Spotlight on the African Nation

CNIFF Tribute to Senegal _ The Pioneer of African Cinema

In order to further popularize African cinema among African audiences and filmmakers, Colours of the Nile International Film festival presents selection of films from the rich tradition of African cinema. In every edition, the Africa Special will focus on presenting different cinematographic traditions of specific countries and/or on the works of exceptional African filmmakers. Films in the Africa Special category are screened out of competition. 

In spotlight of this year’s edition of Africa special is Senegal’s cinema and filmmakers.

Senegal: the pioneer of African Cinema

African Cinema predominantly has a history that dates back to the time of decolonization. Early African filmmakers of the independence era saw movie production among others as a political tool, a means of helping to reshape their newly independent continent’s image. African films began to express the continent as they saw it and Senegal became one the countries where this new wave of cinema culture was getting firm ground.  

The birth of Senegalese film is best set to the early days of its independence, although the first Senegalese film L’Afrique Sur Seine was directed by Paulin Vieyra in 1955. From 1955 to the end 1960’s the infant film ‘industry’ started to flourish against all odds making Senegal to become one of the pioneers of African cinema.  During this period filmmakers like Ousame Sembene, one of the founding father of African cinema, emerged with their unique works.  Indeed, Sembene remains to be the most renowned filmmaker, capturing the life and identity of African people in his subtle filming style. La Noire de, a film Sembene directed and produced, in 1966 became his first and Senegal’s first feature ever released by a sub-Saharan film director. This film earned him a Prix Jean Vigo award of Cinema of France that brought   international attention for African cinema.

The 1970s remain to be the golden years of Senegal’s film industry where the industry got its momentum. In addition to Sembene, acclaime directors like Djibril Diop Mambety, Safi Faye, Mahama Traoreand Ben Diogaye Beye released a number of films. Membety’s works in particularly were known for their deep social meanings and representations. Safi Faye was another filmmaker that emerged in the heydays of Senegalese cinema. She became the first women to make a feature film in sub-Saharan Africa that was commercially distributed and gained international recognition. During this period, Senegal remained to be one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa that has strong cinema culture and film community. 

Nonetheless this strong cinema tradition gradually declined after the mid-1980s. At this time most noteworthy productions that often emerged were financed by foreign funds. Indeed directors like Sembene managed to produce films as much as they could, but  the overall production of the industry continued to decline, partly due to lack of domestic funding. Today the industry faces various problems that hindered the exploitation of its full potential and struggles to get back to its glorious days. In short, despite such recent drawbacks, Senegal was and is, without doubt, the leading cinematic nation in West African and one of the leading contributors to Africa’s cinema. It still homes acclaimed directors, cinematographers, writers, sound-engineers and a number of other film professionals.

Hence, CNIFF wish to dedicate this year’s edition of Africa Special section to honor the rich contribution of Senegalese cinema to Africa and draw attention to its existing potential to keep the cinematic landscape alive once again.

This year’s edition of Africa Special is dedicated to Senegal. Senegal has a special place in African’s Cinema history. Colousr of the Nile International Film Festival pays tribute to Senegalese filmmakers that marked Africa’s film era.