Africa in the spotlight: the London Film Festival

Africa is in the spotlight at the London Film Festival which is outlined in the Independent today (27/10/2006). There are a number of films about incidents occuring in Uganda, southern Africa and elsewhere. It will be intersting to see how the African film industry is represented. In the past it was Francophone countries which produced a number of notable insights where it was possible to get an African perspective on events. A number of films were shown on Channel 4 giving a rare and welcome glimpse of the richness of life and culture. If poverty existed, the power of human life to exist and flourish came through.
The problem with films by outsiders may not allow the perspectives of Africans to emerge and can easily reinforce stereotypes, if not give a completely false image. C.L.R. James complained in his introduction to the “Black Jacobins” that Africans and those of African origin in the Caribbean, in America, were shown as passive recipients throughout history. This is inclined to continue even within the most well-meaning offereings. India too has suffered from a colonial filter when a whole succession of utter rubbish purporting to show India was screened. One distinguished British director opined that India had never been put on the screen, ignoring the achievements of Satyajit Ray and Rama Rao.

When Birmingham school children were asked their view on Africa and Africans the response was uncompromisingly bleak, and in spite of a few weeks intensive work on introducing achievements the outcome was hugely affected by headlines on famine in Ethiopia in the mid-eighties. Charitable help is sought in the lights of Aids epidemics, problems with maleria and so on, yet side by side the human and mineral resources of African countries continue to be exploited by those with power to do so. Who exactly is benefiting is a question which remains in need of answers.

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