the ways in which women are sexual harassed without repercussions for the perpetrators. Fayza is groped on the bus to work, Seba is assaulted at a football game, and Nelly is verbally harassed while working in a call centre. This Egyptian production is a very universal film, one that we tried very hard to secure for this season and one that we hope to eventually screen at a later date.
Asmaa (2011) dir. Amr Salama – Highlighting the stigmas and prejudices facing Egyptians living with HIV, this film is based on the true story of a woman who is refused surgery when it is revealed that she has AIDS. Through a series of flashbacks we see airport worker and single mother Asmaa’s history of living with disease, while in the present a talk show host attempts to convince her to appear on his show to discuss her situation. May Abdel Asim of What Women Want magazine praised the film as “a true story of a strong and proud woman who has Aids but Aids does not have her”.
Guelwaar (1992) dir. Ousmane Sembène – We screened his film Moolaadé as part of our African Cinema season and as he’s considered the father of film in Africa we thought we’d let you know about more of Ousmane Sembène’s work. On one level Guelwaar is a murder-mystery, on the other a satirical portrayal of religion and politics in Senegal. While the authorities try to find the killer of a Christian man, locals argue over whether or not to allow him to be buried on Muslim land. Of course they have to find his missing corpse first.
Hyènes (1992) dir. Djibril Diop Mambéty – Written and directed by another master of African cinema, Hyènes is a satirical comedy that sees an aging women – of great wealth – return to her home village and offer the people there a vast fortune in exchange for the murder of a shopkeeper who spurned her after a love affair that left her pregnant when she was sixteen. The film looks at the themes of greed and morality, and the relationship between people and money.
Touki Bouki (1973) dir. Djibril Diop Mambéty – Tired of life in Senegal, Mory and Anta make plans to leave for France but first they need to raise money to get there. After considering a number of moneymaking schemes, including selling their trademark motorcycle, they face another problem – do they really want to leave?
Nairobi Half Life (2012) dir. David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga – When Mwas leaves his family and village and moves to the Kenyan capital to pursue a career in acting it isn’t long before he falls in with the wrong crowd. After having all his belongings stolen Mwas joins a local gang of snatch-and-grabbers, all the while continuing to audition for various roles. Despite climbing the ranks of his new brotherhood, things take a turn for the worse once he convinces the gang to start stealing cars.
Xala (1975) dir. Ousmane Sembène – A commentary on the failures of African governments, Xala tells the story of El Hadji who, on the day of his marriage to his third wife, is afflicted with erectile dysfunction.
A Screaming Man (2010) dir. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – Set during the North African country’s civil war, this Chadian drama revolves around the relationship between a father and his son. When luxury hotel pool attendant Adam is demoted to gate security guard as a cost-saving measure and his son Abdel is made pool manager instead, jealousy takes hold and it isn’t long before the former has his offspring conscripted to fight he rebel forces. However, as the conflict escalates, Adam sets about trying to bring his son home safely.
Tickets for District 9 are still available and the screening, which also includes a selection of shorts and homemade refreshments, will take place this Thursday – June 26 – in The Palace Picturehouse of Armley Mills Industrial Museum.