Award nomination for Algerian film boost for African cinema
Kunst, 26 Feb 2011 - Africaserver Magazine
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)

Africa may soon be adding another international film award to their film CV. At the 83rd Academy Awards being held on February 27 we may see a film from Algeria, Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi), win the Oscar for best foreign film.
Outside the Law, which is directed by Rachid Bouchareb, has already received an international reputation, both negative and positive, as the subject of the film is the bloody battle for Algerian independence and the Algerian War.

With the focus of the story on three Algerian brothers who survive the Sétif massacre in 1945 at the end of WWII, the movie has been called “controversial” by critics due to not only the nature of the subject matter, but also claims of inaccuracy in its portrayal of events. While Algeria has received more Best Foreign Language Film nominations than any other African country for its film talent with four nominations and one win, which was in 1969 for the film Z , this recent nomination, despite the controversy, could turn into a second Oscar win for the country*.

With many African countries sharing a similar history of their film industries, a win for Algeria could be a win for all African film. Looking at African film for the continent as a whole is the 22nd FESPACO, Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou. Held from February 26 to March 5, 2011, this festival will be filling the streets of Ougadougou , Burkina Faso with everyone from film stars to movie fanatics taking part. FESPACO, began in 1969 and has allowed African filmmakers to showcase their talent locally, nationally and now internationally. Also, with the idea of promoting all aspects of African film industries from production to distribution to exhibition, FESPACI, the Federation of African Filmmakers (FEPACI) which was formed in 1969, also looks at the role of film in politico-economic and cultural development for individual African nations and the entire continent.

While FESPACO is the largest African film festival, many countries in Africa now have their own annual film events which, considering the long history of film dating back to the late 1800s, is still a relatively new event for many countries. While films about Africa have been produced since colonial times, films made by Africans or from Africa have only been possible since post-colonial times. Often, the colonial powers of countries, such as France, banned local African filmmakers from making, filming and showing their art. During the colonial era, Africa was represented by Western filmmakers with films frequently showing mis-representations of Africa, and African art, culture and society. As a result, it was not until the 1960s and 1970s that African film by Africans about Africa made it to international audiences. Many filmmakers in post-independence times, used their films as a political tool to disseminate messages and portrayals of Africa that were contradictory to those images of colonial times. Films were, and still sometimes are, focused on social and political themes more often that those of commercial interests.

This was seen in 1966 with La Noire de...., also known as Black Girl, which was the first African film to gain international recognition. Ousmane Sembene became the first African film director with his film about a girl from Senegal who goes to France to work in the home of a French couple. From Senegal , Sembene remained a leader of post-colonial African film for the decades to follow. Since then, African directors have moved from "unheard of" to "must see". Female African filmmakers also began making their mark on the international film industry beginning with Safi Faye, an ethnologist from Senegal, who in 1976 gained international recognition with her film Kaddu Beykat or Letter from my Village.

The pace of African filmmakers does not seem to slowing down and the industry seems to be expanding each year. Nigeria has even been called “Nollywood” and according to UNESCO, has been ranked among the top positions, with India and the U.S., as one of the top countries worldwide of film production. Even a film has been made about the booming industry, This is Nollywood.

Even if there is no Oscar win, a nod from the Academy is just one more sign that African film is has finally found its international audience, and now with the voice of those most intimate with the subject matter, people from Africa.
Sarah Taylor
*The winning film, Z, also received numerous other Academy nominations, among which was a nomination for Best Picture. The other African nations with Best Foreign Film Academy nominations and awards are: South Africa with two nominations for Yesterday in 2004 and Tsotsi in 2005 with Tsotsi winning the same year; and Ivory Coast with one nomination and one win for Black and White in Color, in 1976. Na Wewe, a film about Burundi and directed by Belgian Ivan Goldschmidt, has also been nominated for this year's Academy Awards in the category of Short Film (Live Action).

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