Africa in Motion

Africa in Motion

As the second Africa in Motion (AiM) film festival gears up, its director Lizelle Bisschoff and advisor Mark Cousins name the movies and filmmakers to watch

Mark Cousins In the 90s, when I first fell in love with African movies, I’d jump on a cheapo train or plane to London or Paris if either city was showing the classics. Films like Ousmane Sembene’s astonishing satire on impotence, Xala, or his pioneering Black Girl, or Gaston Kabore’s God’s Gift, a mythic story about a mute boy, or Youssef Chahine’s The Sparrow, which is like a Douglas Sirk movie, were shown so seldom in the UK that you had to grab your chance.

The more films by Sembene, Chahine or Kabore I saw in those years, the more a world of brilliant cinema opened up to me and the more I became indignant at its invisibility or marginalisation. The general view seemed to be that African cinema was technically primitive, but we should watch it because of what it tells us about the problems of the continent. Absolute bollocks. I came to realise that we should see African films for the reason that we should see any other films – because they are entertaining, or dazzling, because of their characters and stories.

Flash forward to 2006 and, suddenly, we have a festival in Edinburgh that is screening what I used to travel hundreds of miles to see. I could hardly believe it. This year it’s showing the four classics I mentioned above, plus The Wind by Souleymane Cisse and Hyenas, the hypnotic, daft, wicked, thrawn, uncategorisable masterpiece by Africa’s Orson Welles, Djibril Diop Mambety.

If the world was fair, if the movie playing field was level, if talent was what counted, Mambety would be up there with Scorsese, Peckinpah and the like. The fact that he’s almost unknown is our loss. The fact that Africa in Motion is bringing these films to Scotland is a reason, I think, to dance til dawn.

Lizelle Bisschoff AiM 2007 returns with a programme of more than 30 films, spanning five decades of filmmaking in Africa. The selection of contemporary films betrays a great deal of stylistic and thematic innovation and boldness.

South African director Teddy Mattera’s Max and Mona is a black comedy incorporating themes of rural superstition. Acclaimed Tunisian director Nouri Bouzid tackles the controversial but relevant subject of Islamic fundamentalism in Making Of.

Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda, of the Republic of the Congo, addresses the experiences of the African exile in Europe in his intelligent, stylish Juju Factory. Africa Paradise, by Sylvestre Amoussou of Benin satirically envisions a future in which Africa is the economic powerhouse to which everyone wants to emigrate. An undisputed highlight is the festival’s closing screening of the South African film Son of Man (pictured), a daring reinterpretation of the gospels set in a township.

A special focus on the work of female African directors includes a series of three rare classics by pioneers from North, West and Southern Africa. An extensive documentary programme includes a double-bill of Lusophone documentaries. Notoriously under-represented East African cinema is getting an unprecedented boost with the screening of Villant Ndasowa’s docudrama The Mystery Mountain, the first ever Malawian film screened internationally.

Africa in Motion, Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Thu 25 Oct–Sun 4 Nov. For the full programme information visit