African Film Weekend

The African Film Weekend screens new and original African films each fall on the campus of the University of Richmond. It has been running since 2000 as an initiative from African Studies faculty members under the leadership of Professor Louis Tremaine from the Department of English. Since 2012, a component entitled (Africa Week) comprising lectures and other cultural events has been added. This year’s lecture entitled “20 Years of the New South Africa: Visions and Vagaries” will be delivered by Professor Hein Williamse from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

African Film Weekend celebrates African culture on the continent and the Diaspora through cinema. Faculty, staff, students, and the general public of Richmond have the opportunity to learn about cultures and issues through the best productions Africa can offer in the realm of filmmaking. Film themes vary from year to year; this fall's theme is "Africa’s Global Challenges."

Africa Week Lecture

20 Years of the New South Africa: Visions and Vagaries
Professor Hein Williamse, Department of Afrikaans, University of Pretoria
Tuesday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.
International Center Commons

Dr. Hein Willemse is a Professor of Afrikaans Literature at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He has published several books on Black Afrikaans writing. He has lectured at several universities in South Africa, Mexico, Namibia, the United States and Europe. He spent time at the University of Iowa as a visiting writer and a year at Grinnell College as a Fulbright Scholar. He is the editor-in-chief of the oldest multilingual African literary journal entitled Tydskrif vir Letterkunde (Journal for Literature) and served as president of the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA).

African Film Weekend
Presented by Dr. Rachel Gabara, Associate Professor of French, Department of Romance Languages, University of Georgia

All films are shown in the Ukrop Auditorium in Queally Hall of the Robins School of Business.

Friday, Sept. 20, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
La Pirogue
Moussa Touré, Director
Senegal, 2010 (88 min)

A fishing village around Dakar is also a launching pad for many makeshift boats defying the high seas carrying candidates (also referred to as Hagas) to illegal immigration to Western Europe. As a seasoned fisherman, Baye Lamine (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye) knows well the ocean, but reluctantly and unwillingly is drawn to take a load of 30 fortune seekers across the ocean. The unity for the destination that glues the risk takers cannot bridge the obvious differences in age, culture, languages, their standards of living, or even the nature of their respective dreams to justify such a perilous endeavor. This common unedited experience becomes the opportunity for everyone’s reflections on the underlying drives for such a risky and traumatizing voyage. The film was presented at the 2012 Cannes Festival and received top prizes in 2013 at the FESPACO Festival.

Saturday, Sept. 21

8:30–9:30 a.m.
St. Louis Blues (Un Transport en commun) 
Dyana Guèye, Director
France and Senegal, 2010 (48 min)

A musical comedy narrating the conditions and tribulations that accompany common means of transportation linking an African megapolis and the countryside. Traveling between Dakar and Saint Louis requires more than affording the fare. One needs to take things in strides and engage the immeasurable with patience, stoicism and above all with a non-contrived smile. All is a matter of negotiation—schedules, stops, space in the vehicle, and price. The trek becomes a discovery of African reality as much as it turns into a probe into each one’s life and the reasons for their travel—a beauty shop keeper visits her children, Malick goes to see his fiancée, Souky goes to bury his father, two French volunteers Binette and Joséphine are touring the countryside, Antoine a French student in musicology—St. Louis Blues has been screened at several well-known festivals such as in Toronto (Sundance), Locarno, Dubai, and Créteil, France. It was crowned with the top prize at the latter festival.

9:45–10:45 a.m.
Land Rush

Osvalde Lewat and Hugo Berkeley, Directors
Cameroon, 2012 (58 min)

Land Rush brings before the eyes of the spectator the trials that African farmers go through to remain afloat against the overwhelming arrival of agro-industrialist businesses from affluent spheres including China. Malian cotton growers’ fate is inextricably linked to powerful financial and decision making cartels that anyone here can neither identify nor negotiate with on his own. Is the arrival of these big agribusinesses a lifeboat to exhausted peasants coaxed into selling their land as a relief, or a new form of faceless colonialism fed on the irresistible eagerness for money? The delicate issue that remains unresolved leads to another question: who owns the land, the people or the government? The film is in French, Bambara, and English with English subtitles.

11 a.m.–12:10 p.m.
Indochina, Traces of a Mother (Indochine sur les traces d'une mere) 
Idrissou Mora Kpai, Director
France, Benin, and Vietnam, 2012 (71 min)

A documentary recounting the ties between Indochina and West Africa brought together into France’s colonial fold including the war. Christopher, an Afro-Vietnamese 58-old man retraces his steps to link the two portions of his own identity by bringing to the spectator the conditions that prevailed during the colonial times. Between 1946 through 1964, more than 60,000 African soldiers fought in Vietnam. From unions between Vietnamese women and African soldiers, many children were born. If most of them were left behind with their mothers, some were taken to Africa by their fathers such was Christophe’s case. What does he discover in retracing his trip back to mother? French and English subtitles.

1:30–3:10 p.m.
Grey Matter
Kivu Ruhorahoza, Director
Rwanda, 2010 (100 min)

This is a film about a Rwandese filmmaker Balthazar who wants to produce his first film on the genocide to be entitled The Cycle of the Cockroach. As it is often the case, financing remains the main blocking obstacle standing between him and the achievement of his dream. Although agencies are well-equipped or powerful enough to secure foundation, Balthazar's project does not meet the specifications set by each one more attuned to see their own agendas becoming the driving force rather than genuinely lending a healing hand. Beside the obvious, the film interrogates the nature of violence that policies unmistakably can unleash. The film is in Kinyarwanda and French with English subtitles.

About the Presenter

Dr. Rachel Gabara is a Professor of French in the department of Romance Languages at the University of Georgia, Athens. Her research and teaching interests include Francophone African literature and film, literary and film theory, and postcolonial studies. Her book, From Split to Screened Selves: French and Francophone Autobiography in the Third Person, investigates autobiography across media, from print to photography and film, as well as across the colonial encounter, from France to Francophone North and West Africa. Her articles have appeared in New Literary History, French Cultural Studies, and Quarterly Review of Film and Video. She recently traveled for research projects in Burkina Faso, Senegal, and France, attending FESPACO, the world's most prestigious Pan-African film festival in Africa. She is working on a second book-length project, a history of documentary filmmaking in Sub-Saharan Africa from the colonial period to the present entitled Reclaiming Realism: From Colonial to Contemporary Documentary in West and Central Africa.

Support for African Film Weekend comes from the Office of International Education, the Media Resource Center, the International Studies program and the Department of Modern Literatures and Cultures.

Image: La Pirogue, Senegal (2010)

Contact Us
If you have questions about the African Film Weekend, contact Kasongo Kapanga or Sonia Phung at (804) 289-8096