Whether we like it or not, the way in which the prizes are attributed conveys a message. It reflects the compromises reached by a jury comprising differing sensibilities, but which, for the major prize, has to come down in favour of one film. The Fespaco 99 rewarded a film acclaimed by the African public, which, for the first time in its history, was a comedy. « Perhaps this jury wanted to give African cinema a new direction, or, in any case, to broaden its scope« , the director of the award-winning film, Ngagnura Mweze, declared. A new direction? The desire for a quality mass-public cinema? Are the two words antinomic?
One film offered an obvious reply: the late Djibril Diop Mambety’s La Petite vendeuse de soleil, which is why we have chosen to focused on it here. Thanks to the emotion it arouses in all audiences, it proves that the cinema, like all art, is the stuff of free creators, and it is thus that it will find its public. Let us leave the sterile oppositions between culture and profitability aside, then. Audiences everywhere are more intelligent than they are thought to be, and often reserves us a surprise.
In Paris, Atria is about to close down, the rug pulled out from under its feet when its subsidies were cut off. It signals the death of a place which, for twenty years, has been the African directors’ main support. Precisely, Atria was a place that sought freedom, that essential independence Andrée Davanture fought for: « Perhaps we are not free enough in our minds to recognize the aspiration for a reel freedom in the faltering steps of these difficult beginnings« .
In Ouaga, the director of the French National Centre for Cinematography shone in his absence. The third millennium will probably see the drip to Africa’s directors run dry, and will not be replaced by the manna from Europe. Reconquering its audience is an urgent solution. But what if this conquest lies in independence/creativity, rather than in the opposition of culture/profitability?
The films seen at the Fespaco confirmed this: new directions are being tried with styles that are independent both financially and formally, that manifest a freedom of tone, a kind of new wave that is in harmony with the everyday, in which the camera privileges spontaneity in an effort to capture human intimacy. The feature films Waalo Fendo, Silmandé, and La Vie sur terre were mirrored by shorts which are innovative and experiment with engaged documentary styles (see article).
This, of course, does not stop African cinema, and its films such as La Genèse, L’Arche du désert, and Fools, from magnificently conveying their Word to the world. Let’s not seek an opposition in this duality, therefore, but rather a complementarity, as these directions clearly converge in their freedom and creativity.
///Article N° : 5373