Cinema and Development in West Africa
Film as a Vehicle for Liberation
Publication Year: 2013
Cinema and Development in West Africa shows how the film industry in Francophone West African countries played an important role in executing strategies of nation building during the transition from French rule to the early postcolonial period. James E. Genova sees the construction of African identities and economic development as the major themes in the political literature and cultural production of the time. Focusing on film both as industry and aesthetic genre, he demonstrates its unique place in economic development and provides a comprehensive history of filmmaking in the region during the transition from colonies to sovereign states.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Introduction: Cinema as Art and Industry
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I returned to Dakar, Senegal, in the summer of 2011 to complete research for this project and took my usual path walking along Avenue Hassan II (ex-Albert Sarraut) through the Place de l’indépendance toward the administrative building in the basement of which is housed the National Archives of Senegal. For years a movie theater stood at the southwest corner of the central plaza, although it was...
1. The Cinema Industrial Complex in French West Africa to the 1950s
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In 1949, André Lemaire submitted a report to Commission du cinéma d’outremer, a division of the Ministère de la France d’outre-mer (formerly the Ministère des colonies) that addressed matters pertaining to cinema in the French colonies, that signaled the emergence of a new dimension to the cultural politics of empire in French-ruled West Africa. In this report, Lemaire discussed the problem...
2. The Colonialist Regime of Representation, 1945–60
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“Between the public and the screen,” Robert Delavignette observed in 1948, “there is a space for misunderstanding that risks altering the knowledge of the world that the screen projects. It is for this mutual comprehension that the film is an irreplaceable and superior instrument.”1 Delavignette’s concern centered on the potential for the distortion of meaning that the filmic image inherently allowed for...
3. West African Anticolonial Film Politics, 1950s–60s
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In 1959 at the Second World Congress of Black Writers and Artists, convened in Rome, Italy, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra issued a bold proclamation: “We want a cinema in the service of the people.” For Vieyra, the appropriation and adaptation of the cinema industrial complex in West Africa was crucial for the region’s (and Africa’s) economic and cultural development. “Film, in this domain,” he explained, “has...
4. The Postcolonial African Regime of Representation
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With independence in 1960 France lost its official control of the cinema industrial complex in West Africa. Technically, the era of the Laval decree and the colonial film politics built on its foundation had come to a close. Consequently, aspiring West African filmmakers had the space to create their own image-Africa for the first time as well as the opportunity to seize the existing materialist structure of...
5. The West African Cinema Industrial Complex, 1960s–70s
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In 1968 Robert Delavignette, the ex-colonial administrator and author of Les paysans noirs, gave his take on the meaning of the end of French rule in West Africa. Commenting on the prospects for the region’s future he wrote, “Decolonization, it is independence. But independence is not real unless it is linked with the economic and social development of the decolonized country.” And, for that development...
Postscript: Francophone West African Cinema to the Present
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This study has argued for the importance of the cinema industrial complex as a site of contestation between French colonial (and postcolonial) officials and West African cultural activists from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s over the shape and nature of African cultural and economic development in the region. In the mid- 1970s West African cineastes could point to significant progress in wresting control...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2013