Views from / of Africa
As It Overcomes an Era of Turbulence
Some years after the 21st century was dubbed the “African Century,” the fruits of economic growth, have begun to be seen in every corner of the continent, though not equitably enough; and a proud new generation is now taking on the challenge of a new Africa. Meanwhile, a fierce struggle for resources known as the new “Scramble for Africa” rages on, while the new United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)—the first-ever US military joint force in Africa—continues advancing its so-called “War on Terror.” Clearly Africa is once again hurtling headlong into another turbulent era.
“Africa Views” showcases twenty-two unique films made both by Africans and others that portray the region from various perspectives and degrees of distance–taken together they depict the Africa of the 21st Century.
Out of the fifty-four independent countries in Africa (including the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic), this program focuses primarily upon Sub-Saharan Africa, and the films are divided into three sections. Since 2013, YIDFF has featured a program of documentaries from the Arab region, which includes the area from the Sahara northward—seen in concert with this Africa program, a more three-dimensional picture of the continent is sure to come into view.
The works in the first part, “Africa Redrawing Its Own Portrait,” tell through images about the widely shared impulse—not limited to film—to reformulate the image of the continent from an African perspective. The Colonial Misunderstanding (2004), which focuses upon German missionaries, depicts colonialism as exploitation not only of the land, but also of the soul. Cuba, an African Odyssey (2007) illustrates Cuban participation in African liberation struggles, such as Cold War-era Cuba’s support for Amílcar Cabral and Che Guevara’s fighting alongside the Congolese Revolutionary Army. The Cold War period continues to be the most important and yet least-written about page in modern African history.
In the second part, “The Challenges Africa Faces—Viewed from Various Sides,” directors of diverse nationalities and backgrounds approach conflict, poverty, and various social problems from their own particular points of view. In Mogadishu Soldier (2016), graphic footage shot by soldiers actually fighting in the so-called “War on Terror” exposes the contradictions therein. Robert Mugabe . . . What Happened? (2011) shows real-life images of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe—often referred to only as a crazy dictator—in a diligent reportage from a director who has known Mugabe since he was regarded as the hero of the newly founded country.
The third and final part, “Africulture Bursts Forth” features the power of culture, which forms the bedrock of African resilience. The African Cypher (2012) illustrates youth struggling against poverty and discrimination in post-apartheid South Africa’s Soweto, discovering a philosophy of overcoming hopelessness through a passionate dedication to street dance. Intore (2014) follows Rwandan society, deeply wounded from the 1994 genocide, as it rebuilds itself through pop music and traditional dance.
These films show us images of an Africa that has been heavily bruised—and yet pulsates with a new and unprecedented energy. Symbolically speaking, the continent might be likened to a giant elephant struggling against raging waves coming not only from the north, but also now from west and east, screeching and charging forward—and never drowning. Watching the searing images of this journey on screen, we who live here far from Africa are sure to feel something stirring within us.