Africans in Cannes

For all its cinema glitz, Cannes is in a part of France associated with the far right and very anti-immigrant, so it is a treat to see the region is hosting an African themed film festival.

Still from "Dégage."

The tenth edition of the International Pan-African film festival in Cannes, France happens between 17 and 21st April o the French on the French Riviera. Apart from a few African filmmakers having made a splash at the main festival in Cannes, very little is known about the city’s African character, mainly because this part of France is associated with the far right. It is hardly known as attractive to Africans or French people of African descent (Marseille to the west is more hospitable), so it is commendable that there’s an African-themed film festival hosted there.

If you’re lucky enough to make it there, here are five films on our radar. “Dialemi – Elle s’amuse” (My Love: She’s having fun) by Gabonese director Nadine Otsobogo is a bit of magic realism. A sculptor pounds away at a stone bust in his seaside home, where he lives alone. A mysterious woman appears, who the sculptor’s been waiting for. Excerpt above. Next, though “5 Egyptian Pounds” is Egyptian director Mohammed Adeeb’s first film, it was chosen to be screened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner. A middle aged woman is being followed around Cairo by a somber, mysterious younger man. The climax of the film is revealed through his significance to her.

A still from “Dialemi – Elle s’amuse”

Not much has been discussed about Rafael Padilla, a formerly enslaved Cuban man who became one of the first Black artists in France. Omar Sy is set to star as Padilla in an upcoming feature length film on his life. This documentary by directors Samia Chala and Thierry Leclère captures the stage production: “Chocolat – Clown Nègre” (“Chocolate, the black clown”). They hope to “interrogate our gaze, our confronting of the other, our construction of stereotypes and our discourse on xenophobia.” Here’s a video with the makers of the film (in French).

A touchy subject in my own family is that of blacks who fought on the of the Confederacy (that is to preserve slavery) in the mid-19th century United States (there are rumors that among our forbearers there was an ancestor who was a Black Confederate soldier by choice. In “Colored Confederates“, director Ken Wyatt is hoping to shed some light on this much-debated topic and whether that “choice” ever truly existed.

And lastly, Tunisian filmmaker Mohamed Zran exposes a complete timeline of the Arab Spring in his documentary, “Dégage,” purportedly wholly from the perspective of everyday citizens. The trailer introduces an oft not heard perspective, from a child.

Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.