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