Category Archives: Film

The ‘Diversity Test’: Is the London LGBT Film Festival a white-only affair?

The ‘Diversity Test’: Is the London LGBT Film Festival a white-only affair? by Christina Fonthes

Rag Tag (2006) directed by Adaora Nwandu
Rag Tag (2006) directed by Adaora Nwandu

Now in its 28th year, the highly-anticipated London Lesbian Gay Film Festival returned to the Southbank this year boasting a new name:  BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival.

The festival, which is headed by the British Film Institute (BFI), is one of the longest running festivals of its kind in the world, and is much-loved by Queer folk and cinephiles alike. This year’s festival-goers were treated to three gala films -Hong Khaou’s Lilting; Sophie Hyde’s 52 Tuesdays; and Antonio Hen’s The Last Match -, over 50 feature films from 20 countries, as well as a number of expositions and panel discussions.

The head of BFI’s Cinemas and Festivals, Australian-born Claire Stewart, said the rename was to

“reflect the increasing diversity of the programme and the people who identify with and embrace it”.

Alarm bells immediately set off whenever I hear that one of our formidable British institutions decides to be more ‘diverse’. The term diversity’ is usually followed by words such as ‘multicultural’, ‘celebrate’, ‘embrace’, ‘heritage’, ‘inclusive’, ‘equality’and other mundane and unoriginal terms and phrases that have been recycled so much by politicians, the media and arts organisations that they have become meaningless.

The festival received criticism for removing the words ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ from the name, and has been accused of appealing to a straighter and younger audience. As a black queer woman, the biggest qualm, for me, remains the issue of race. From the organisational structure to the audience that attend the screenings, the festival is, and always has been, a celebration of white Queer culture.

The ‘Diversity Test’

Out of the 122 features, shorts and archive films that were screened at the festival, only six have two or more (named) main characters that are black:

  • The Abominable Crime – a documentary exploring homophobia in Jamaica
  • Veil of Silence – a documentary exploring homophobia in Nigeria
  • Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles – a moving document of a community vigil for Islan Nettles, a victim of transphobia
  • Born This Way – a documentary about homophobia in Cameroon
  • Fashion Girls – a documentary about a group of gay men and transwomen in Brazil talking about their lives and their dance troupe
  • Big Words – a feature film about a group of black American men who used to be in a hip-hop band

And of the six films, four are about black homophobia/transphobia, and two are about black people singing and dancing.

From this short list, it is safe to say that the BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival is inline with the mainstream media’s agenda to keep black faces invisible. And like with all the other media organisations in the UK, when it comes to the representation of black people on screen – the representation we have become so accustomed to it seems, at times, futile to challenge it – we are presented with the same one-dimensional images of black people who are either engaged in violence and criminal activity or entertaining (through the mediums of sports and music) – the latter usually being within the form of dancing or singing/rapping to Hip Hop and/or RnB music accompanied by images of hypermasculine men and over- sexualised women.

The LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community are not exempt from racism (be it institutional or otherwise), and the conversation about stereotypes and the limited narrative of black people must also include them. To me, it comes as no surprise that less than five per cent of the festival’s films featured black people; but is worth noting that the invisibility of black queer faces and voices within LGBT spaces fuel the stereotype that black queers do not exist and that all black people are homophobic.

Film is a powerful medium for raising awareness of social and political issues, and whilst it is extremely important to highlight the homophobic and transphobic violence that occurs within black communities, it is just as important to ask why it is that the only narratives about black queers are centred around black homophobia/transphobia and violence.

The under-representation of black people at the festival, and within the wider context of queer cinema, says that black queer lives are not significant enough to document. I ask: where are the short films about our first same-sex school crushes? Where are the comedies about our coming-out experiences? Where are the dramas about being turned away from nightclubs because the bouncers do not think black people are gay? Where are our biopics? Where are our films about suicide, depression, sex, love, romance and friendship? Where are the insights into bisexuality, polyamory and gender-non-conforming identities?

Difficult Love by Zanele Muholi
Difficult Love by Zanele Muholi

Funding and the ‘White Saviour Complex’

The lack of representation and the misrepresentation of black queers can be attributed to two key factors: first, the lack of funding and fiscal sponsors; black filmmakers (both queer and non-queer) struggle to secure funding from sources that are easily accessed by their white counterparts. Of the few films that are out there, the majority have a black cast and a white production. The recent wave of cutbacks from the government and arts organisations will no doubt contribute to this problematic situation.

The second factor is the White Saviour Complex - although the term was originally used to refer to white Americans, its characteristics can also be applied to white British people. The white saviour complex allows the white LGBT community to view black queers not as equals facing homophobia but as an ‘other’, an oppressed people who need to be saved. This is illustrated in the news and media coverage of the anti-LGBT laws and policies that were recently introduced by Nigeria and Uganda, which differed immensely to the coverage of the draconian laws introduced in Russia. The latter is presented as a modern country whose harsh laws call for international support and solidarity with Russian LGBT people, whilst the other nations are presented as barbaric, backwards and in need of help.

As Britain and America continue to hold themselves up as the beacons of civilisation and the LGBT voice of reason, we ought to remember that same-sex marriage was only made legal last month in the UK. And, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and several other states in America have always had anti-LGBT laws and policies identical to those recently introduced in Nigeria and Uganda.

The need for collaboration and solidarity

In twenty years time when black queer youth are trying to find images and representations of themselves, they will Google ‘black gay films’, and the only thing that will come up will be films about violence and homophobia/transphobia. They will not know about studs and femmes; they will not know that Angela Davis and Bayard Rustin, two great leaders of the civil rights movement, were queer. They will not know about the plethora of black queer night clubs in the streets of London; they will not know of the work of fine art photographer Ajamu or his ‘Fierce: Portraits of young black queers’

Nor will they know of the music of Angolan transgender artist Titica and American rapper Leif.

Audre Lorde’s revolutionary phrase:

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change”

should be the mantra of all black writers, creatives and activists. It would be irresponsible of us to leave it up to organisations like the BFI, who deemed it appropriate to host a prison-themed after party, to have more representations of positive black queer and non-queer experiences. At best, all they can offer is tokenistic gestures. The only real way to challenge the absence of black queer stories and the over-representation of white male narratives is by pooling resources and collaborating and supporting one another in order to create, publish and distribute our own stories.


Christina Fonthes is a Manchester-based translator, and Afrofeminist blogger. Born in Kinshasa, Congo and raised in London, she is an advocate for LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) rights. She is  a founding member of Rainbow Noir, a safe space created for and by Queer People of Colour in Manchester. Christina is a regular contributor at Black Feminists Manchester She can be found on Twitter at @CongoMuse and Musings of a Congolese Lesbian blog .  Also see her article British Film and Television: Where Are All The Black Gays?


***This article is published with the permission of the author and was first published on Media Diversified

A Veil of Silence [Video]


The Veil of Silence produced by the TIER and directed by Habeeb Lawal documents the experience of sexual minorities in Nigeria and discusses issues of sexual citizenship, violence and stigma.

On the brink of an impending law that could re-write their destinies, young groups of sexual minorities in Nigeria defy all odds in the pursuit of happiness. In the midst of all, their strength, resilience, vulnerability are brought to fore in this informative and mind-blowing documentary.

A few of the many men and women who appear in the documentary as themselves, sharing their personal experiences and opinions on the subject, include Ayo Sogunro, Ifeanyi Orazuike, Dorothy Aken’ova, Abayomi Aka, and Valentine Crown Tunbi.

Isiphiwo Sami – An exploration of Black Queers in SA [Video]

Isiphiwo Sami a short film by Zanele Muholi – an exploration  of Black Queers in SA (Beauties)… Queerizing Public Spaces.  Produced in Durban in 2013, an exchange between black trans/ femme gay identifying persons from Durban and Johannesburg.

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo [Film]

Indiegogo Fund Raiser for “The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo

We are waiting for this film, we want this film, lets help get this film made – Donate Here

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo explores the artistic contributions of one of Africa’s foremost woman writers, a trailblazer for an entire generation of exciting new talent, including internationally acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie. The publication of The Dilemma of a Ghost in 1965 at the age of 25 made Aidoo the first published African woman playwright. In Anowa (1970), she demonstrated her courage by addressing slavery, a very sensitive topic even today in Ghana. Her most recent work is Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories.

Ama Ata Aidoo
Ama Ata Aidoo

The film follows Aidoo over a course of a year during which she travels to her ancestral village in the Central Region of Ghana and is feted at a Festschrift orqanized by friends and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then attends the premier of her seminal play about the local African experiences of the slave trade, Anowa, performed by UCSB Theater.

This hour-long documentary locates the multi-textured variety of Aidoo’s writing in an historical and cultural context, and charts her pivotal journey through moments of inspiration in a life that spans seven decades, from colonial Ghana through the tumultuous era of independence, to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women’s creative talent remains as difficult as ever.

This documentary celebrates Aidoo and her work and brings it to new audiences in a way that will inspire future generations.

Who we are: We are a team. Director/Producer is Yaba Badoe an award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer based in the UK. Her latest film, The Witches of Gambaga, won the 2010 Best Documentary Award at the Black International Film Festival 2010 and the 2nd Prize, Documentaries at FESPACO 2011, and was nominated for the One World Media Award, Best Documentary in 2012. Producer is Amina Mama, one of Africa’s leading activist feminist scholars. She founded the journal Feminist Africa, has taught courses in African cinema, co-produced The Witches of Gambaga, and is currently on the faculty of Women and Gender Studies at University of California, Davis. Margo Okazawa-Rey, a feminist scholar activist, is Associate Producer and leading this campaign.
What We Need & What You Get

Courageous. Controversial. Compelling. Truth-teller. Ama Ata Aidoo is a poet, novelist, and feminist. Women make up fewer than 10% of the world’s film directors, so it’s a struggle to tell the story of any woman, especially an African woman. So we are asking you to help us raise $45,000 to tell Aidoo’s story, the fascinating tale of an iconic writer whose work both captures the specificities of history, culture, and geography and transcends them.

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo is almost there. After two years of fundraising, excitement, negotiation, and filming on location in Ghana and California, the good news is that we’re half-way through the journey and we need your help. We are trying to raise $45,000 (two-thirds of the budget) here on Indiegogo. The money you help us raise will pay post-production costs: editing, music clearances, colour grading, and a sound dub. We are confident that the final 1/3 of the budget will be raised from organizational donors like the African Women’s Development Fund and the Global Fund for Women.

When you donate, you will be acknowledged on the Donor Wall of our website and receive project updates. In addition, you can receive a signed postcard, t-shirt, limited edition DVD, Aidoo’s books, and other memorable perks.

Tey, a film by Alain Gomis: From Senegal to Haiti, timelessness and spirituality remain the same


Tey, [Today] a film directed by Alain Gomis which opens  in NYC on Oct 6 at Mist Harlem,  won the Golden Stallion Prize for the best film at the  2013 FESPACO  in Burkina Faso.    The film has now been formally submitted as Senegal’s entry to the 2014 Academy Awards.  Haitian blogger and researcher, Alice Backer tweeted me with details of a discussion on the film between herself, star of the film, Saul Williams, Guetty Félin from Belle Moon Productions [distributors], and Alexandra Salazar of Creatively Speaking On Air. You can listen to the discussion here.

Briefly the synopsis of the film..

In a tradition where death warns its arrival, Tey recounts the journey of one man’s last day on earth. The role is Saul William’s first lead since SLAM, fifteen years ago. Despite scant dialogue, Williams, acclaimed African American poet, writer, musician and performance artist, brilliantly plays Satché — a man determined to bid a transcendent farewell to his community, family, friends, lover, and wife .

Tey is a powerful fairy tale. In a village outside Dakar, the gods, the stars, or destiny, have spoken — Satché must die by the end of the day. A countdown to his transition, it is a reverse journey to birth – a joyous celebration feted by his community, as if he were a saint. Chosen to disappear, Satché soon finds himself set apart from those closest to him, in beautiful scenes that seek to show those elements of friendship, desire, sadness, affection and anger that are usually left unsaid.

Satché’s journey from the U.S. back to his native Senegal mirrors director Alain Gomis’ own personal story. Born in France to a French mother and Senegalese father, Gomis says about Tey: “For me it’s a voyage… The film was shot in Dakar, this city I love, where I come from… I want(ed) to create suspense with simple moments… an adventure, a film about reconciliation with death — it’s a dream of life.” [From Press Statement]


Alice and I had a brief email exchange where I asked a number of questions on Haiti’s connection  to the film and Senegal as well as her own personal relationship with Senegal in particular and Africa in general.  As a Nigerian living in Haiti, I wanted to know why so many Haitians are working on releasing the film in the US..

SE: Have you observed any connections between the two countries in the film.

AB: There is no difference aesthetically between the streets of Dakar and the Port-au-Prince I grew up in. The hustle and bustle, the colors of the people and of what they surround themselves with, the cement, the layout of the markets, the headscarves of the women are the same.
But much beyond that, the timelessness and spirituality are the same. The notion that there are higher forces beyond humans, whether energies, gods, spirits, the ancestors or nature that we must be in harmony with. Community is almost a character in the film. Gomis conveys well that sense that we have in our African traditions whether on the continent or in Haiti that family and individual must be in harmony. An African or Afrodescendant divorced from his/her root will loose his/her way. Satché bows to the ultimate end because it is foretold by forces greater than him that he knows look out for the whole.  As a result, he and the community both celebrate that prophecy and he is treated like a god. In this film, death, like birth is announced and celebrated. I often hear African Americans use the word “transition” and I suspect that is the reason.


SE: What is your own personal involvement with the film, I recall sometime ago you were working in  Gabon?

I was tapped to help bring the film to its natural audience because of my personal and professional connections to so many elements of the film. My parents and I are Haitian but my formative years were spent in the Congo before my family moved back to Haiti when I was 5.

So I lived in the Congo before I lived in Haiti. My father was born in Haiti but died in the Congo at 42, having been exiled from Haiti for standing up for the whole.  There is something akin to Satché’s story there. My brother lives in Senegal and through his  Facebook updates, I look at the place every day.  Guetty Félin of Belle Moon Productions may not have known  all that but she and I had met before and she knew that I had covered Francophone African blogs for Global Voices Online and that having been raised in Haiti, I speak French.

Michelle Materre of Creatively Speaking has been a mentor for 20 years. I first met her when she recruited me as an intern on the US distribution of  Raoul Peck’s film Man by the shore. Oh and last but not least, Guetty Félin is Haitian and Michelle Materre and Saul Williams both have Haitian lineage. So anyone’s crystal ball should foresee a screening of this film in Haiti at some point down the line.

The social media campaign I conducted in Gabon during the 2009 presidential elections marked my first return to the continent of Africa since leaving it at 5. Africa never leaves me. How could it? It’s in my DNA.

Behind the scenes of TEY - Director Alain Gomis with lead actor Saul Williams.
Behind the scenes of TEY – Director Alain Gomis with lead actor Saul Williams.

The connections Alice makes between Haiti and Senegal are familiar. Haiti is possibly the only country in the African Diaspora that continues a visibly strong spiritual, cultural, religious, linguistic relationship with the continent. On my first visit to Haiti in 2007, I was struck and emotionally moved by how similar it was to Nigeria, to Lagos or, in terms of size, to Port Harcourt. The streets, the market, the movement of people,  everyone doing something with so much colour and vibrancy.   I still see and feel these everyday as I walk and tap tap myself  around Port-au-Prince and other cities.    But the relationship goes much further and deeper into our common historic roots. As Alice says, Haiti is in Africa and at least [I could safely say] West Africa is in Haiti, through body language, drum rhythms, voudou dance and the way voudou is embedded in the history and everyday life even for those who profess to be christian. Its so much part of the reality in the same way that indigenous religions, gods, spirits and ‘majik’ are in Nigeria.

TEY-Today Trailer for US release.. from Guetty Felin on Vimeo.


The U.S. Premiere of Tey will be held  in NYC at MIST Harlem–Oct 6-13th:  Other events are as follows:
Multi-Award-Winning Film TEY (Today) by Alain Gomis Starring Saul Williams (Slam) Launches its U.S. Theatrical Run
on Sunday, October 6th!
Red Carpet Premiere with Director and Stars in the Heart of Little Senegal

For more details and contacts

Commercial screenings: Guetty Felin Bellemoonproductions AT

Educational Screenings: Alain Kasanda apkas AT

Community screenings: Natalie Teter natalie.tey AT

Screeners, press screenings and interviews: Steffan Horowitz Steffan.tey AT

Media related issues NY: Michelle Materre & Alice Backer: films  AT

Phone contact: 415-375-0670 or 415-935-7013




John Akomfrah on his film “The Stuart Hall Project”

From Derica – Speak, Collaborate, Listen

I came to learn of Stuart Hall in the 1980s London and with him my introduction and understanding of being Black British – not something I ever felt personally but an identity that made sense to my children growing up Black in Britain.  As Akomfrah writes, Stuart Hall was a kind of  ‘rock star – pop icon with brains’ disseminating race and empire…  We were proud, we listened and learned….



“I’ve been making projects on memory for a while now, but this one feels like the one I have been ‘preparing’ for a very long time indeed, possibly all my working life.

In our teenage years, there is always at least one person we meet or see perform or watch on the screen who in that first encounter leaves such an indelible mark on our soul that we end saying to ourselves: “when I grow up, I want be just like that; I want to be that cool, that hip, that confident, that compelling”.

Of course we always change our minds later since this is after all our ‘growing up’ years. But whatever reasons we subsequently give ourselves for our change of mind, for that shift in our thinking, secretly we also know that it usually coincides with the growing realization that we don’t have the talent or the brains or the wherewithal to become that person.

Once we accept we are never going to be exactly like our heroes, something very interesting begins for us because the initial burst of enthusiasm they sparked off, the charismatic example they offered about the purpose and direction one’s own life could take, these remain with you, moulding and shaping one’s expectations and, crucially, what ‘deals’ we end up making with this unfolding thing called life.

For many of my generation in the seventies, Stuart Hall was just such a figure. In those heady, mono – cultural days, he was one of the few people of colour we saw on television who wasn’t crooning, dancing or running. I loved all the athletes and singers and dancers too but when you are a black teenage bookworm in seventies West London, let’s just say a public intellectual of colour disseminating ideas on television offered other more immediate compensations.

Stuart Hall was a kind of rock star for us; a pop icon with brains whose very iconic presence on this most public of platforms – television – suggested all manner of ‘impossible possibilities’. By just being there in our bedrooms and living rooms, he opened up pathways into that space that he has referred as the place of ‘the unfinished conversation‘, that space in which the dialogue between us and the external world begins, that place of identity. With him and through him we begun to ask the indispensable questions of that conversation: who are we, what are we and what could we become.

Throughout the making of The Stuart Hall Project, I’ve thought a lot about this questions of identity and of our ‘debt’ to this man. I’ve also thought a lot about the poignancy of the eulogy delivered at the funeral of Malcolm X by Ossie Davis, especially the section where Davis talks about “the presence of his (Malcolm’s) memory”. And the section I find the most affecting in that eulogy, the one I returned to again and again to the point where it became the organizing motif for this piece, comes at the end when Davis says “.. in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves“.

The presence of memory. What a wonderful way of describing all our lives. And for me, the question of ‘honoring’ begins there; with memory, with uncovering the stems of memory, the ghosts of history, sifting through the debris and detritus of past events for traces of the phantoms. It begins with searching and rummaging through all those itineraries, those collective unfinished conversations that tell us something about how a very bright young Rhodes scholar from colonial Jamaica, became ‘Stuart Hall’.

In understanding him and the movements he shaped and was shaped by, we begin to understand something about how we became what we are: the Suez crisis, the Hungarian revolution , the anti- colonial project, the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, the new Left, feminism, class politics, cultural studies. All these interventions, these unfinished conversations.

And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves. Amen to that.”


Also, a review of “The Unfinished Conversation” the split screen installation that became the feature documentary “The Stuart Hall Project” (now showing in the UK)

Venus Noire – A film about Saartjie Baartman

Via Shadow and Act – The story of Saartjie Baartman [Parts 1 & 2]The film is in French with subtitles but unfortunately I havent had much success in watching it.   I would love to hear from anyone who has seen the film meanwhile a review by Tamara Obenson is published below. The comments on the original post are interesting and express some of my concerns – ie three hours later how angry will I feel? Is this yet another exploitation of Saartjie Baartman?

So there I was waiting for the subway train after my screening of Venus Noire (Black Venus), and what did I see plastered almost all over one of those ubiquitous tunnel newsstands? Covers for various magazines, many unabashedly featuring the barely covered-up plump bottoms of predominantly black women in seductive poses – 2 dimensional images of voiceless bodies, objectified, exotified, envied, denigrated, and more; depending on the viewer.

And with that picture, Obvious Guy asks, so, really, has much changed in the 200 years since Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman found herself victim of the same kind of mixed gaze? Of course, there’s the perceived independence, and even false sense of power and control some might claim those in the present-day wield over their spectators (an illusory brand of feminism as I’ve heard others suggest), and they aren’t introduced in cages by a man carrying a whip (well, actually, some are), and Saartjie’s experiences were more direct and literal; but, frankly, the similarities can’t be ignored. I even considered that Saartjie’s torment was strictly race-based, and a result of its time; but I was able to dismiss that notion in realizing that there still certainly exists a racial “otherness” that precedes and influences the various gazes I mentioned above. For example, I still (unfortunately) hear stories about enthralled white women asking black women if they can touch their hair, ignorant of the sensation the request itself provokes.

The film opens in 1815, France, some time after Saartjie’s death, as a French academic, addressing what look like his peers, with a physical mold of Saartjie’s body on display, makes his scientific and historic case for why her “species” is inferior to theirs. The lengthy opening lecture is met with applause from his audience of all white men. The matter-of-fact nature of the entire sequence is revelatory in that it shows just how ignorant, yet assured of themselves these leaders of the world were, and helps explain their callous treatment of their perceived inferiors – a trend that continued long after they themselves perished.

Following that opening sequence, we travel back in time, 5 years, to 1810, London, some time after Baartman had been taken from Cape Town, with promises of wealth, via exhibition, in Europe. And so the tragic tale of the “freak show attraction” known as the Hottentot Venus began…

Like those women on the magazine covers, Saartjie is mostly mute throughout the film, her body language representative of her thoughts, and clearly, she isn’t exactly cherishing the spectacle that’s being made of her physical self – much of it some will find difficult to watch, as it should be. Writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche makes sure of that, with numerous scenes running quite lengthy – possibly 10 minutes or more in some cases.

Given the style in which the film is made, it felt almost like a documentary. Kechiche does little to distract from the narrative; the performances from the entire cast are realistic (you believe them), including Yahima Torres (as Baartman), Andre Jacobs, Olivier Gourmet, Elina Lowensohn, Francois Marthouret, Michel Gionti, and Jean-Christophe Bouvet; there’s virtually no soundtrack (any music heard occurs naturally within the scene); the mostly hand-held camera moves but, oddly, you forget that it’s there – partly due to the stark nature of the physical settings, and also of the subject matter itself; you may feel guilty enough to look away, but you can’t.

In reading some early reviews of the film before I saw it, I expected to be turned off by what some seemed to suggest would be gratuitous on the part of the director. But I didn’t feel what they felt, and I do wonder if the reactions to Venus Noire will be similar to a film like Precious (a story about a character whose physical self was also arguably a character in its own right), in that they will be separated along color lines. I could certainly make sense of a white film critic being made uncomfortable by the inhumane treatment Saartjie endured; her captors are white. And as I’ve already suggested, one can’t help but see connections to the present-day race- and sex-based prejudices that still exist. There’s a reason (amongst many) that films that center on whites-as-saviors-of-”others” continue to be produced. They like to see themselves in that light. Rarely do we see stories told that detail the inhumanities whites have dished out intently and indiscriminately on the darker-skinned “others” across the world, without retribution. In a way, it’s like a revision of history.

But no one comes to save Saartjie here; she lives a brutal life, and dies just as punishingly, with the film not necessarily making it clear who we are supposed to point our fingers to, for blame.
Continue reading here

Via – Liberator Magazine

Haiti: ‘Des Hommes et Dieux’ [Of Men and Gods] Film

‘Des Hommes et Dieux’ [Of Men and Gods"] A documentary on the struggles of Haitian trans women by Anne Lescot and Laurence Magloire


Ouagadougou isn’t the first place that comes to mind when one considers the glitzy world of movies, yet Burkina Faso‘s capital has hosted the pan-African film festival Fespaco for more than 40 years and showcases some of the best talent on the continent. Every two years, the streets of Ouaga, as the city is known, liven up to the beat of djembe drums as thousands of film fans fill the city’s maquis (open air barbecues) and exchange silver-screen banter with the Ouagadoulais.

The film projections are often grainy and the sound distorted, yet the cinemas are packed. And this year, Fespaco, which runs until 2 March, is something different — a film festival with a conscience. The theme is African cinema and public policy, and more than 100 films are being screened, of which 20 will be competing for the coveted Etalon d’Or. Many of films cover some of the most hotly debated topics in Africa and elsewhere. Here’s a selection of the films:

The Cut

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Directed by first time film-maker Beryl Magoko, The Cut documents female genital mutilation (FGM) in her village in western Kenya. The film reveals, in uncomfortably graphic detail, how a small number of villages perform FGM on their children. Magoko tells of her experience of FGM as a 10-year-old child. “I came under a lot of peer pressure from my sister and my school friends, so I too wanted to do it. It was torture,” Magoko told the Guardian. “You just bleed and suffer, and the medicine they give you is herbs with sugar water. The following year, people came to the village to explain the consequences of FGM. This is what I needed, but it was too late for me. I want to show my film in the villages on mobile cinemas alongside seminars, so young girls don’t have to suffer. The government, too, needs to be pressured to punish and make examples of people who continue to illegally circumcise their children.”

Virgem Margarida

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Based on the shocking testimonies that Licínio Azevedo collected for his documentary, Virgem Margarida, tells how the Mozambique government set up “re-education camps” for prostitutes to make them “new women” in the spirit of the 1975 revolution. The women were taught to cook, build homes and till the land. They band together to fight for independence from their “liberators.” Today, though, much has changed. Both in Mozambique and globally, women continue to be victims of male-dominated ideology. The film will strike a chord with those who supported the One Billion Rising campaign.
La Pirogue
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This is based on the true stories of thousands of Senegalese men who braved the perilous 1,500km journey to Spain on wooden boats (pirogues) in search of jobs. Moved by the story of his mechanic, who spent a week surviving on water and biscuits to prepare for the hunger on such a trip, director Moussa Touré tackles the topic with a perfect blend of Senegalese culture and humour, while raising critical questions about illegal migration and its root causes. “This film is for the Senegalese politicians, because it is about young people who need hope, and they are the ones who can provide that hope.

Part 2 of 2: Hollywood star SEBATI MAFATE

Hello friends! Donald Molosi here. I linked up with Hollywood actor-writer SEBATI MAFATE again to do the second half of our conversation about his latest sensational book, “MEMORIES OF LOTSANE.” I have read the book myself and recommend it to lovers of literature as well as to people who just simply enjoy good writing. The book is available on and other book-selling sites like Barnes and Nobles.

DM: Most, if not all, of your work tells an African story in some way. Do you, as an African writer, feel that it is your responsibility to tell African stories?

SM: Yes, for the simple reason that Africa is rich with stories and we should never deny the world the beauty of our cultures and our tales, not only do I as an African feel the responsibility to share those stories, I just enjoy doing it.

DM: You mention denying the world of African stories. Do you feel that a certain type of African story has been denied the world or that a certain type of story has been “overtold”?

SM: Not at all, what I mean is that there are many African storytellers out there whose voice is never heard for the simple reason that they have not come forward, and there are many reasons for that, but whatever the reason is it is time that they step out of the shadows and tell those stories. I am glad that the Nigerian film industry is doing just that, and the results speak for themselves in seeing the market they have created for themselves.

DM: Nollywood is a perfect example of Africans consuming what they produce. But let us get back to you. Having seen your work, I often wonder – how does your background as a martial artist define the work you do as a writer if at all?

SM:Part of the martial arts is meditation and other spiritual aspects of the art, it helps deal with the curve balls life throws at you, including ‘writer’s block’, and that is why my dedication to the art has helped me as a writer, it doesn’t mean that it solves all my problems, but it helps a great deal. In a way it also enriches my imagination, especially when I delve in a fictional project.

 DM: What do you want people to take from your latest book, Memories of Lotsane?

SM: Nostalgia, we have all been teenagers at some point, and we have all been in high school (at least that is what I hope), and I hope people will be taken back in time to their own experiences good or bad that made them what they are today. In short really I would like people to relate to the story whether they are in Africa or some province in China.

DM: Who is the one writer that has had an impact upon you and how?

SM: That has got to be the great Elechi Amadi (The Concubine, The Great Ponds, and The Slave to mention a few) I was first introduced to Mr. Amadi’s work when I was a student, and soon found out that he held a degree in Mathematics and Physics, a strange combination at the time since I was an Engineering student as well, but a writer at heart, so I could relate. His style of writing was simply magnificent and dealt with deep rooted African culture and lore; you are drawn to his work even though his novels end like a Greek tragedy, but you realize through his writings that even though we would like it to be, life can at times not be the fairy tale we wish it would be, case in point the novel ‘The Great Ponds’, it tells the story of two warring villages fighting over a pond rich with fish. The protagonists from both sides are determined to win at all costs that in the end both villages lose, and this done at a great loss of human life.

An African Election – pulling back from the brink [Video]

From Dynamic Africa

The 2008 presidential elections in Ghana, West Africa, serve as a backdrop for this feature documentary that looks behind-the-scenes at the complex, political machinery of a third world democracy struggling to legitimize itself to its first world contemporaries. At stake in this race are the fates of two political parties that will do almost anything to win.

Director Jarreth Merz follows the key players for almost three months to provide an unprecedented insider’s view of the political, economic and social forces at work in Ghana. He builds suspense by taking the viewer down the back roads of the nation to capture each unexpected twist and turn in a contest that is always exciting and never predictable. Throughout the film, Merz depicts the pride and humanity of the larger-than-life politicians, party operatives and citizens who battle for the soul of their country.

Last Flight to Abuja

Nigerian blockbuster takes film-goers on a white-knuckle flight. Last Flight to Abuja, the Nollywood hit about a near miss, delivers a fairytale ending in country with a dire air safety record by Monica Mark


It is perhaps an unlikely theme for a blockbuster film in a country with a dire air safety record: a near miss in which a pilot steers a smoke-filled plane to safety.

In Nigeria, Last Flight to Abuja has become the first homegrown production to outsell Hollywood films this year. Crowds have been packing cinemas to see how the Nollywood fiction matches the reality of taking an internal flight in Africa‘s most populous country.

The film took a record-breaking 8m naira (£32,340) in its first week on release in Lagos. It has toppled this year’s box office hits The Amazing Spider-Man and Ice Age: Continental Drift, and is currently the second highest grossing film in west Africa after The Dark Knight Rises.

“Each time I fly in Nigeria it’s a nervy experience. All the shaking, the bumpy landings, the unexplained noises, as the plane starts off five hours after you’re supposed to have arrived at your destination,” said the director, Obi Emelonye. “The film was an accumulation of all those stories.”

The timing of the film’s release was inauspicious. It coincided with aDana Air plane smashing into a Lagos slum, killing 163 people. Relatives of the dead encouraged the director not to cancel, to keep aviation safety in the spotlight.

“The timing was spooky because it was supposed to be an era behind us. I felt I had a social responsibility to show [improvements] we could make with just a little change of attitude, being proactive,” he said.

Audiences have given the fictional white-knuckle ride a positive reception.

“When I watched it, I thought that’s how a country with big dreams like Nigeria should be able to handle an aviation disaster,” said cinemagoer Daye Sola, who has spurned domestic carriers since a “bad experience” 12 years ago.

Not everybody is convinced by the fairytale ending, in which emergency workers are at the scene before the plane’s dramatic touchdown.

Femi Alade, whose house is within sight of where the Dana plane crashed, is a rare person from the slum who watched the film. “Someone like me, I have never entered a plane and I will not do so. I enjoyed the film but afterwards I remembered how people were looting and police were beating the crowds,” he said.

“The emergency reaction wasn’t realistic, it was just too prompt,” said another filmgoer, Ohimide, 32, after a showing in Lagos. The reality is undoubtedly grimmer. June’s accident marked the start of a tumultuous period in which half of Nigeria’s domestic airlines have been grounded.

Africa accounts for 14% of the world’s aeroplane crashes although it has only 3% of global traffic.

Whistleblowers have claimed that heavy debts in the aviation sector routinely compromise safety.

In some cases, insiders say planes have been dangerously overloaded with fuel to avoid paying refuelling fees in each country.

David Kolawole’s seven-month-old daughter survived the initial Dana Air impact. But emergency services took 45 minutes to push through the crowds thronging the slum’s narrow mud roads. At the local hospital, staff were unable to save her amid electricity blackouts. “In a country where people are prepared, she could have been saved,” Kolawole said.

An inquest revealed other failings, including emergency staff who had not been trained to put out an aircraft fire with chemical foam rather than water. The aviation minister, Stella Oduah, has cleared Dana Air to fly again, although an inquiry continues.

Safety in Nigeria improved after two aircraft crashed within two months in 2005. But public distrust has returned since the country’s most popular airline, Arik Air, was briefly grounded when aviation workers raided its offices, saying they had not been paid.

Hailed for its fleet of new planes in a creaking industry, Arik had mopped up passengers in west Africa’s thriving market as competitors floundered.

Accusations of financial mismanagement have threatened to engulf the sector, which has grown steadily as air travel has become an alternative to being transported along the region’s often poorly maintained roads.

“We had situations where some of our aircraft were flying with only one engine working rather than pay for the cost of maintaining two,” said John Nnorom, a former finance director at Air Nigeria, one of the recently suspended airlines.

Monica Mark is based in Nigeria and reports on west Africa

Native Son [Short Film]

After his mother dies, a young boy travels from his village in northern Ghana in search his father in Accra. An impossible task. The boy initially oblivious to the dangers of the big city soon learns the hard way when his backpack is stolen and then is woken from his street sleep by horse riding marauders. He is saved by a young woman, a sex worker but a mother to the street boys. Beautifully shot the film exposes the meanness of even little doses of wealth and power and the ease with which one can be corrupted.

Native Son from Jonathan Sidego on Vimeo.

Transsexual is not a democratic choice

Self-acceptance as the 18 transsexuals in this video blog attest is not a democratic choice. Rather it is an individual’s decision. These courageous people exlode a number of gender myths. Indeed, these are exciting time to be transgerder in Turkey but as is apparent on some of the faces some of us transsexuals fght daily to be ourselves. Even in the UK while walking up a street with a massive police sation in the middle of it two black women (a carer and her client) moralise at my trans expense. The carer does the pointing out. The client tosses a tag, “liar,” she shouts and I register how society has lied its way into our hearts and minds. Proud Trans Turkey is the alpha in the endless evolution of the omega of change. A film by Gabrielle Le Roux depicts a gender identity utopia in place of past violent transphobic hub or tries to say at least. I feel the celebration and vulnerabilities and I wonder when transsexuals elsewhere will take the initiative? Indeed what are we doing in our respective necks of the wood to say we are transsexual we exist and we are here to stay?

My gratitude goes to the courage of everyone featured in the making of this vlog seen and unseen. Thank you all.

This video is part of a series from the Proudly Trans Turkey project consisting of personal narratives, portraits and documentary film. Watch more from the series here [How Old Are You] and [How Do Hate Crimes Affect You]

Black Gold: “We are rebels of the struggle”

Black Gold: The Struggle of the Niger Delta” is a feature film written and directed by Nigerian filmmaker, Jeta Amata. Based on the film synopsis, Black Gold sounds fairly straightforward. A  community protests against multinational oil companies and the Nigerian government but to little effect. Enter militants and war is declared. Its not possible to evaluate a film based on a 2 minute trailer but there are a number of reasons to feel positive about the film. Apart from a BBC production some years ago, most films on the region have been documentaries which have to a very large extent been accessible only to western audiences. As a feature film and a Nigerian production Black Gold, has the potential to reach local audiences.  This is especially important now as the US Supreme Court rules on whether US based corporations can be sued for human rights abuses committed overseas with specific reference to  Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others [Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuinewho] who were executed on November 10th 1995 for protesting against Shell.

Over the past two years there has been a growing number of literary ventures focusing on the Niger Delta:   Ayo Akinfe’s “Fueling the Delta Fires”, Helon Habila’s “Oil on Water”, the yet unpublished graphic novel, “Light Sweet Crude”, a collaboration between Kenneth Coker and Chris Feliciano Arnold; and Christie Watson’s, “Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away” [I will be reviewing this shortly]. The film’s timely release is further evidence that the region is finally seeping into consciousness of Nigerians.

From colonial dependence to petro dependence: A video window into the colonial past

Three Roads to Tomorrow – a BP promotional film uses three students from the three different regions of Nigeria to depict the transition from the past to the modernity – from colonial dependence to petro dependence.      And the trains ran too.  I even suspect there was electricity or at least there weren’t any generators. View the film here.

‘Three Nigerian students from different corners of Nigeria come to Ibadan University. While they sit talking in a dance club, the film traces back each of their journeys to the university. Scenes of their homes give a new impression of an old country, and we come to understand how a modern network of communications – all dependent on oil and petrol – has opened up what was not so long ago inaccessible territory’ (Monthly Film Bulletin, 1961, 14).

Via @Ory Okolloh Via African Urbanism

In the ruins of the majestic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de L’Assomption

Destroyed on 12thJanuary, 2010, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de L’Assomption remains majestic, it’s pink and cream walls towering over the city of Port-au-Prince. The Cathédrale is now open to the sky – a direct view to the mythical heavens. It remains a place of refuge to thousand of Port-au-Prince residents.  In December 2010, I walked through the ruins where the rubble remained scattered in small burial heaps and note most of the rubble has now been removed.   I had not knowingly walked on the dead before and it left me with a disturbing feeling. Later I realised  I needed to create a more intimate and healthy relationship with death and dying.

Broken Stones

The oldest neighborhood of the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Quartier Cathédrale (Catheral Quarter) was the most devastated sector in the city, it is also where the bulk of the documentary Broken Stones was shot. With its erected columns and open air, the ruins of the cathedral resembles an amphitheater where the daily realities of Haitian life unfolds. Amidst the vestige of what was once the most beautiful cathedrals in the entire Caribbean, children play, women pray, some carry pails and jugs of water from the nearby tap, a white man dressed in black hooded priest garb appears out of nowhere, followed by a cameraman, foreign missionaries snap pictures as they pray for lost souls in a house of worship, men and women roam almost aimlessly in this post-apocalyptic decor…. These images are amongst the impressionist moments interwoven into the narrative fabric of this captivating documentary.

Via Shadow and Act

A history to remember: “Who says being queer is unAfrican?”


In “The frightful development of this vice amongst the Natives”: Who says being queer is unAfrican?” Zackie Achmat traces the role of missionaries and the colonial state in the control and disciple of the African male body. He begins with a brief account of his own imprisonment at the age of 16 where he was first placed in a cell with a group of adult men including murderers and rapists. Expecting unimaginable acts of violence against him, the experience changed his own perception of prison gangs.

I could hardly understand the language they spoke. Two or three words were derived from Afrikaans, but the rest was from a mixture of African languages I could not identify at the time. Cups instructed one of the younger lads to call the other cells: “Ons wil met die Generaal tjaizana.” (“We want to talk to the General.”)

Within minutes all the toilet bowls in the Remand Section were flushed and all the water was removed from the one in our cell. In this way, the sound was carried through the entire sewage system of the block. This system allowed prisoners to communicate with each other illegally, with a diminished threat of punishment and discovery by the warders. When we arrived the 28s had to report to their General — they had to account for the loot gained from the newly arrived prisoners. MaPinda and Cups took turns talking into the “phone.” Basil, known in the cell as “die Moffie,”4 spoke to me in a grave tone: “Hulle discuss nou vir jou. MaPinda en Cups wil altwee vir jou he en nou vra hulle virrie Generaal wat hulle moet maak.” (“They are talking about you now. Both MaPinda and Cups want you, and they are asking for the General’s guidance.”) I had not had sex since my detention and felt deprived, but Mapinda was not my idea of a sex partner. Basil interrupted these thoughts with the verdict: “Die Generaal se die rules moet apply. Cups is jonger en is nie die baas nie, maar hy is MaPinda se luitenant. Mapinda het nourie dag ‘n wyfie gekry wat Cups wil gehad het en nou is dit Cups se kans/’ (“The General says the rules must apply. Cups is younger and is not the cell boss. He is MaPinda’s lieutenant. And, the other day MaPinda took a young wife (boy) Cups wanted so now it is Cups’ turn.”)

The post begins with a review of the film “Apostles of Civilised Vice”: ‘Immoral Practices’and ‘Unnatural Vice’ in South African Prisons and Compounds, 1890-1920 Zackie Achmat (1992) 

For, to one native on whose heart the good seed has fallen, who returns to the kraal in native garb and with the glowing message of an apostle in his heart, there are ten thousand who by their speech and countenance are apostles of civilised vice, who through their bodies spread the diseases of the white man over the face of wild Africa.(1) “Ethelreda Lewis (1934).

Continued. …..

Interview with the cast of Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Pray the Devil Back to Hell” Robtel Pailey interviews the cast and members of the production team. The film is available in full on PBS along with four other films in the series “Women War and Peace“. Listen here

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years [Film]

Cannot wait for this…………….


Scheduled to make its world premiere in the Panorama Documentary section is Dagmar Shultz’s Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 is an untold chapter (the Berlin years) of the late writer, poet and activist, Caribbean child of immigrants from Grenada, who died rather young at 58 years old in 1992.

Specifically, the film will focus on…

Audre Lorde’s years in Berlin in which she catalyzed the first movement of Black Germans to claim their identity as Afro-Germans with pride. As she was inspiring Afro-Germans she was also encouraging the White German feminists to look at their own racism

The film will serve as a historical document for future generations of Germans, which profiles and highlights, from the roots, the African presence in Germany, and the origins of the anti-racist movement before and after the German reunification, as well as facillitates an analysis and an understanding of present debates on identity and racism in Germany.

The film can be considered a companion piece to the1994 documentary A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde by Ada Gray Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, which also screened at the Berlin Film Festival.

Via Shadow & Act