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The day continues to evade us all when we finally are able collectively show our awe and respect for the innate cinematic talents of African filmmakers; not that they are non-existant, but simply acknowledging their readiness to compete at the global stage. Many would contend that the day has already come and gone, with major artists like Ousmane Sembene and Djibril Diop Mambety bearing the Senegalese flag, and many others faring from Mali, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and others. The fact is, scars from colonialism's remnants are still visible and certainly not forgotten by time or memory?so where's the outrage, political mobility, promise of retribution?
Looking at the filmic history of African cinema's most reliable financier, France saw the beginnings of the artform itself, and had more than half a century head start on the entire African continent as far as the development of the country's filmic identity. Even such nations as Japan and Thailand, who would seemingly be in poor proximity to film's ground zero in the U.S. and Europe, were well endowed in their own aesthetic by the Second World War. Not until the 1960's, as seen through Pontecorvo's lens in "The Battle of Algiers," the tumultuous quaqmires finally wrought long-forgotten independence to African nations, and in retrospect, more than a half century of artistic experimentation and new states of becoming had been raped from the peoples of the continent. So why, during the social upheaval that spawned new movements around the globe (gangster/sex/revenge revival in the U.S.) did nothing so impetuous arise in Africans' artistic expression? It is diffficult to start an entire continental movement from rock-bottom, and that is exactly where they were left when the colonialists finally moved out, after decades of oppression and the silencing of voices of dissention. In many ways, their artistic stagnation resembles the more recent state of former Soviet occupied countries in the Middle East. Take some of the basic themes from recent films coming out of Mongolia or Iran. "The Cave of the Yellow Dog," and "Iron Island," both combining the oral traditions of their respective areas and also the pressing new realities that those old ways that have survived (despite outside supression) must now conform to.
As the Guardian writes, "Vengence is for people with time on their hands," and with the crises of health, economy and infrastructure that will never cease to plague the continent, at least not until first world countries learn to work together, Africans will certainly not have the time needed to devote themselves to a cinematic movement that will one day reinvent their identity.
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