Caméras d’Afrique: The Films of West Africa


This exciting new film series – a collaboration between Film Independent at LACMA and Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television–screens a selection of films that will provide an enticing glimpse at the movies, fiction and nonfiction, from this side of the globe.

LACMA FIND programmer Elvis Mitchell and LMU’s Dean Steve Ujlaki traveled to Paris and the Fespaco festival to find the films. The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is the largest African film festival, held biennially in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

” As an originator of film, movies that reflected the social movements and mores–and the remarkable shifts in those territories as each has evolved–no continent has gone as ignored for as long as Africa. Probably because Africa has been treated as a monolith in cultural terms for so long. It’s been tattooed with the assumption that this entire section of the world, which stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, exists as a land where the same attitudes can be ascribed to the entire vast expanse. More’s the pity. The fascinating truth is, of course, that each region–in fact, each country–has specific elements that separate it from the others. Through the films generated by those from West Africa, its residents have shown their exhaustive efforts to wrestle with the cultural imperialism of Europe, while observing the traditions that shaped the countries’ part of the region.

The dense and rich filmography of the Francophone region “includes directors as varied as the Senegalese artists Ousmane Sembène to the Diop family–director Djibril Diop Mambéty, his composer brother Wasis and Wasis’ daughter, Mati–and Mali’s Souleymane Cissé. What informs all of the films by these directors is the exercise of will required to bring such unique visions to the screen, the demands made on these men and women to craft the world as they saw it and lived it, something that ran contrary to the films they found themselves exposed to. They all built a unique place for themselves in the cinema because it was solely upon them to do so; no one else would. As a result, what these talents created was a living and luxuriant contradiction to speak to several conditions: a paucity of images of Africans, or a wholesale debasement of the dignity, morality and beauty of their existences as printed on film. These are conditions that have managed to linger to this very day–but the filmmakers remain undeterred in their battle to bring the complexity of life as they know it to their countrymen and to the world.

Thanks to their need to offer filmgoers a robust and new perspective, the directors of West Africa have seen their motion pictures recognized in film festivals around the world. There’s no better time than the present to continue that recognition than with this series. A small but compelling group of the spirited and spiritual films that came as a response to the depiction–and lack thereof–in mainstream American and European movies will be seen in Caméras d’Afrique: The Films of West Africa.” – Elvis Mitchell

“We are thrilled to be able to present Caméras d’Afrique: The Films of West Africa. Patrons will have the rare opportunity to see the latest films that have received accolades from the top European and African film festivals as well as classics from the past 50 years,” said LMU SFTV Dean Stephen Ujlaki, adding, “Connecting our students to the rich filmography of West Africa, long a Francophone region, will expose them to different forms of storytelling, inspiring their own unique visions.”

Caméras d’Afrique kicks off on Thursday, October 3, 2013, at LACMA with a double feature of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Bye Bye Africa and the U.S. premiere of Grigris, Haroun’s critically acclaimed film that showed at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Haroun will be on hand for a Q&A moderated by Mitchell.

On Saturday, October 5, the series continues at LACMA with screenings of Mama Kéïta’s L’Absence (followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker) and Gaston Kaboré’s Buud Yam (followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker), as well as a panel discussion moderated by Mitchell about the state of West African cinema.

Other program highlights include the L.A. premiere of Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns), Djibril Diop Mambéty’s 1973 French New Wave–inspired Touki Bouki, Idrissa Ouédraogo’s 1990 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winner Tilaï (The Law), and the 2013 FESPACO Golden Stallion winner Tey (Today), followed by a Q&A with director Alain Gomis and star Saul Williams.

Screenings will be held throughout October at LACMA’s Bing Theater on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Free community screenings and select Q&As moderated by Mitchell will take place on the Loyola Marymount University campus every Monday night, including the screening of “Tey” on Oct. 23 featuring a Q&A with star Saul Williams and director Alain Gomis.

Two films by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Thursday, October 3, LACMA

4:00 PM – FOR SFTV STUDENTS ONLY. Curator Tour with Polly Roberts
Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks From the Royal Museum for Central Africa  Exhibition features Luba masterworks from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on loan from the Royal Museum for Central Africa and rarely seen outside of Belgium. Figurative thrones, elegant scepters, and ancestral figures actively contributed to the formation and expansion of a highly influential Luba state from the 18th to early 20th centuries.

5:30 PM – Bye Bye Africa
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad, 1999)
The debut film by Chad’s Mahamet-Saleh Haroun is a new step in meta-cultural commentary. Haroun appears in his 1999 effort as a version of himself, drawing his narrative from the real life forces that pulled him–and many artists from Francophone Africa–in several directions. The filmmaker sets out to make a movie that he wants to dedicate to his mother, and immediately runs headfirst into a number of obstacles. The rapidly dwindling number of theaters means that money for directors is drying up. He learns that an actress he once dated has been stigmatized because she played an AIDS sufferer and is still living with the stain to her reputation. He even finds that living by the axioms of Jean-Luc Godard doesn’t save him from derision. Haroun’s daring treatment of the age-old story–being a continent man versus a man of the continent– made him an immediate international sensation. – Elvis Mitchell

• Written by Haroun. Photographed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Stéphane Legoux, Robert Millié. With Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Garba Issa, Aïcha Yelena. (86 min)

6:30 PM – Opening night reception at BP Grand Entrance Courtyard (next to Urban Lights)
Featuring light refreshments, live music by internationally acclaimed kora player Karamo Susso, plus extended gallery hours for Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks From the Royal Museum for Central Africa, with Curator Polly Roberts on-site.

8:30 PM – Grigris
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad, 2013)
U.S. Premiere
Winner of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Vulcan Award
IN PERSON Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
The newest film by Chadian writer/director Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, like much of his previous work, is about much more than he allows audiences to perceive at the beginning. Ostensibly, his new film tracks the confident young dancer played by Souleymane Démé, who makes his debut as he takes to the floor with the beatific arrogance of a born athlete. Slowly, painstaking, Grigris takes on much more complexity, dealing with the protagonist’s struggle to scrounge a living by dealing in illegal gasoline sales, and his pursuit of another dancer, a young woman who seems as lost and out of place as he is. One of the loveliest and most romantic images in films this year comes when the pair take each other in a romantic embrace; she towers over him and her hands seem to cover his entire upper torso–he beams with delight over the loving mountain he’s about to scale. The sumptuous imagery of Grigris earned it the Vulcan award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, with music by Wasis Diop–part of the Diop dynasty that that includes his daughter, director Mati Diop and his brother, Djibril Diop-Membety.  – Elvis Mitchell

• Written by Haroun. Photographed by Antoine Héberlé. With Souleymane Démé, Anaïs Monory, Cyril Guei, Marius Yelolo. (101 min / DCP)

Saturday, October 5,  LACMA L’ABSENCE / BUUD YAM / Panel Discussion: The State of West African Cinema

12:00 PM – L’Absence (The Absence)
Mama Kéïta (Senegal, 2009)
IN PERSON Mama Kéïta
“If James Brown had died in 1967 instead of Otis Redding, the United States wouldn’t be the same,” prodigal son Adama is told by his boyhood friend, Djibril: “(They’re) so arrogant, like that arrogant sex machine James Brown.” Not only does Mama Kéïta’s 2009 skillful and tangy blend of thriller and melodrama offer the most unique cultural/political assessment of America in film history, this discussion neatly sets the tone for L’Absence. The successful Adama is cool and distant after returning to Senegal following a 15-year period in France–he’s part of the absence referred to in the title. We see he’s a man of the world with a valise that is perfectly coordinated to match his suit and shoes (the film has a stunningly realized palette of reds and earth tones). Though Adama sent money home to care for his adoring grandmother and deaf younger sister Aicha (he moved away while she was still little), he still carries a void in his soul about being away from home. In a powerful scene sans dialogue, Adama curls into a fetal ball cradling a photo of his dead mother. But he’s pulled deeper into the intrigues of his family, and his country, after discovering how Aicha helps support the family. L’Absence is a remarkable achievement: it’s dense in both dramatic and political terms. – Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Kéïta. Photographed by Remi Mazet. With Mame Ndoumbé Diop, Mouss Diouf, Ibrahima Mbaye, William Nadylam. (82 min)

Followed by:
Buud Yam
Gaston Kaboré (Burkina Faso, 1997)
IN PERSON Gaston Kaboré
Director Gaston Kaboré’s tale of belief, and the war of self-belief versus belief that one’s self has been determined by Fate, is set in nineteenth-century Niger. 1997’s Buud Yam is an absorbing reflection on how maturation reveals itself in a society that is itself on the brink of change, and needing to grow; in the case of Wend, the young tribesman and focus of the story, he feels he has to be a better man than the father that abandoned his mother. Yet, all those around him accuse him of being the harbinger of bad luck for his adoptive family. But Kaboré surely, and intently, moves his protagonist towards an understanding of who he is–and from whence he came–that will come as a surprise to all. – Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Kaboré. Photographed by Jean-Noël Ferragut. With Colette Kaboré, Joséphine Kaboré, Mariama Ly (97 min)

Followed by:
Panel: The State of West African Cinema
IN PERSON Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Gaston Kaboré, Mama Kéïta. Moderated by Elvis Mitchell.

Two films by Idriss Diabaté
Monday, October 7,  LMU
Free and open to the general public on a first-come-first seated basis. RSVP at:

7:30 PM – La Femme Porte l’Afrique (Women Carry Africa)
Idriss Diabaté (Côte d’Ivoire, 2008)
IN PERSON Idriss Diabaté
“In Africa, a woman can’t be idle,” says Colette, a charcoal maker late in La Femme Porte l’Afrique, and her words have already been deeply felt by that point. The title of Idriss Diabaté’s Abidjan-set documentary could be translated as ”The women carry Africa.” Or, as it is here, “She’s carrying Africa on her shoulders,” and still rings staggeringly true. The filmmaker profiles five women with several things in common: they’re from low-income families, raising five or more children; their husbands are absent and, as Diabaté notes they “haven’t time to discuss economic development or African unity.” The unspoken–but visible–aspect of the film is they’re too busy creating their own economy. Fantumata produces tapioca and proudly notes, “I’ve never owed money.” Bintou works a small plot of land growing several kinds of vegetables–if one won’t sell, another will, she says–while her smiling, very young kids play; her patience is saintly (she even makes her own organic pesticide).  The film starts with another hardscrabble charcoal maker, Henriette. Diabaté makes each segment count by weaving shots of the women’s continually laboring hand as we hear their doggedly practical voice-over; these no-nonsense mothers work so hard, you’ll be exhausted after seeing this old-fashioned, satisfying movie. – Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Diabaté. Photographed by Alain Amonthé and Idriss Diabaté. (52 min)

Followed by:
Tilaï  (The Law)
Idrissa Ouédraogo (Burkina Faso, 1990)
Winner of the 1990 Cannes Film Festival Grand Jury Prize
Writer and director Idrissa Ouédraogo weaves a story as old as the Bible–a family destroyed from the inside by sexual jealousy, an envy that binds two brothers and their father together, even as it drives them apart. Saga returns home to his village, hoping to claim the hand of the woman he loves–a woman also desired by his brother, Kougri. Ouedraogo found an intriguing way to set up a modern point-of-comparison; he commissioned Abdullah Ibrahim (also known as the heroic South African jazz pianist Dollar Brand) to compose a score and, working with American legends Billy Higgins and drummer Billy, they underscore the Old World passions and tensions with a musical power as pure and emotional as the story Tilai tells. – Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Ouédraogo. Photographed by Pierre-Laurent Chénieux, Jean Monsigny. With Rasmane Ouédraogo, Ina Cissé, Roukietou Barry (81 min)

CAMÉRA D’AFRIQUE Tuesday, October 8,  LACMA
7:30 PM – Caméra d’Afrique
Férid Boughedir (Tunisia, 1983)
Director Férid Boughedir’s first documentary is this 1984 survey that encompasses 20 years of African filmmaking. Boughedir’s survey work takes the viewer from 1960s through to the 1980s, and he shows a curatorial eye as well as an artistic perspective. Caméra d’Afrique starts with the seminal works that are considered most influential, such as Ousmane Sembène’s 1963 film Borom Sarret and moves all the way through to Souleymane Cissé’s 1983 political coming-of-age drama Finyé. By covering a large number of films from the entire continent, Boughedir is able to follow the shift in subject matter from colonial threat to smaller scale stories that still contain epic emotional range; just as crucially, Caméra d’Afrique profiles the filmmakers speaking about issues such as dwindling sources of financial and state support for African directors–in that respect, Boughedir introduced a topic that still resonates for filmmakers and gives his documentary contemporary currency. – Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Boughedir. (95 min)

Monday, October 14,  LMU
Free and open to the general public on a first-come-first seated basis. RSVP at:

7:30 PM – Et la Neige n’Etait Plus (And the Snow Was No Longer)
Ababacar Samb-Makharam (Senegal, 1965)
Director Ababacar Samb-Makharam’s short on the tensions confronting Senegalese with feet in both worlds–the European and the African–is both compelling and quaint. The narration is a series of questions for a prodigal who’s “back in your homeland (which you) yearned for in the cold and snow of Europe’s cities,” while our protagonist is sleek in a tailored suit; he’s returned to Dakar in which family and friends are resplendent wrapped in the fabrics and garb of Senegal. Beautifully shot in black and white, this film is not only a document of a Dakar that barely exists anymore, it’s one of the few films about African society of the sixties. Samb-Makharam’s leftists judgment is leavened slightly by the even-handed narration, and the deft shift from European strings to African instruments on the score is far more subtle than calling his protagonist “playboy” and referring to the “costly pleasures” of aping white behavior. It’s probably fitting that the film is in black and white, though it didn’t occur to the director how insidious European influence is. The narration is in French.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Samb-Makharam, Jacques January (22 min)

Followed by:
Au Nom du Christ (In the Name of Christ)
Roger Gnoan M’Bala (Côte d’Ivoire, 1993)
Director Roger Gnoan M’Bala’s 1993 agile and dense social satire defines its target–the role that organized faith plays for many–with a single and devastatingly simple line of dialogue that slams into the heart of the bull’s eye: “I want a religion that makes the insane rational.” Au Nom du Christ questions all kinds of authority in the story of Magliore, the pig farmer turned miracle man. Magliore’s claims that he is a cousin of Christ aren’t the obvious ravings of a madman–it brings to mind Peter O’Toole’s complete immersion into such a state in The Ruling Class; this depiction makes M’Bala’s ruthless derision of the tradition of following a charismatic–for all religions–all the more memorable and scabrous.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by M’Bala, Jean-Marie Adiaffi, Bertin Akaffou. With Albert Ayatollah, Akissi Delta, Pierre Gondo (85 min)

Tuesday, October 15,  LACMA

7:30 PM – La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun)
Djibril Diop Mambéty (Senegal, 1999) 
The last film by Senegalese writer/director Djibril Diop Mambéty is a stark yet lyrical dramatization of street life in Dakar. The 1999 short film follows Sili, a poor young woman whose furtive expression hides a steely nature. Mambéty trains his camera on the group of impoverished, homeless youngsters pounding away at making a living in the ruthlessly indifferent city; he follows the determined Sili, out to break the spine of chauvinism that prohibits girls from vying for coins and sustenance. As we watch Sili–played, like many of the children onscreen, with precise control by non-actors with communicative body language and expressive faces–plant herself against the onslaught of tradition, we become aware that Mambéty is building narrative tension by pitting his lead against tradition and time; there’s enough unique suspense that accrues that you’ll find yourself waiting to see what the new dawn will bring for Sili.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Mambéty. Photographed by Jacques Besse. With Lissa Balera, Aminata Fall, Tayerou M’Baye. (45 min)

Followed by:
Yeelen (Brightness)
Souleymane Cissé (Mali, Burkina Faso, 1987)
Director Souleymane Cissé’s film has the scale and power of an epic and the soaring essence of a myth being created before your eyes. In this 1987 film, such is Cissé’s command of the medium that he grabs our attention with a handful of scenes early on in Yeelen: a naked boy walks a young goat to a post and tethers it, where it frolics and drops to its knees before a man who sits as unmoving as a statue; in the next, a shaman chants ominously and flames spontaneously burst into life from the fervor of his words; finally, the story sets into motion in earnest as Niankoro discusses wanting to find his father, while his grandmother tells him of the pains she’s suffered to keep the father–a deadly wizard–at bay. Folkloric and intense, Yeelen is festooned with such tableaux and each has the inviting effect of building a grander story piece by piece as Niankoro learns the truth of his grandmother’s admonitions. This stunningly gorgeous film earned prizes at the 1987 Cannes and Venice Film Festivals.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Cissé. Photographed by Jean-Noël Ferragut, Jean-Michel Humeau. With Issiaka Kane, Aoua Sangare, Niamanto Sanogo. (105 min / 35 mm)

Thursday, October 17,  LACMA

7:30 PM – Borom Sarret
Ousmane Sembène (Senegal, 1963)
Fifty years ago, writer-director Ousmane Sembène made history with his 1963 filmmaking debut, the first film directed by an African to focus on his own people. Bringing his own politics into the mix, and poking at the institutional inertia that made life for a black African so difficult, Borom Sarret is both a social statement and an extremely personal story, that of its title character struggling to make a living with his streetcar. As he goes about using his cart for business, he almost always goes unpaid; he’s treated as he should pursue his work with the cart as something that deserves no payment. Sembène subtly deals with the continual subjugation here, and how and where a stand should be taken–launching his career with the theme that ran through his films forever after. – Elvis Mitchell
Written by Sembène. Photographed by Christian Lacoste. With Ly Abdoulay, Albourah (20 min)

Followed by:
Finyé (The Wind)
Souleymane Cissé  (Mali, 1982) 
Writer/director Souleymane Cissé’s 1982 drama starts with a deft intimacy–following high school classmates from two disparate worlds as they traverse the tricky roads of family and friends while keeping an eye on their futures. Ba is a young man from the village, struggling to keeps his grades up, and Batrou is the sensitive daughter of a no-nonsense military man. But then Cissé shifts the ground beneath the feet of his characters–and the audience–when a political stand becomes the center of the story; what seemed to be a tried and true story of the path to adulthood becomes another altogether different one. “The wind awakens the path of man,” a title informs at the beginning of Finyé and Cissé is out to reveal what happens when a force of nature prods another such force into action. – Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Cissé. Photographed by Étienne Carton de Grammont. With Fousseyni Sissoko, Goundo Guissé, Balla Moussa Keita. (100 min / 35mm)

Two films by Ousmane William Mbaye
Monday, October 21,  LMU
Free and open to the general public on a first-come-first seated basis. RSVP at:

7:30 PM – Xalima La Plume
Ousmane William Mbaye (Senegal, 2004)
Ousmane William Mbaye’s documentary on the life and mastery of singer Seydina Inya Wade starts off by demonstrating the power of Wade’s voice–keen and seductive–and showing how the performer’s guitar style grew out of building accompaniment for his unique vocal stylings. Wade’s decades-long fame as a folk singer whose plaintive rhythms have the bold confidence of a griot holding forth shows how these two apparently distinctive storytelling conventions can be welded into a single–and singular–approach by the right person.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Mbaye. Photographed by Ousmane William Mbaye. With Seydina Inya Wade (51 min)

Followed by:
President Dia
Ousmane William Mbaye (Senegal, 2012)
Ousmane William Mbaye’s documentary harnesses the universal and the idiosyncratic into a single narrative. In grand terms, President Dia offers a brief sketch of Senegalese politics by recounting the story of a pair that started rebuilding their homeland together: President Senghor and Prime Minister Dia. But when Dia’s vital Socialism began to emerge and galvanize the country, Senghor had him removed. Dia’s demand to comprehend every level of his betrayal is filtered through another perspective; Mbaye, whose uncle served as a member of Dia’s team, and his own family involvement adds a layer of curiosity and grief to the project.
 ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Mbaye. With Mamadou Dia, Léopold Sédar Senghor. (55 min)

Tuesday, October 22,  LACMA

7:30 PM – Touki Bouki
Djibril Diop Mambéty (Senegal, 1973)
Touki Bouki is writer/director Djibril Diop Membéty’s wild and seductive look at 1970s Senegal reeling and swooning under the pop culture of France–to its peril. The impact of Touki Bouki on Senegal’s film history can’t be underestimated. Membéty was the first to use the tools of the French New Wave to invite audiences into his story of a brash young rebel who cruises the streets of Dakar on a motorcycle with a skull mounted on the handlebars; when he meets a woman who shares his dreams to find a better life in Paris, his life seems complete. But Membéty doesn’t just want us to be taken by the romantic journey of this pair following a dream–his ambition is in showing how their dream–and the subjugation it implies–is ruinous. And in its own modest, but unforgettable terms, his film makes that tragedy clear; he’s made a film that has undercurrents of Breathless and Rocco and his Brothers–but is still very much his creation.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Mambéty. Photographed by Georges Bracher. With Magaye Niang, Mareme Niang, Aminata Fall (95 min)

Followed by:
Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns)
Mati Diop (Senegal & France)
L.A. Premiere
After its triumphant play at the Marseilles Film Festival, the 2013 film by director and actress Mati Diop will have its Los Angeles debut at Cameras D’afrique. Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns) is a tribute to Touki Bouki, the groundbreaking film by her uncle, Djibril Diop Membety. Diop chronicles her journey of discovery as she searches for the actors who starred in Touki Bouki (her uncle, Diop Mambéty passed away in 1988.) Mille Soleils is as much the story of the impact of film on Senegal as it is Diop’s own story, a shrewd and emotional examination of her family’s connection to popular culture, which ranges from her uncle to her father, the composer/performer Wasis Diop.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Diop (45 min)

Wednesday, October 23, LMU
Free and open to the general public on a first-come-first seated basis. RSVP at:

7:30 PM – Tey (Today)
Alain Gomis (Senegal, 2012)
Winner of the 2013 FESPACO Gold Stallion Award and Best Actor Saul Williams
IN PERSON Alain Gomis and Saul Williams
In his third feature, director Alain Gomis takes a well-worn topic in Senegalese cinema and turns it on its head: unlike other films, many of which choose to focus on emigration and neo-colonialism, Gomis’ work instead tells the story of a man who leaves America to return to the land of his birth.
• Written by Gomis, Djolof Mbengue and Marc Wels. Photographed by Crystel Fournier. With Saul Williams, Anisia Uzeyman, Aïssa Maïga, Djolof Mbengue, Thierno Ndiaye Doss (88 min / DCP)

Thursday, October 24, LACMA

7:30 PM – Soleil O (Oh, Sun)
Med Hondo (Mauritanie, 1969)
Writer/director Med Hondo’s 1969 examination of the hand of European imperialism on Africa is initially playful (the opening credits sequence offers a brutally comic black-and-white piece of animation that could be from a pan-African Terry Gilliam) and finally penetrating.  After the opening, Soleil O launches into another shock; right after a proud voiceover informs us of a people with “its own science and teaching methods,” we see the tribesmen asking for God’s forgiveness for not speaking French and surrendering their tribal name for Christian ones. We’re in more than capable hands–Hondo’s thoughtful shifts in tone and narrative style keeps this in constant and provocative motion–as Soleil O tracks an African desperately in search of his French ancestors, and step-by-step discovers what has been taken away from him and leads us to speculate if a sacrificed soul can be reclaimed.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Hondo. Photographed by François Catonné, Jean-Claude Rahaga. With Yane Barry, Bernard Bresson, Greg Germain (102 min)

Monday, October 28,  LMU
Free and open to the general public on a first-come-first seated basis. RSVP at:

7:30 PM – Le Damier  (The Draughtsmen)
Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda (Gabon, 1996)
In writer/director Balufu Bayupa-Kanyinda’s calm yet absurdist political satire, the situation is established quickly, and continues in a series of scenes that play like sketches, yet each advances the director’s attitudes about African politics. We’re quickly made aware of the thoughts of the deluded leader–we laugh as soon as the loaded title “President for Life” is dropped–and we hear his ruminations during a one-sided radio interview while the camera tracks across the night of the fictional country Payssien; it ends with a shot of the snarling leader Papa National’s face on a flag, the last color image in Le Damier until the very end.  The movie plunges into black and white, as the film follows the goings-on in this country the night before the president takes office. A series of checker games with rapidly escalating stakes are staged, while Papa National proclaims his faith in his Prime Minister–before threatening to execute him for the slightest error. Bayupa-Kanyinda uses the paranoia that creeps upon most of us after a sleepless night and magnifies it for comedy–he’s as smooth as he is cheeky.  
⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Bakupa-Kanyinda. Photographed by Roland Duboze. With Dieudonné Kabongo, Yves Mba, Pascal N’Zonzi, Jean la Croix Kamga (40 min)

Followed by:
Abidjan Des Enfants (Abidjan Children)
Idriss Diabaté (Côte d’Ivoire, 1999)
With his 1988 documentary hybrid, writer/director Idriss Diabeté uses a new point-of-view to invite audiences into the heart-breaking story of poor children struggling to survive in this Ivory Coast village.  He introduces the viewer to the situation by having the kids speak to the camera and show their drawings–their own perspectives–on the day labor that they do to help their families get by day-to-day. Because there’s no self-pity in these young camera subjects–they’re quite mater-of-fact about their accomplishments: making and hauling sandbags, shining shoes and fishing–we’re pulled into their close community. The can-do camaraderie of children becomes the engine that moves them from task to task. As Abidjan Des Enfants cuts to their drawings, the bright colors of their artwork brings us even nearer to them; Diabaté shows the kids applying the same diligence towards creativity as they do the quotidian. The last section of the film is a colorful music-filled fantasy, Les Aventures de Guede, a fanciful piece of animation following its title character, Guede, through a day in his village.  ⎯ Elvis Mitchell
• Written by Diabaté, Gérard Bellanger, Christian Mercier de Beaurouvre. (47 min)
LACMA = Bing Theater (5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles 90036)
LMU = Communication Arts Building (1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles 90045)

$5 for Film Independent, LACMA Film Club and The New York Times Film Club members. Members of these three groups can purchase tickets starting at 5:00 pm on Thursday, September 12. | Tickets: 323-857-6010 or online at  $7 for LACMA members, students with valid ID and seniors (62+); $10 for the general public. Members of these four groups can purchase tickets starting at 5:00 pm on Thursday, September 19. | Tickets: 323-857-6010 or online at  Reservations for free community screenings at Loyola Marymount University can be made starting at 5:00 pm on Thursday, September 19 at

For full program line-up please visit:


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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