- Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-first Century: Art Films and the Nollywood Video Revolution
Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Mahir Saul and Ralph A. Austen, is a volume that proffers a number of interdisciplinary explorations of cinema and video films in Africa. Like Imruh Bakari and Mbye Cham's African Experiences of Cinema, Manthia Diawara's African Cinema: Politics and Culture, Kenneth W. Harrow's Postcolonial African Cinema, and Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike's Black African Cinema, the volume gives us a glimpse of current trends in the study of African cinema since the turn of the century. As rightly observed by the editors in their general introduction to the volume, "The great change in the twenty-first century (one that actually began in the 1990s) is the coexistence of two distinct African cinemas: a (relatively) long established tradition of celluloid art films centered in French-speaking West Africa and . . . a newer, more commercial video film industry based in English-speaking Africa and labeled, after its major Nigerian source, Nollywood" (1). Thus, Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-first Century is the first extended effort to combine studies of both these cinemas.
The editors organize the thirteen chapters following their own introduction into three categories: "Part I: The 'Problem' of Nollywood" comprises chapters by Jonathan Haynes, often referred to as the Dean of African Video scholars, Onookome Okome, Birgit Meyer, Abdalla Uba Adamu, and Matthias Krings; "Part II: Imported Films and Their African Audiences" has only two chapters written by Vincent Bouchard and Laura Fair; and "Part III: FESPACO/Art Film in the Light of Nollywood" features six chapters by Mahir Saul, the lead editor of the volume, Jane Bryce, Peter Rist, Stafan Sereda, Lindsey Green-Simms, and Cornelius Moore. Overall, Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-first Century has achieved the two overlapping goals of its editors: "to give readers a good introduction into what has been happening in African cinema over the last forty-plus years and to analyze specific FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Television de Ouagadougou) and Nollywood films from a fresh comparative perspective" (3). To further confirm its interdisciplinary nature, the volume is directed more at students of African culture, history, and society than at film studies specialists. One critique that can be made of the volume is its overconcentration on anglophone and francophone countries in the tropical portions of the African continent, thus giving little attention to films produced in Egypt, the Maghreb, and any of the lusophone African countries. The book also does not address at length—although it does at least recognize—the coming shift in both the location and media of African cinema. South Africa is fast becoming a dominant force in the entire continental industry, and technologies or broadband distribution will very likely replace DVDs within a few years. One cannot help but agree with the submission of the editors that "viewing African cinema in the later twenty-first century will thus require still newer paradigms" (3). [End Page 149]