African Feminist Engagements With Film

African film-making is one of the most vibrant and dynamic cultural arenas of our times. Feminist Africa issue 16 (FA16) focuses on feminist engagements with film in various African contexts. To do justice to this rich and rapidly changing arena, the issue draws on a diverse community of film-makers, critics, film scholars and theorists in many ways. We have drawn our inspiration from their work, by attending many screenings and festivals over the years. 

The three of us,  Yaba Badoe (Ghana/UK), Salem Mekuria(Ethiopia/USA), and Amina Mama have a combined expertise that adds up to over half a century of experience in all aspects of film-making and film scholarship. This is not to mention all the hours that we spend in lifetimes of viewing and interpreting films for the sheer pleasure of doing so, and engaging with the challenges of being critical spectators and theorising film from our multiple subversive perspectives.

The perspectives of the contributors to FA16 deepen and nuance our understanding of the manner in which we engage with various aspects of film and the film industry. These include the history of colonial subjugation and enslavement, as well as contemporary global cultural regimes, all of which have operated to erase and misrepresent women from Africa and to service the appetites and cravings of others, in ways that were, and are, often at the very least inimical to our well-being.

These obstacles mean that African women have an especially hard time mobilizing resources to make films at all. This is all the more evident when we wish to make films that speak to our conditions and challenge the existing fictions that misrepresent and distort our realities. Struck by the number of relatively young women from all over the continent who have emerged onto the cinematic landscape during the last 10-15 years, we approached over a dozen women film-makers and invited them to contribute to Feminist Africa. The more we learnt about the arduous conditions these women must navigate to see any of their work come to fruition, the less surprised we were when, later in the process, many of the submissions we had solicited could not be completed, given the demands of actually making films on shoestring budgets.

In FA16 we explore a number of key themes that characterise Africa’s rapidly evolving cinema industry, and its shifting fortunes since its inception as a powerful medium that has been grasped by African men and women determined to ‘dismantle the master’s house.’

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