EUROPE VIEWS AFRICA IN FILM
by Omanza Eugene Shaw
For a long time Africa was perceived from the west as a dark continent with
peoples and traditions beyond the understanding of the average westerner.
With the world's population growing ever more intimate in recent times,
stories of Africans who live in Europe or attempt to leave Africa for
greener pastures abroad have become a topic of interest to many Europeans,
particularly film producers and directors, who seem to find their trials and
tribulations interesting enough to document.
Last month, May 19-23, Accra was the venue of a festival that presented
films about the African experience from a European view. Titled"Africa
Through European Movies: Two Perspectives---The German and the French", the
week long program turned out to be a hugely successful collaboration between
the Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes Accra, Alliance Francaise and the
National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI), with the gracious support of
Eight films by German and French directors were screened during the festival
and included the following: Nowhere in Africa, Chocolate, Clean Slate,
Headhunting, Black Mic Mac, Ananse, Fatou the Malian Girl and Otomo.
According to Abdon Berthelot, director at Alliance Francais, these films
were selected because they all dealt with serious issues Africans currently
face while living abroad or trying to get there. "We thought the subject
matter in these films would provide entertainment and debate for film
students and the general public", he said, "especially since they were being
presented from a cinematic French and German viewpoint".
A surprisingly large audience attended the film showings (more than 2,000
over the five days) and were given a special treat with the presence of some
of the directors and African actors appearing in five of the films. Under
the smooth moderation of Kwame Akuffo Anoff-Ntow of the Ghana Broadcasting
Corporation and the German director Martin Baer, participants were able to
quiz some of the special invited guests, among them veteran actor Isaach De
Bankole, who played quite different characters in three of the films.
Renowned on the international film circuit, Bankole was born in Africa but
raised in France and now appears in French, German and American movies.
Many saw his participation as one of the highlights of the festival.
Comments on the screened films were mostly favourable, prompting Goethe
director Petra Raymond to disclose that the festival may become an annual
affair, but next time expanded to include films from other European
countries. While Richard Crabbe, an assistant lecturer at NAFTI, was
impressed by the technical quality of most of the productions, "highly
motivating" was the assessment of David Yebuah, a third year animination
student. Martin Baer, speaking on behalf of himself and his colleague Fritz
Baumann, another invited director, said they were both happy for "another
opportunity to discuss films and film-making with filmakers and film
students from West Africa". Actor Bankole was meanwhile "grateful for a
chance to share his experience with an eager and very interested audience".