- The Algiers Charter on African Cinema, 19751
For a responsible, free, and committed cinema
This charter was adopted at the Second Congress of the Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes (FEPACI) in Algiers, January, 1975.
Contemporary African societies are still objectively undergoing an experience of domination exerted on a number of levels: political, economic, and cultural. Cultural domination, which is all the more dangerous for being insidious, imposes on our people models of behavior and systems of values whose essential function is to buttress the ideological [End Page 165] and economic ascendancy of the imperialist powers. The main channels open to this form of control are supplied by the new technologies of communication: books, the audiovisual, and very specifically the cinema. In this way the economic stranglehold over our countries is increased twofold by a pervading ideological alienation that stems from a massive injection of cultural by-products thrust on the African markets for passive consumption. Moreover, in the face of this condition of cultural domination and deracination, there is a pressing need to reformulate in liberating terms the internal problematic of development and of the part that must be played in this worldwide advance by culture and by the cinema.
To assume a genuinely active role in the process of development, African culture must be popular, democratic, and progressive in character, inspired by its own realities and responding to its own needs. It must also be in solidarity with cultural struggles all over the world.
The issue is not to try to catch up with the developed capitalist societies, but rather to allow the masses to take control of the means of their own development, giving them back the cultural initiative by drawing on the resources of a fully liberated popular creativity. Within this perspective the cinema has a vital part to play because it is a means of education, information, and consciousness raising, as well as a stimulus to creativity. The accomplishing of these goals implies a questioning by African filmmakers of the image they have of themselves, of the nature of their function and their social status, and of their general place in society. The stereotyped image of the solitary and marginal creator which is widespread in western capitalist society must be rejected by African filmmakers, who must, on the contrary, see themselves as creative artisans at the service of their people. It also demands great vigilance on their part with regard to imperialism’s attempts at ideological recuperation as it redoubles its efforts to maintain, renew, and increase its cultural ascendancy.
In this context, African filmmakers must be in solidarity with progressive filmmakers who are waging anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world. Moreover, the question of commercial profit can be no yardstick for African filmmakers. The only relevant criterion of profitability is the knowledge of whether the needs and aspirations of the people are expressed, and not those of specific interest groups. This means that all the structural problems of their national cinema must be of paramount importance to African filmmakers.
The commitment demanded from African filmmakers should in no way signify subordination. The states must take a leading role in building a national cinema free of the shackles of censorship or any other form of coercion likely to diminish the filmmakers’ creative scope and the democratic and responsible exercise of their profession. This freedom of expression for filmmakers [End Page 166] is in fact one of the prerequisite conditions of their ability to contribute to the development of a critical understanding among the masses and the flowering of their potentialities.
1. First published in African Experiences of Cinema, ed. Imruh Bakari and Mbye Cham (London: British Film Institute, 1996), 25–26. [End Page 167]