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African Films Geared To Influence World Cinema

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"Mambar Pierrette" director Rosine Mbakam (left) pictured with her cousin Pierrette Aboheu, the film's protagonist.

With the race for the Palme d’Or now in the final stretch ahead of Saturday’s closing ceremony, the 76th Cannes Film Festival has witnessed a breakthrough for African films.

The Cannes Film Festival delivered its first honours on Thursday with a historic prize for Malaysia’s “Tiger Stripes” while African movies continued to enjoy the Cannes spotlight with the screening of “Mambar Pierrette”, an intimate portrait of a free-spirited seamstress and single mother in Cameroon.

According to Its director, Rosine Mbakam, “we know how much Western cinema has influenced Africa and continues to do so. It is high time that our works travel in the opposite direction and influence world cinema – introducing new narratives, different ways of speaking French, and characters we are not accustomed to seeing. The West must get used to all of this.”

She observes that here is a lot happening in African cinema, but these productions are scarcely visible in Europe.

Africa is awash with European and American films, but how many films make it out of Africa? That’s why our selection at the Cannes Film Festival is so important. This is the best way for our films to be seen in France, Italy or elsewhere.

“Without these festivals we cannot export our works. I’m immensely proud to see so many African movies here in Cannes this year,” she notes.

Expressing her thoughts on the way the film industry looks at the continent, she said that the film industry tends to follow preconceived ideas.

The few African films that make it abroad are often filmed by Westerners who, in reality, are merely filming themselves. Such films often show Africa without African people.

“I was interested in filming Pierrette, but people often ask me why I didn’t show more of the neighbourhood in my film. I don’t blame them, because that’s what they are used to. They have this image of a continent blighted by poverty and they want to feed that image. But I’m not going to change my way of filming. Pierrette is the focus of my film; she dictates the rhythm, the narrative and the camera’s movements.”

She added that people who attended the festival will go home with seven African films on their minds – not one or two, as is usually the case. This is huge.

These stories will feed the West but also the imagination of young Africans, who will see their stories valued beyond their continent.

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