Pan African Dreams: the Dreams that Dance

Attending PAFF is to open oneself to a world of images, colours, sounds – even the suggestion of smells – from all corners of the African diaspora, and, for its 25th anniversary, the Festival organised celebratory events – starting with an Opening Night at the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) in West Hollywood to a series of competitive sections and a selection of highlights from previous years taking place at the Rave Theatre in the black middle class enclave of Crenshaw. It is indeed a tribute to the stamina and the persistence of the festivals organisers – Executive Director/Founder Ayuko Babu, a programming team spearheaded by Asantewa Olatunji including the indomitable Medea Brown who could also be seen, day in and day out, at the ticket table, and is also in charge of social media (most festival staff work in multiple capacities) as well as Miki Goral, from the UCLA Library (Research Director/Filmmaker Liaison) – that PAFF, with its modest resources, have managed to survive so long and to mean so much within Los Angeles cultural make-up.

Born in Wyoming – a state where there were “only about two thousand black folks” at the time, Babu felt the need to “meet and be around more people of colour”. This led him to hopping on buses to attend James Brown’s and Jackie Wilson’s concerts in Denver, to moving to New York and then Los Angeles and finally to his first trip to Tanzania in 1970. He had discovered Pan African cinema by accident, when chancing into a movie theatre playing Marcel Camus’s Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus, 1959).1. With a small group of like-minded people, he founded PAFF in 1992.

One of the key issues for festival such as PAFF is to strike a balance between their insertion in the culture of the greater Los Angeles area, and their ties to a specific, in this case even geographically determined, community. A minor setback: the decision to host the Opening Night at the DGA brought mixed results, as the theatre was not entirely full. I am not sure if it was due to a modest outreach and publicity budget, or if Crenshaw residents simply didn’t bother to drive a few miles westward and northward. The film chosen for the night, King of the Dancehall, had garnered sympathetic but not wildly enthusiastic reviews from its world premiere in Toronto. The sophomore directorial effort of 36 year-old rapper/comedian/recently divorced husband of Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon (after his ill-fated 2014 comedy School Dance), the film follows just-released jailbird Tarzan (Cannon) who, to cover the medical expenses of his long-suffering mother (a minimal performance by Whoopi Goldberg), decides to get involved in a major drug deal with his cousin All Star Toasta (an engaging performance by rapper Busta Rhymes) in the mean streets and alluring shores of Jamaica. No need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the drug deal will go sour, but what Tarzan discovers is the authentic sub-culture of Kingston dancehalls… especially when he realises that winning big at a dance contest is the only way to get out of his financial troubles with the bad boys. His Ariadne is Maya (newcomer Kimberly Patterson), the beautiful daughter of the local bishop (veteran actor Lou Gossett Jr.) and Toasta’s sister-in-law (don’t ask why) and a dancehall queen (again, don’t ask). She teaches him her best moves which he copies in the hope of “entering the castle” (actual dialogue of the film) and soon becomes better than her (of course!), which allows him to display the rippling muscles of his torso and delight his fans of all ages and gender persuasions. Then appears The Bitch, Kaydeen (Krisha Turner) and Tarzan’s muscular flesh temporarily experiences the weakness befalling all men, and so shit ensues, for the lightly-clad beauty is the daughter of a white gangster kingpin and the sister of a murderous thug intent on avenging her honour (“he wouldn’t sleep with me!”). The Harder They Come it ain’t, but, for all its silliness, the film is eminently watchable and entertaining. In the groove and beat of the dancehall, these beautiful young people become stars, gyrating and sweating their moves as if there was no tomorrow – and indeed, for some, tomorrow will never come. Cannon and his talented, Caribbean-born DP Luis Pancho Perez are clearly in love with the culture, the mood, the space, the landscape, the energy, and their love is contagious.

The second major challenge that – not unlike Asian American media arts organisations, or women’s film festivals, for example – PAFF faces in its 25 anniversary, is the co-optation of Pan African cinema by better-funded, more mainstream presenting organisations. There were quite a few African American films at Sundance this year2 and relatively little overlap with PAFF: Stanley Nelson’s newest archival footage documentary (always a staple for both events), Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities and Sabaah Folayan/Damon Davis’s Whose Streets?, an angry meditation on the killing of Mike Brown by the police in Ferguson, and its aftermath.

Wùlu: The Dream of the Drug-Runner

Overlaps start happening more and more with the AFI FEST Presented by Audi, and this year it was Daouda Coulibali’s Wùlu – one of the most exciting narrative features to come out of West Africa of late (winner of the Special Jury Recognition for Narrative Feature). It is also a hybrid cultural product. On the one hand the African touch is present in its title (Wùlu, “the dog” in Bambara, is the fifth stage of a rite of passage allowing to find one’s own place in the world) and clearly recognisable through its renderings of the landscapes and the social contradictions (opposition between the bush and the city) of a country experiencing the growing pains of the second or third stage of post-colonial mutations (Tuareg rebellion, incursion of Islam fundamentalism, then 2012 military coup in Mali). From this point of view, one scene stands out: while a couple of his drug-running buddies are lying dead on the ground, the protagonist, Ladji (Ibrahim Koma) has an almost tender encounter with a little boy that appears seemingly out of the thick vegetation of the bush. In this moment, two temporalities intersect: the warm, traditional way Africans used to relate to each other, and the brutal dislocation brought about by modernity and post-colonial disorder.

Pan African Film Festival 2017


Ladji, a young, poor driver of passenger vans, has a close, almost incestuous bond with his sister, Aminata (singer Inna Modja); when he comes home to the shack he is sharing with her, he is distressed to have to kick out the last john she has been entertaining to survive. Aminata – the longest and most significant relationship in Ladji’s life, in spite of a lovely, yet ill-fated romance with the well-bred daughter of a powerful (and corrupt) military officer – is clearly damaged by poverty and prostitution. Aminata’s almost touching materialistic desire to live an opulent lifestyle (and, eventually, to pay for sex herself) as well as his own desire to protect her, prompt Ladji to start working for a drug cartel, then to get deeper and deeper into debt and endeavour riskier, better-paid operations. One of them takes him into El Qaeda territory, where he almost loses his life. He can only escape through “protection” from above and rampant corruption – finding himself financially and emotionally entangled in a system from which there may be no way out.

Yet the film’s hybridity is immediately palpable through the dialogue’s mixture of Bambara and French – which reflects the reality of daily life in Bamako. Shot mostly in Senegal (like Abderrahmane Sissako for Timbuktu, Coulibaly found post-coup Mali to be too dangerous a place to shoot) the film is a French-Senegalese production, benefiting from a combination of talents from both sides of the Mediterranean Sea. The DP (Pierre Milon), the editor (Julien Leloup) and the composer (Eric Neveux) are respected professionals with impressive filmographies in French cinema and television; the art director (Papa Mahamoudou Kouyaté), costume designer (Mariam Coulibaly) and co-producer (actor Oumar Sy) have African names. Daouda Coulibaly himself was born in Marseille to Guinean and Malian parents. Born and raised in Paris, actor Ibrahim Koma (who, shortly after PAFF, won the Best Actor Award at the 25th FESPACO) has a solid career in the French film and television industry. Bamako-born singer Inna Modja spends her time between Mali and France, and has been an active advocate against female genital mutilation.3

Does Ngozi Onwurah Dream of Coffee-Coloured Electric Sheep?

A welcome initiative PAFF took to celebrate its 25th Anniversary was to devote an entire section (“Spolight”) to the most significant films it has shown in the previous two decades – a sort of primer about what had made African American audiences vibrate during that time. Patterns emerged. I was delighted to have the opportunity to revisit the work of Ngozi Onwurah – which I had caught piecemeal throughout the years, missing some important links in the process. Born in Nigeria and raised in the UK, Onwurah now lives in Los Angeles with her husband DP Alwin H. Küchler – so she was at hand to discuss some of her films, which was a blessing. Of the 16 films she directed between 1988 and 2006, PAFF showed 5 of the most influential. In 1988, Onwurah had burst onto the scene with her first short, Coffee-Coloured Children (made with her brother, Simon, who has remained a faithful collaborator), an experimental delving into her identity as the child of a Nigerian father and a British mother. Fleeing Nigerian Civil War, Marge Onwurah had returned to the UK with her children, and experienced much prejudice. The film starts with the ugly picture of a skinhead picking up dog poop to smear on their door, with the inscription “Monkeys Eat Shit.” It unfolds like an ominous fairy tale, with dolls, role playing, elements of storytelling, and continues to haunt us with the image of a little black girl in her bathtub, scraping her skin to get rid of “the dirt”, convinced that it was “her fault” that her mother suffered so much. “White-skin children don’t have a mother whose door is smeared with dog shit.”

Pan African Film Festival 2017

Coffee Colored Children

Following the 1981 Brixton race riots, the UK cultural scene was experiencing a sort of Renaissance, which benefited experimental and independent cinema in the black community – with the founding of Channel 4 in 1982, the famed Black British Workshops (Black Audio Film Collective, Sankofa Film and Video Collective, and Ceddo Film and Video Workshop) and the channelling of resources through the Greater London Council – so the times were ripe for Onwurah’s work, combined with the new wave of feminist/post-colonial awareness in the Anglo-Saxon world, to have a major impact. Borrowing its title from Maya Angelou’s third volume of poetry 4, her second film, And Still I Rise (1991), is a significant, sometimes angry political statement, decoding the representations of black women and their sexuality (an object of fascination, curiosity and fear) as they appear in mainstream media – from images of slaves to beauty magazines – and proposing an alternative, by giving the floor to many different black women (some noted activists), their multifarious experiences, their struggle for empowerment.

At the time, Onwurah was also working as a fashion model, so she was particularly interested in the way the black female body is read, consumed and bartered. Still in 1991, she directed a third short film, The Body Beautiful (not shown at PAFF), which ends up on a beautiful picture of herself lying next to her white mother who had recently undergone a mastectomy. In 1993, Onwurah accepted an anthropological commission from the BBC that allowed her to film in a Nigerian village, and, while containing some problematic, unresolved aspects, the 50-minute long Monday’s Girls is one of her most fascinating works. Monday is an elderly woman whose role is to guide the local teenage girls through their rites of passage to womanhood. The girls are kept in “fattening rooms” for five weeks, served delicious meals by their families, heavy copper coils around their legs to slow down their movements and alluring, complex patterns painted over their faces. Part of the ritual involves showing their naked breasts to the entire village, so their virginity can be clearly established.

While most of the girls are happy to participate – with the hope that the ritual will allow them to find a good husband – Onwurah captures the tradition at a moment of crisis. A young woman, Akisiye, a talented musician, returns from the city to take part in the ceremony, but finds herself unwilling to bare her breasts for the community onlookers, so she refuses to continue. This brings great shame to her family, especially her father who has to pay a heavy fine – and is quite angry at her daughter’s disobedience. Akisiye returns to the city, and what may happen to her (will she be excluded from the community, from her family?) is unclear. Made for a British audience, Monday’s Girls betrays its ambivalence toward the ritual (is it oppressive to women? is it important to keep ancestral traditions alive?) by the use of a voiceover that feels a bit dated. Yet, as an anthropological document made in the 1990s, it is a sensitive, intelligent reflection on what womanhood and growing up female mean in a Nigerian rural community – and it sheds an unexpected light on the condition of women outside our comfort zone.

Pan African Film Festival 2017

Welcome II The Terrodome

With Welcome II the Terrordome (1994), Onwurah made history: this was the first Black British feature directed by a woman to be commercially released, as well as a noted foray into Afrofuturism. Rooted in the science-fiction of African American authors such as Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler, as well as the music of Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Afrofuturism has been alluringly described as “dark matter moving at the speed of light” or “the centring of the international black experience in alternate and imagined realities”.5. In Welcome II the Terrordome, Onwurah plunges into its essence: the sense of dislocation inherent in the experience of the Middle Passage6, and the desire to bridge the past with the future, coining a new mythology that plunges its roots in a very ancient one. The film starts with a re-creation of the “primal scene” of the Ibo Landing. In May 1803, about 75 chained slaves of the Ibo (or Igbo) tribe from Nigeria were shipped on a small boat heading toward St. Simons Island, in Georgia. A mutiny started; the Ibo threw the slave owners overboard and eventually grounded the boat at Dunbar Creek (now called Ibo Landing). Then, as legend as it, they walked, singing, toward the marsh and committed collective suicide rather than serving as slaves. Considered the first freedom march in America, Ibo Landing has acquired a mythological value, tinged with belief of Africans walking on water to return to their home continent, or experiencing a rebirth after drowning in deep water.

The opening sequence of the film shows a small group of slaves – a woman (Suzette Llewellyn, a British actress/activist, who already appeared in And Still I Rise) with a young son (Ben Wynter), and a few other slaves watched by a young white plantation owner and his wife (Saffron Burrows). The latter is covertly looking at one of the young men in chains (Valentine Nonyela, who also produced the film). Even though the scene is supposed to take place in 1652, it does reproduce the Ibo Landing myth, with the slaves quietly walking to their death.

Jump to a dystopian future, in which the black population is contained within a ghetto rife with violence, poverty, drugs and police brutality. The protagonists of the prologue reappear: Llewellyn is now Anjela McBride, who lives in the Terrordome with her son Hector, her husband Black Rad (Felix Joseph) and her brother Spike (Nonyela). The latter is involved with a white woman, Jodie (Burrows), pregnant with him while fleeing an abusive relationship with a skinhead, Jason (Jason Traynor, who played a slave overseer in the prologue). The slave hand (Brian Bovell) becomes a black police officer patrolling the ghetto and victimizing his own people, in sync with some of the most pungent lyrics of the Public Enemy song from which the film borrow its title:

Every brother ain’t a brother cause a Black hand
Squeezed on Malcolm X the man
The shooting of Huey Newton
From a hand of a Nig who pulled the trig
. 7

In a feat of racist jealousy over Jodie and Spike’s relationship, Jason alerts the cops who end up chasing Hector and the kid jumps to his death. While Anjela is mad with grief, Jason and his buddies beat up Jodie so badly that she has a miscarriage. Refusing to take Jodie to the hospital because of her indirect responsibility in Hector’s death, Anjela takes Black Rad’s gun and starts shooting cops. Arrested, she is sentenced to death. The ghetto explodes in a psychedelic deluge of throbbing, incandescent lights and the syncopated rhythms of rap tunes.

Shot with a limited budget, and attacked in England at the time of its commercial release, Welcome II the Terrordome remains a salient example of the political implications of Afrofuturism, as well as a potent expression of black rage. Public Enemy’s lyrics also alluded to the killing of 16 year-old Yusef Hawkins by a mob of angry young white men in the Bensonhurst neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Hector’s death in Onwurah’s film foreshadows the countless killings of young black men that have occurred in the last 20 years and have prompted the movement “Black Lives Matter”.

The surprise for me was Onwurah’s next feature, which had until then escaped my radar, Shoot The Messenger (2006). It stars a young David Oyelowo (the British actor of Nigerian descent who became famous for his work with Ava DuVernay, especially his role as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, 2014). A courageous, original take on racial self-hatred, Messenger is a sort of subdued, intimate and self-reflexive – but no less pungent – counterpoint to Terrordome. A young IT professional, Joseph Pascale decides to leave a lucrative job to teach impoverished black kids. Unprepared for the seeping violence, distrust of authority and truancy that reigns in the classroom, Joseph tries to impose authoritarian methods that fail, and enters in an open conflict with one of the students, Germal (Charles Mnene). To get revenge, the latter accuses him of having hit him, and exhibits wounds to prove it. At first sceptical, the school authorities finally let Joseph go after a disastrous radio program during which a civil rights activist (Brian Bovell) publicly accuses him of being “a Ku Klux Klansman with a black face.”

Joseph plunges into depression, is hospitalised, then become homeless upon his release, all the time harbouring a deep hatred for black people, which he expresses in sizzling monologues addressed to the camera, breaking the fourth wall. His road to recovery is a long, fractured one (Shoot the Messenger is no fairytale), and involves a religious old lady who finds him in the street and takes him to her home, a sympathetic social worker who becomes a lover for a while (Nikki Amuka-Bird), a job as an employment counsellor, where he meets a disenfranchised Germal, and a day in court. All the while, though, in particular in his personal relationships (he has a knack for alienating the people who care for him, suspecting them of ulterior motives if they are the “blacks” he has come to hate), Joseph is his worst enemy. Individual salvation, while possible, won’t solve the problem, which is systemic.

A Dream in Leimert Park: Horace Tapscott

Winner of the Audience Award for Feature Documentary, there was one film that was 100% at home at PAFF: Horace Tapscott Musical Griot. Decades in the making, this is not only LA Rebellion luminary Barbara McCullough’s first film in more than 30 years (in-between she worked for Hollywood F/X firms, taught in an art school in Georgia and raised three children) and her first feature, it is also an homage to a beloved figure of the Crenshaw/Leimert Park cultural scene.

Pan African Film Festival 2017

Horace Tapscott Musical Griot

Born in New Orleans in a family of musicians, McCullough studied filmmaking at UCLA, where her classmates were other black women who have since left their marks as filmmakers, curators, educators or activists – Julie Dash, Alile Sharon Larkin, O. Funmilayo Makarah and Carroll Parrott Blue – and her mentors Charles Burnett, Haile Gerima, Billy Woodberry as well as Shirley Clarke. In 1979, exploring the relationship between black women’s bodies and Afro-centrist rituals, she directed a 16mm b/w short, Water Ritual # 1: An Urban Rite of Purification, that has remained an oft-shown classic. Then she segued in documentaries about other black artists, all the time (starting as early as 1977) accumulating footage about Tapscott.

Born in Houston, Texas in 1934, Tapscott started to play the piano at age 6. His family relocated to Los Angeles when he was 9; in the film he recounts that, on their way from Union Station, they stopped at Central Avenue and 41st (then one of the centres of “great black music”) so he could “meet my new music teacher, before I could find out where I was going to live,” – such was his family’s, especially his mother’s, commitment to music. Soon he got involved in the Black Musicians Union, Local 767. As a teenager, he performed with Frank Morgan, Don Cherry and Billy Higgins. Enthusiastically recognised as a musical genius by aficionados, Tapscott is not as well known as other “jazz greats” – because at some point he made the commitment to stay inside the community (like his mentor, Samuel Brown), to train young musicians, and to ensure that the legacy would remain alive in the neighbourhood. In 1961, he founded the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (named as an homage to Sun Ra) and continued to lead the ensemble until his death in 1999.

McCullough’s original approach is to find a form of storytelling matching what Tapscot brought to American musical culture. The film opens on a title explaining the meaning of the word “griot”: In West African societies, a story-teller charged with maintaining legacies, histories, knowledge and traditions in oral form – and continues on images of this other example of genuine African American creation, the Watts Towers. Combining sequences she had directed with footage of interviews gathered through the years, she does not offer a linear or “authorised” biography; she does not explain, comment, justify. She aims at getting at the core of what made Tapscott’s greatness: his performative aspects, his relationship to a listening audience, his elegant, cool delivery, the way he handled his body, his image, his laughter, his hands on the piano. She gives him the floor, he is griot. In front of audiences, at The Village Vanguard, in Meet the Composer, in a radio recording studio, in an interview with cultural critic Greg Tate, he talks, recounts, tells stories, conveys his love for music, his belief in a black aesthetics, his family sacrifices so that he can “pursue the blues”, his struggles to keep his dignity in a segregated society, he talks of Black Liberation and the Watts riots. And of course, a huge part of his story telling is done through his hands on the piano, in concerts whose generous excerpts figure prominently in the film – as an intrinsic part of its narrative texture, not as mere illustrations.

Remaining off-screen, McCullough lets her voice be heard only at two key moments. First she asks Tapscott if there was something else he could have done with his life? No, music is the only thing, really. Unless (smile) under other social circumstances (hear: if he had been raised in a middle-class family), he could have been interested in becoming an architect. Designing spaces for people to live in (but isn’t that what music does?). And then (more smiles) being a truck driver could have been cool. Access to unlimited space again. Her second question is posed toward the end: “Is there something inside you that just says ‘Do this’?” In a breathtaking moment, Tapscott smilingly refers to no other than a “demon” (as an echo to the daimonion that once inspired Socrates) but immediately reframes it within African tradition: “and that demon there… more or less advises… ancestral kind of people… the point is that you try to get it over… you can get it over… musically.”

He never quite “got over it.” As McCullough writes at the end of the film, he finally “joined the celestial Arkestra” in 1999. Great musicians don’t die, they just float in the air.

African Dreams in South China

The most original documentary of the Festival was Guangzhou Dream Factory directed by Christiane Badgley and produced by Erica Marcus, two women with top-notch credentials in socially conscious media and reporting. There had been a few attempts to make a film about the African community in Guangzhou. In 2012, ace documentary filmmaker Zhao Dayong completed Jiao Tang (My Father’s House), a sort of extended conversation with two Nigerian pastors that run an underground church for both Chinese and Africans – while also involving in import-export business between the Chinese Delta and Nigeria, and facing persecution from the Chinese government. The team of San Francisco-based Chinese-American filmmakers Ruby Yang and Lambert Lam has been working at raising funding for their project Chocolate City GZ. Yet hybridity is not an easy task to manage. Chinese nationals are relatively unused to dealing with African immigrants, and the latter are (for the time being) more interested in surviving and escaping deportation than in documenting their own community. Maybe an external point of view was needed – and this was the challenge met by Badgley and Marcus. They turn their investigation into an African story – and this is why the film belonged in PAFF. Having visited Ghana, on and off, for the last 25 years, Badgley starts the film there, wondering why is it impossible to find products manufactured locally (knives, textiles, clothes, etc…) on Ghanaian markets. Everything is “Made in China”. Because it’s cheaper to import these goods than to manufacture them at home, an ancillary industry of middle men (and women) has developed, travelling back and forth with heavy suitcases between the South of China and African countries. In this new geopolitical order, Africa is suffering at two levels. Her factories are closing, manufacturing jobs are getting scarce (the other side of the story, documented in films such as Hubert Saupert’s Nous Venons en amis/We Come as Friends, 2014, is the building of factories in Africa by Chinese corporations). Then the pressure for the African population to emigrate is even greater – complexifying the issues of boarders, national and diasporic identity.

Pan African Film Festival 2017

Guangzhou Dream Factory. Photo: Christiane Badgley

The African neighbourhood in Guangzhou is a noisy, bustling, coloured melting pot – where, in cramped quarters, people from various African countries (with a high number of Nigerians) elbow other immigrants (such as East Indians) and Chinese nationals. The textiles, clothes and artefacts known all over the world as “African” are manufactured there – by African artisans well-versed in what is going to be the rage on the markets of their hometowns. They sometimes collaborate with Chinese businessmen – even though the latter admit that the work habits of the two communities, even their sense of time, are miles apart. Their situation is precarious, as visas have to be renewed periodically and, considering the presence of such a large African enclave as “a problem”, Chinese authorities have been cracking down on foreigners, forcing many people to return home or to find their way to Hong Kong. Children are born, African boys and girls sent to Chinese schools, a few kids from mixed marriages – all facing issues of linguistic, cultural and social integration, all with an uncertain future.

Human traffickers are also hard at work – with the same old stories. Women brought under the false pretext of a job waiting for them, ending up in faraway provinces, or worse, in prostitution. One is still remembering the anonymous young hooker who was found dead in her little room, with a baby at her side. Nobody knows who she was, so the baby had no identity.

Following the tropes of a well-made NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) educational documentary, the film’s voiceover (a first-person account by Badgley) sometimes pulls you out a bit from the space of the film, but is also personable. The filmmakers open up to a plurality of voices – African and Chinese, men and women – and to the attractive mess, the kaleidoscopic collage of sound, music, body languages, spatial configurations, clothes and colours that the Guangzhou African enclave érepresents. This is a film posited on the cusp on another major shift in international exchange of goods, services and personal – one whose future is still unwritten. In Guangzhou Dream Factory more questions are posed than answered – which is a courageous stance.

Pan African Film Festival
9-20 February 2017
Festival website: https://www.paff.org



  1. Information and Ayuko Babu’s quotes from Afro Style Mag team: “Ayuko Babu, the Driving Force behind the Pan African Film Festival”, Afro Style Mag, 2013. Accessed May 28, 2017: http://www.afrostylemag.com/ASM8/babu.php
  2. See my report in Senses, “Sundance 2017: http://sensesofcinema.com/2017/festival-reports/sundance-2017/
  3. For more information about Wùlu, see: Christopher Vourlias, “French-Malian Director Daouda Coulibaly on His ‘Scarface’-Like Thriller ‘Wùlu’.” Variety, November 4, 2016, accessed May 29, 2017: http://variety.com/2016/film/global/french-malian-director-daouda-coulibaly-on-his-scarface-like-thriller-wulu-1201909639/ and Stephen A. Russell, “Musician turned movie star Inna Modja sings out loud”, SBS, March 9, 2017, accessed May 29, 2017: http://www.sbs.com.au/movies/article/2017/03/09/musician-turned-movie-star-inna-modja-sings-out-loud.
  4. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, New York: Random House, 1978. The collection contains the poem “Still I Rise”:

    You may write me down in history 
    With your bitter, twisted lies, 
    You may trod me in the very dirt 
    But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 

    Does my sassiness upset you? 
    Why are you beset with gloom? 
    ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells 
    Pumping in my living room. 

    Just like moons and like suns, 
    With the certainty of tides, 
    Just like hopes springing high, 
    Still I’ll rise. 

    Did you want to see me broken? 
    Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 
    Weakened by my soulful cries. 

    Does my haughtiness offend you? 
    Don’t you take it awful hard 
    ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines 
    Diggin’ in my own back yard. 

    You may shoot me with your words, 
    You may cut me with your eyes, 
    You may kill me with your hatefulness, 
    But still, like air, I’ll rise. 

    Does my sexiness upset you? 
    Does it come as a surprise 
    That I dance like I’ve got diamonds 
    At the meeting of my thighs? 

    Out of the huts of history’s shame 
    I rise 
    Up from a past that’s rooted in pain 
    I rise 
    I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, 
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. 
    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear 
    I rise 
    Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear 
    I rise 
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, 
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise

  5. Ashley Clark: “Afrofuturism on Film: Five of the Best”, The Guardian Film blog, April 2, 2015, accessed May 29, 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2015/apr/02/afrofuturism-on-film-five-best-brooklyn-bamcinematek
  6. Term used to describe the transoceanic journey between Europe, Africa and the Americas, taken by the slave ships in the triangular trade.
  7. From Public Enemy’s 1990 album: Fear of a Black Planet.

About The Author

Bérénice Reynaud is the author of New Chinas/New Cinemas (1999) and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness (2002). She teaches at the California Institute of the Arts. She edited the Senses of Cinema dossier devoted to Chantal Akerman.

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