- Postcolonial Images: Studies in North African Film
Roy Armes's work, dedicated to postcolonial filmmaking in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, succeeds in being at the same time exhaustive, very rich in information, and easy to read. He scrutinizes the whole period from the time the three countries became independent (the 1960s) to the beginning of the twenty-first century ("the present"). One of his obvious and extensive contributions to research is to be found in the appendixes (Dictionary of Feature Filmmakers, List of Films, Bibliography) [End Page 211] that make up one-third of the book. This work, in addition, is dotted with many quotes, several of them coming from filmmakers themselves. Thanks to the publisher and the writer, we view more than thirty pictures, which while in black and white and not of excellent quality, are nevertheless made available to us.
The book, however, is also a personal work, carefully conceived and wrought. Its plan is very simple and clear, but its main points are accessible. The first part is historical, following the movement and changes throughout four decades. The second part is dedicated to "themes and styles," proceeding through the presentation of ten films (al feature films), which are analyzed at the same time for their own qualities and for the expression they give to prevailing concerns in their countries.
The first part of the book focuses in a proper way on the diverse institutions that manage the entire process of filmmaking. The question (with no definitive answer) is whether there are different styles of filmmaking according to the styles of management, which can be in one case (or in one country) state-controlled, and in another, private (rather than free). In North Africa, the impact of management is probably counterbalanced by the strong individualism of filmmakers (also a characteristic of other people). Though he will underline the representationality each of the ten selected films, Armes is clever enough to let them be open rather than enclosed in one meaning. Proceeding in a subtle manner, he introduces the ten analyses with a summing up of the films produced at the same time, in that field of social concern, so that each of the ten appears as participating in that concern but also belonging to its talented maker, creating his own, unique style. Another thing to be admired is how the author balances his admiration of the films and his appreciation of their limits.
Last but not least, Armes pays careful attention to the immigrant filmmakers and to women directors giving expression to some distinctive concerns of women. In conclusion, the question is and must be: are Maghrebian films of the present national or postnational or transnational? Money comes from abroad, and today's world is more "hybrid" than national or immigrant. But art was always a place for hybridism. Remember that the much praised "French art" of the sixteenth century was merely Italian!