EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA FROM AFRICA AND THE DIASPORA
‘Ruptures – Beyond the frame: Experimental Cinema from Africa and the Diaspora’ is a film programme screened at the Cinemateket in Copenhagen in Oct.-Nov. 2021.
It features a selection of films from 1964 to 1994 by filmmakers of African descent whose works fall within the broader spectrum of experimental cinema.
Encompassing polemical and decolonial perspectives of black life, this trans-geographical gathering of works make cinematic interventions with the interweaving of audio-visual techniques - ranging from abstract imagery, sound, and found footage.
All these films and their respective makers are in dialogue, conversing between the critical, political, and aesthetical, through a fragmented format that oscillates between interdisciplinarity and antidisciplinarity.
This programme builds upon the research platform Culture Art Society (CAS)’s commitment to create access to African and diasporic film history, and thus disrupting the misconceived notion that filmmakers of African descent are absent from wider cinema discourses.
Dialogues in Silence: Ibrahim Shaddad through the frame
By Leena Habibulla
Ibrahim Hamid Shaddad is a distinctive presence amongst cultural workers in Sudan. As a prolific filmmaker, theatre director, and arts educator, he embodies a spirit of critical yet playful inquiry into the living legacies of colonialism and imperialism, racial subjugation, and loss. Turning away from the moral surrogacies of cinematic emblems, Shaddad's work carries the psychic imagination instead, and in so doing invites a unique and vivid cinematic practice.
(NB: The films are not available for screening anymore. Contact the distributors for further information)
Soleil Ô / Med Hondo, 1970 / English subtitles / 98 min.
Mauritanian filmmaker Med Hondo‘s debut ‘Soleil Ô’ (‘Oh Sun’, 1970) is an unparalleled cinematic vision that lays bare the foundational frameworks of the West: colonialism, racism, and migrant labour. Through an uncompromising, biting and stylistic interweaving of faux-documentary, animation, and comedy, its protagonist, a Mauritanian migrant (Robert Liensol) arrives to Paris full of hopes from the promises made by the colonial recruiters back home, only upon arrival to realise promptly that racism and bureaucratic exploitations haunt the lives of African migrants.
ECHOES IN THE FRAME /
2 SHORT FILMS BY HUSSEIN SHARIFFE
THE DISLOCATION OF AMBER
Hussein Shariffe, 1975 / English subtitles / 32 min.
Filmed in the formerly flourishing port city of Suakin, ‘The Dislocation of Amber’ tells the devastating tale of a formerly significant trading city that now lays in complete ruins. Sharriffe’s experimental and visually captivating red-hued narrative centres famine, colonialism, and human trading, as systematic implications that are integral to the (un)making of not only Suakin, but wider Sudan.
TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING
Hussein Shariffe, 1970 / English subtitles / 20 min.
Tigers are Better Looking is Hussein Sharriffe’s adaptation of a short story by Dominican novelist Jean Rhys. The film contrasts its protagonist’s sense of dislocation by reflecting on life in Sudan and the U.K, where he is exiled. The sense of “neither here, nor there” and longing for a homeland to which one might never return, tells a common migration trajectory of home. The endearment yet porosity of its meaning.
DIALOGUES IN SILENCE /
3 SHORT FILMS BY IBRAHIM SHADDAD
Insan / Ibrahim Shaddad, 1994 / without dialogue / 28 min.
‘Insan’ tells a captivating story about the trials of a Sudanese shepherd who leaves both his wife and herd to settle in the city. On arrival, he falls quickly into despair as he comes to realise the poverty and resource extractions he was “escaping” cannot be escaped.
Jagdpartie / Ibrahim Shaddad, 1964 / English subtitles / 32 min.
Made as a graduation project at the German Academy of Film Art in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Shaddad’s seminal film is a Western-inspired treatise on racism. Shot in a forest in Brandenburg, it portrays a white mob’s hunt for a black farmworker portrayed by Rwandan actor Ambroise Ruzidana.
Al Habil / Ibrahim Shaddad, 1985 / without dialogue / 32 min.
This short film follows two blind men making their way through a merciless desert accompanied by a donkey. The three are connected by a rope, thus their only way out is determined and directed by their collaboration.
HARVEST: 3.000 YEARS + SHORT FILM
BACK INSIDE HERSELF
S. Pearl Sharp, 1984 / English dialogue, no subtitles / 4 min.
A visual poem on identity. Crafted from one of S. Pearl’s poems, it encourages women to reject imposed beauty standards and invent their own identity. Featuring actress Barbara-O.
HARVEST: 3.000 YEARS
Mirt Sost Shi Amit / Haile Gerima, 1976 / English subtitles / 150 min.
Haile Gerima returned to his native Ethiopia during the fraught political tensions of the Derg Revolution and the collapse of Haile Selassie's regime. Here we meet a family of farmers working for a feudalistic landowner, whose exploitation is fundamental to their hopelessnes. A local agitator, referred to as the local 'fool' advocates his rural neighbours to dispose of exploiters, thus abject poverty through collective organising. Shot in Amharic with a local cast, ‘Harvest: 3000 years’ narrates a staggering account of land expropriation, class, and resulting failures of political reconfigurations that exploit in alliance with states.
BLACK WOMEN AT THE CENTRE /
2 FILMS + OPTIONAL DINNER
IN A CERTAIN WAY
De cierta manera / Sara Gomez, 1977 / English subtitles / 73 min.
The first Cuban feature film directed by a woman and the last directed by Afro-Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez (1942-1974), ‘De cierta manera’ is a love story between Yoland and Mario, who come from different socio-economic backgrounds and meet during the height of changes as promised by the Cuban Revolution. Documentary footage and narrative modes, collide in this reflection of post-revolutionary Cuba's contraindications where slums, new developments, and ideological attitudes meet. Although Gomez died during the film's production it stands as an astute example of her capacity to rethink both cinematic form and purpose.
LETTER FROM MY VILLAGE
Kaddu Beykat / Safi Faye, 1976 / English subtitles / 90 min.
Shot in three weeks during a rainy season with a team of only three, ‘Letter from My Village’ is a poetical assemblage of documentary, fiction, and ethnography through the prism of Serer culture. Narrated by Faye in the form of a letter by a young villager to her friend, we are introduced to Ngor who wants to marry Columba, but is forced to leave his village for work in Dakar to afford his bride price. In Dakar, the harsh realities of neocolonial capitalism dependent upon the exploitation of poorer workers force Ngor to return to the village. This was Faye’s first feature-length film - and the first to be commercially distributed by an African (woman) filmmaker.
CINEMA OF NIGER /
2 SHORT FILMS WITH INTRODUCTION
THE ADVENTURER'S RETURN
Le retour d'un aventurier / Moustapha Alassane, 1967 / English subtitles / 35 min. + 15 min. Intro.
A comedic take on a young man who returns from the USA to his village in Niger, a changed man with western outfits and cowboy gears, igniting a Far-West row in the Nigerien Sahel. The film was pioneering Nigerien filmmaker Moustapha Alassane's concise critique of the absurdities of colonial attitudes.
Oumarou Ganda, 1969 / English subtitles / 45 min. + 15 min. Intro.
Cabascabo, a veteran of the French colonial army in Indochina (Vietnam), returns to his home town in Niger, acclaimed by friends and relatives who he spends lavisly on. In fragmented flash-backs, he tells the story of his adventure and the battles in that distant land.
STREAMS OF MEMORIES /
3 SHORT FILMS WITH INTRODUCTION
WATER RITUAL #1: AN URBAN RITE OF PURIFICATION
Barbara McCullough, 1979 / English dialogue, no subtitles / 6 min.
Made in collaboration with performer Yolanda Vidato, ‘Water Ritual #1’ examines Black women’s ongoing struggle for spiritual and psychological space through improvisational, symbolic acts. Set to the backdrop of a poverty-stricken LA, the protagonist Milanda's blurring visions and purification rites locates us everywhere from the African continent to the Carribbean, and what even feels like the past. Inspired by her friend's breakdown, McCullough's first film is widely heralded as a seminal experimental work.
AFRICAN WOMEN, U.S.A.
Omah Diegu, 1980 / English dialogue, no subtitles / 20 min.
‘African Woman, U.S.A.’ tells the story of an African woman studying dance in the U.S. and working to support a daughter at home, along with two others back in Africa. After receiving a work permit she is ecstatic, but must battle both sexism and racism when looking for a job. Her troubles continue when a man posing as a producer betrays her. The film uses jazz and traditional African music to underscore the themes of friendship and danger that shape an African immigrant’s experience of America.
Martina Judah Attile, 1988 / English dialogue, no subtitles / 30 min.
‘Dreaming Rivers’ (1988) is written and directed by Judah Martina Attile for Sankofa Film & Video collective. In this bittersweet short, Ms T, a Caribbean woman on her death bed, is visited by her three children, two daughters, and son, together they share the fraught intimacies of transnational belonging, memory, and other streams of being.