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Oscars: An Overview of Africa’s Best International Films

History is not on the side of African filmmakers when it comes to Academy recognition.

In terms of international recognition, this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced feature films eligible for consideration in the International Feature Film category for the 94th Academy Awards. Since the continent Africa first submitted a film for Oscar consideration in 1958, with Egyptian director Youssef Chahine’s “Cairo Station” the number of African films for Best International Picture Oscar consideration seems to be is stabilizing at an average of about 10 per year. Eight films were submitted for the 2019 awards; 10 for 2020; and 12 for 2021, marking a record. Ten entries are being considered for the upcoming ceremony in 2022.

The history of cinema on the African continent is expected to be complex and brief – unlike other art forms that include music and literature, which span decades, if not more. centuries of rich history. (See the Malian scholar and professor at New York University’s Department of Film Studies, Manthia Diawara’s 1992 full account of African cinema in the first half of the 20th century, “African cinema: Politics and Culture”.)

Due to limited colonial structures and the Francophone/Anglophone divide, Africans were not always able to tell their own stories on film. Although, doubting the prevalence of ingenuity and creativity on the continent would be a criminally absurd act. And that progress continues to be made, is undeniable.

Today, African cinema is not entirely detached from its former colonizers’ grasp, as the vast majority of films strong enough to compete internationally are effectively financed and controlled. by European interests. But change is in the air. Or is it? The “Africa The story of the Rise” (posed by a non-African of course), is primarily a socioeconomic concept, which has prevailed over the past decade, even as the affirmative rebuttal rightly so about the extent of this concept’s reduction, especially given the continued stronghold of Western countries across the continent, despite any perceived deterioration.

The “cinema problem” in many African countries can be narrowed down to a lack of infrastructure, stemming from apathy by governments and even private enterprise, where cinema is concerned. Filmmaking is an expensive undertaking, and as with any investment, the path to return must be clear. Not many are willing to take the risk, especially when there are countless more credible opportunities to take advantage of.

And so Africa continues to “rise” in terms of cinema, however, incrementally. Quantitative data is difficult, but one of the measures is the international recognition of the work produced. It has been argued that the continent’s cinema does not need to be legitimized in the Western order, and should instead emphasize being appreciated in its own right, like other expressions. of African creativity, especially music and dance, which has gone widely without compromise, and has even been appropriated. That’s certainly a strong argument and a plausible scenario, but one that would be challenging to see materialized in an increasingly interconnected world that is still grappling with its effects. protracted colonialism.

It is a discussion like a maze that simply cannot be summed up here.

Wild Bunch International

The last time a film representing an African country received a nomination was Kaouther Ben Hania’s “Man in Leather” by Kaouther Ben Hania representing Tunisia at the 93rd awards ceremony, earlier this year. The last time a film representing an African country won in this category was South Africa’s “Tsotsi”, by Gavin Hood, at No. 78. Oscar in 2006. It was one of three total wins for the continent, along with “Z” by Costa-Gavras (Algeria) in 1969, and “Black and white in color” (Ivory Coast) by Jean-Jacques Annaud in 1976. It’s all three directed by white filmmakers, again talking about the remnants of colonialism and the inadequate perceptions of the continent that continue to spread.

In addition, the northern countries of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have historically performed much better than the sub-Saharan countries (AKA “Black Africa”), if only because of their long cinematic histories. than in the northern region. Of the 10 African films nominated for the Best International Film Academy Award since its creation (formerly known as the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar), half represent Algeria, one from Tunisia and one from Mauritania. This means that 70% of the African candidates nominated come from the northern countries.

Although the nominations will not be available for another two months, this year’s entries favor sub-Saharan regions, which account for 60% of the entries, thanks to newcomers such as Somalia, which submitted for the first time and countries that are still relatively new to the awards season, including Malawi, have submitted only the second time, after Shemu Joyah’s “Road to the Rising Sun” for the 2019 Oscars. Also, this is the first time Cameroon (total total) plus four submissions in history) participated in a movie many years back.

No particular theme or genre dominates. If anything, it’s a pretty remarkable list of films in the sense that, unlike previous years, some of them aren’t necessarily weighed down by supposedly continent-specific issues. location or country, or concerns about perception by outsiders, as continental films often travel (often sponsored by European companies).

But a change seems to be underway, especially as more countries enter the game. For example, Somalia took part in “The Pilgrim’s Wife,” which tells the story of a grave-picker who had to raise money to pay for his critically ill wife’s surgery; Morocco’s “Casablanca Beats,” a popular inspirational student-teacher film about a generation of teachers and students, follows a group of teenagers at a cultural center who are recruited by a new instructor, a musician. be good, encourage, free yourself from the weight of tradition and express yourself with music; and Tunisia’s “Golden Butterfly” is a fantasy television series about the relationship between a policeman with a past and a boy who meets by chance.

To be sure, the pressing issues of economic and sociopolitical importation are likely (and should) continue to inspire African storytellers, even as aspiring filmmakers born in a world with virtually no boundaries, breaking with the traditions in which pioneering African cinema such as Ousmane Sembene, Paulin Vieyra, Med Hondo and Djibril Diop Mambéty were raised. Diversity is certainly welcomed by many.

It remains to be seen whether any of the 10 best international films below will be shortlisted and eventually move on to the final list of five nominated films. Of the 10 films, Chad’s “Lingui, The Sacred Bonds” directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, and Nabil Ayouch’s “Casablanca Beats” (Morocco), have perhaps the biggest chance, if only because of household perception. filmmakers, both Cannes Film Festival governing bodies, and individual titles, are all Cannes 2021 selections.

The shortlist of 15 films will be announced on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, followed by nominations on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Here are 10 African films submitted for review:

– Algeria, “Helicopter” by Djaâfar Gacem
– “Hidden Dreams” of Cameroon, Horizontal Romanus
– “Lingui, the Divine Bond” by Chad, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
– Egypt, “Souad” by Ayten Amin
– Kenya, Gilbert Lukalia’s “Rescue Mission”
– Malawi, “Fatsani: A Tale of Survival” Gift by Sukez Sukali
– Morocco, “The Beat of Casablanca” by Nabil Ayouch
– Somalia, “Wife of the Faithful” by Khadar Ayderus Ahmed
– South Africa, “Barakat” by Amy Jephta
– Tunisia, Abdelhamid Bouchnak’s “Golden Butterfly”

The 94th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 27, 2022 and televised live on ABC.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2021/12/oscars-2022-africa-international-feature-film-1234683788/ Oscars: An Overview of Africa’s Best International Films

Aila Slisco

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