|Africa in the Picture: Interview with the Producer|
Cornelius Moore, Africa in the Picture project director and founding director of California Newsreel's African film distribution project, the Library of African Cinema
This is the first time that a series of dramatic films by African filmmakers has been broadcast on national U.S. television. What is the purpose of the series?
First, we want to make a broad American public aware that there is such a thing as African cinema and to introduce them to the best and most recent examples of these films. African cinema is outside this country's commercial marketplace just as the African continent is relegated to the margins of the world's economy. Some Americans have seen African films mainly at colleges, film festivals and museums. What better way to broaden audiences than by making African films available to anyone who has a television set? Thankfully, the current leaders of American Public Television and KQED agreed that this is an important and groundbreaking eventómaking the broadcast possibleand have enthusiastically embraced the series.
What should viewers know about African cinema before tuning in to Africa in the Picture?
African cinema was born as African nations gained their independence from colonial powers in the 1960s, so the filmmaking was and is inspired by social change. These are "art" films which often address social and political themes. The filmmakers create their works for people in their countries, so the films will reflect the concerns and realities of those audiences. The films will have styles and aesthetics which are different from Hollywood movies. This is a different Africa from what we see on the news and in non-African movies.
Why did you select these films for the series and what is significant about them?
We wanted to present films from different regions, from the rural as well as the urban world, from diverse styles of filmmaking, and works by different generations. The first program, "Faat Kine," is the latest work by the great veteran Senegalese director and author, Ousmane Sembene. It is a contemporary drama focusing on the issues which independent women confront. The second program entitled "Tales of Ordinary People" features two films (Le Franc and La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil) by the late visionary Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety. Both films use humor and charming storytelling to address complex economic issues in an accessible way. The final program, "Daresalam" from Chad is by emerging young filmmaker Issa Serge Coelo. If Americans see anything about Africa in the news, it is usually about a catastrophe such as war or famine. This story transports viewers to the inside of a civil war and conveys the emotional turmoil and disruption it brings into the lives of ordinary, rural people.
Actor Danny Glover introduces each of the programs. How did he become involved in this project?
We approached Danny with what we wanted to do because he is familiar with African cinema. He has even collaborated on projects with African filmmakers, including Ousmane Sembene. We also thought that, as board of directors chairman of the Africa advocacy organization TransAfrica and as a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Development Program, he would understand how our series could be an innovative and constructive way to bring attention to Africa. We're fortunate that Danny agreed to lend his presence and prestige to the series.
What do you hope to accomplish with Africa in the Picture?
We certainly hope that the series will be broadcast by public television stations all across the U.S. and whet the appetites of audiences for more African films. What is more, these films show Africans at the center of the stories, attempting to resolve their own conflicts and providing Americans with their views of the world. As recent events tell us, if we are to play a constructive role in toda'ís world affairs we cannot afford to isolate ourselves by ignoring the views of those outside the United States.