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This week's feature

Spotlights On The African Cinema

It’s been a big year for cinema so far. At the Golden Globes and the Oscars, it was Moonlight that took the top spot – snafus aside – , no mean feat for an Indie flick about a gay African American. At the Berlinale, Félicité stole the screens, swiping the Grand Jury Prize for its depiction of a Congolese singer fighting for the life of her son. Elsewhere at the Césars, the spotlight was on Divines, with its two young starlets and its director picking up a booty of awards.

 

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Politics aside, awards ceremonies are drumming up more interest than ever in the 7th art, increasing cinema’s diversity across the board, and the world couldn’t be happier. This week, we’re putting our cards on the table, dedicating issue #91 to the wonderful world that is African cinema:

  1. “Félicité” Shines a Light On Congolese Music
  2. The do to dot of African film festivals
  3. Where do the big shots of Africa’s animation scene hang out?
  4. Laila Eloui, Egyptian actress and diva
  5. The Nigerian Director Rahmatou Keita
  6. Top 5 rising stars on Africa’s screen
  7. Eri Umusu, the Nigerian digital artist shaping the scene
  8. FESPACO 2017: 4 prizes for Orange Studio
  9. Martin Scorsese restores Africa’s film heritage
  10. The Berlinale shines a light on African virtual reality
  11. In the heart of New York, it’s all about Africa!
  12. In La La Land, Africa is the star of the scene

Fasten your seatbelts, destination pop culture!

As the Senegalese comedian, screenwriter and director Djibril Diop Membety said:

African filmmakers can be birds for reinventing the seventh art. We are perhaps poor in money but so rich by situation and hope.

“Félicité” Shines a Light On Congolese Music

Music - March 08, 2017

Want to discover the sounds of the Congo? Félicité will be music to your ears!

Competing at this year’s Berlinale festival, the film’s director, French-Senegalese Alain Gomis, picked up the Silver Bear Grand Jury prize for his cinematic effort. “Felicité” boasts an impressive musical foundation, recounting the tale of a singer forced to abandon her job to fund her son’s operation. Music plays as big a part in the narrative as any of the film’s stars, traversing its cinematic journey off screen as well as on. Leading actress Véro Tshanda Beya is testament to the fact; having started off her career as a singer, she took to the film like a duck to water, reincarnating the role of singer Félicité like a pro. With both women sharing the same musical “gene”, the sounds of the Congo run deep throughout the film, acting as backdrop for everyday life.

There’s more to the music, too! Local heroes Kasai Allstars have worked their own kind of magic on the film, creating an original soundtrack that’s bound to have you dancing through the night. On the flipside, the Kinshasa Orchestra take the sound of the film in a more classical direction, accompanying the mounting drama.

With a killer soundtrack under their belts and a new release in the works, the likes of Kasai Allstars and Kinshasa Orchestra are showcasing the sounds of the Congo to the rest of the world. Prepare to hear a lot more of this style in the future; the music is going international! 🙂

 

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The do to dot of African film festivals

The infographic - March 08, 2017

From the plains of the Sahara to the great lakes, more than thirty film festivals open their doors to the viewing public each year in Africa. Diverse, deep and more than a little dazzling, our favourite festivals are hitting the ball out of the cinematic park!

infographic-cinema-african-festival

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3 questions to Eri Umusu, the Nigerian digital artist shaping the scene

The 3 questions - March 08, 2017

Young digital artist Eri Umusu has taken residency at Anthill Studios, one of the most exciting animation studios in Lagos, Nigeria. We talk to him about his journey so far, his favourite works and his take on the future of African animation.

Orange Pop: What was your artistic journey? And how did you end up at Anthill Studios?

Eri Umusu: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved animation. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid but it was only after my sister’s encouragement that I decided to make a career out of it. I started studying 3D animation after hearing about an opening at Beavers Studio back in 2011. While I was there, I met studio head Niyi Akinmolayan and pretty soon, we became good friends. When he finally moved on to launch Anthill Studios, he took me along too. It was actually while working on the Visual Effect project that I spoke to him about the possibility of directing THE SIM. Thankfully, he loved the idea and since then, we decided to really make a good of it in animation!

O. Pop: How was your project Plaything born? Did you have to adapt it to meet certain criteria?

E.U: While the studio was in the middle on working on a TV series, Nurdin Momodu, another animator, spoke to us about wanting to work on an animated short. He had no real ideas about the story or the characters; he just wanted to get to work. A conversation about animated greats like Toy Story and Ant Man reminded me of an earlier idea I had had for a future film. I presented my plan for the film Plaything, everyone loved it and the idea was born! While we’re still playing with ideas on the project, there is something in the works.

O. Pop: In your opinion, what’s the story with Nigerian and African animation?

E.U: In Nigeria, Lago has always been the capital of animation. I can’t speak for the rest of Africa, but generally, I don’t feel like we’re making as much out of animation as we should be. It’s for reasons like this that studios like Anthill are experimenting so much before releasing projects into the wider world. Today, the biggest difference between Nigerian animation and the rest of the world is the budget. We have incredible designers and CGI artists (Computer Generated Imagery) and there are tons of stories to be told. Without the right resources, though, the projects can’t go anywhere.

interview-cinema-afrique

Animation’s future is in safe hands, thanks to the likes of Eri Umusu !

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Where do the big shots of Africa’s animation scene hang out?

The killer question - March 08, 2017

Fan of animation? The International Animation Film Festival in Meknès is made for you! Co-hosted by the Aicha Foundation and the French Institute of Meknès, the festival opens its doors between the 17th and 22nd of March and this year’s edition is pulling out all the stops. To celebrate its sweet sixteen, the festival is upping the ante, featuring the likes of animator David Silverman and director Les Simpson amongst its A-list guests.

The animation pack just gets better, too. Disney royalty Eric Goldberg, mind behind the inimitable Pocahontas, is set to make an appearance, while Roger Allers, director of cartoon classic The Lion King, will screen his latest project The Prophet. The presence of living legends like these is by no means a new thing; just last year, it was Ghibli Studios cofounder Isao Takahat who took the reigns, celebrating the festival with the best of them.

The programme this year is a smorgasbord of projections, talks, meet and greets and cinematic concerts that are bound to take your fancy. Want something else to sink your teeth into? The annual awards ceremony completes the lineup! Animated shorts and feature films will all battle it out, raising the stakes to take home this year’s prizes. There can only be one overall winner, however, and we know that whoever bags the Aicha Grand Prize will truly be the cream of the crop.

Can’t get enough? Check out the films in competition here.

festival-internatinal-cinema-animation-meknes-afrique

Everyone to Meknès! © FICAM

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Laila Eloui, Egyptian actress and diva

A picture says it all - March 08, 2017

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A lesson in dance and loving life; thanks, Laila Eloui! © Copyright Pyramide Distribution

Whether she’s your oriental diva or untouchable icon, it doesn’t matter; Laila Eloui is the beating heart of Egyptian cinema. Starting her career at the ripe old age of 8, Laila Eloui has wracked up an impressive 70 films over the years, without even delving into the depths of her TV and radio careers.

From her first appearance in “Tgebha Keda Tgelha Keda Heya Keda” through crowd pleaser “The Destiny”, right up to “Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces”, she has covered every manner of role imaginable. Juggling her time between films, television series and the theatre, Laila Eloui’s appeal spans the generations, creating an aura that everyone wants to be a part of.

Director Yousry Nasrallah always sings her praises; “with a single move, Laila Eloui uncovers her star power, bringing with her a certain cinematic something”. There’s no doubt about it; the wily charms of Laila Eloui are limitless!

Trailer for Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces

 

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The Nigerian Director Rahmatou Keita

Who's who - March 08, 2017

Starring figure in cinematic circles, Rahmatou Keita is yet to crack the grand public. It could all be about to change, though; champion of untold stories, this director has an eye on her continent, capturing the beauty of Africa on the big screen like no other.

Starting life in Niger, Rahmatou Keita has been living in France since her student days, living her life between the two cultures. Balancing multiple careers, the director has worked as a journalist, radio and television presenter, reporter and cinema critic, and now, she’s taking a crack at life behind the camera.

Her first feature, “Zin’naariyâ – The Wedding Ring”, was a success from the off, presented at the Toronto International Film Festival, the London Film Festival and the Africa in Motion festival in 2016; how’s that for starters? The film is a tour de force, telling the story of a young girl sent to live with an aristocratic family in Nigerian Sahel. A love story of the highest rank, the film shows off the beauty of the African country and its people, plunging the audience into the thick of it.

The-Wedding-Ring-RahmatouKeita

Inspirational and hypnotic, we’re hooked on Rahmatou Keita © Amun – Film Africa

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TOP 5 rising stars on Africa’s screen

Gimme 5 - March 08, 2017

The fact that African cinema is on the rise is hardly new information. Its megalithic growth has been well documented across the world, no doubt thanks to its shining set of cinematic stars. And while there are simply too many to choose from, we’ve done our best to narrow the brightest of the bunch down to our top 5.

1. Leyla Bouzid – The Tunisian director with her eye on the prize. At the meager age of 31, Leyla Bouzid has already been showered with prizes, having picked up the bronze Tanit at the 26th Carthage cinema days festival and the jury prize at TV5 Monde for her first feature “As I Open My Eyes”. Focused on a group of teenagers living under the dictatorship of Ben Ali, the film wowed critics and audiences alike!

 

leyla-bouzid-afrique-cinema-realisatrice-tunisie

Leyla Bouzid © Africiné

2. Thabo Rametsi – The South African actor ready to pounce. For his part in “Kalushi”, the young actor picked up the best actor prize at the 2016 BRICS Film Festival in New Dehli. His jaw dropping portrayal of Solomon Mahlangu is what did it; representing the hero of the anti-apartheid resistance, Thabo Rametsi knocked it out of the park!

top5-acteur-cinema-afrique-espoirs

Thabo Rametsi © Sowetan LIve

3. Bella Agossou – The Beninese actress kicking up a storm in Spain. Originally from Benin, actress Bella Agossou has turned to Spanish cinema, after moving to the country in 2002. Whether she’s playing a young girl on the television or an immigrant in a feature film, Bella Agousso always represents her native country with poise and grace.

Bella-agossou-afrique-cinema-acteur-talent

Bella Agossou © Africa Top Success

4. Mbithi Masya – The Kenyan director who’s a master of all trades. Before co-writing and directing his first feature “Kati Kati”, Mbithi Masaya tried his hand at publishing, composing and music, popping up as a key member in house-funk-disco group Just A Band. Screened at the 41st edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), his filmed was met with rave reviews, not least for its gritty depictions of Kenya’s violent past.

afrique-cinema-artiste-acteur-talent-top5

Mbithi Masya © Mbithi

5. Mouna N’Diaye – The actress and documentary maker putting Burkinese cinema on the map. With a string of 12 documentaries behind her, as well as theatre pieces, television series and shorts, Mouna N’Diaye is well and truly on the international map. And for good reason! In the 2015 FESPACO festival, she picked up the prize for the best feminine interpretation, thanks to her earth shattering performance in “The Eye Of The Storm”.

maïmouna-ndiaye-fespaco

Mouna N’Diaye © Africa Top Success

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FESPACO 2017: 4 prizes for Orange Studio

Stories - March 08, 2017

One of the biggest events in African cinema, FESPACO was back with a bang earlier this month!

The 25th edition of the film festival brought together filmmakers from across the continent, screening the cream of Africa’s cinematic crop. And amongst the rising stars of this year’s festival, Orange Studios co-productions made an impact, picking up 4 prizes!

Take “Wulu” for starters. Made in Malia, the film won recognition for its gritty portrayals of real life in the region. Daouda Coulibaly’s feature made a huge impression on the jury, while principal actor Ibrahim Koma walked away with the prize for best masculine interpretation.

Frontières” by Apolline Traoré, on the other hand, wowed the crowds. Plunging the viewer in the epic tale of four women who traverse the African continent, the film transported jury and audience alike, leaving the festival with a total of three prizes!

Whatever side of the stage you were on, there’s no denying the fact that FESPACO 2017 was a huge success. Congratulations to all the winners; here’s to next time!  😉

 

 

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Martin Scorsese restores Africa’s film heritage

Stories - March 09, 2017

Legendary director, producer and cinematic icon, Martin Scorsese is well and truly a filmmaker without fault.

After launching The Film Foundation back in 1990, the director has gone on to restore hundreds of films around the world, keeping the diversity of cinema as rich as it is varied. And for his latest venture? It’s all eyes on Africa!

Announcing a new initiative geared towards the preservation of African cinema, Scorsese and The Film Foundation have staked a claim on film from the area, vowing to keep it circulating in the public eye. With a team including UNESCO and the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) for the upcoming African Film Heritage Project (AFHP), it’s all hands on deck for the foundation. 😉

The project might still be in its infancy, but it’s already off to a swift start. An initial identification of 50 films has already begun to take place, giving the preservation project a strong grounding on which to continue. From this point, the only way is up and before long, the world of cinema will be that bit richer, thanks to the revival of lost African films. 🙂

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The Berlinale shines a light on African virtual reality

Stories - March 10, 2017

Besides “Félicité”, the film that picked up the Silver Bear Jury Prize, African cinema won big at this year’s Berlinale festival.
Out of competition, filmmakers from Africa were given the chance to share their works at The Africa Hub, a platform dedicated to works from the continent. The first of its kind, the hub presented films, lectures and events from across Africa, shining a light on the creativity coming out of this part of the world.

 

Virtual reality also played a huge part in the festival! A smaller space within the cinema hub, New Dimensions was dedicated entirely to VR productions from Africa, presenting a selection of works from countries as diverse as Kenya, Senegal and Ghana.

Putting viewers in the driving seat, the films brought real scenes of Africa to life, giving visitors a closer glimpse into its rich landscapes. 😉

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In the heart of New York, it’s all about Africa

Stories - March 13, 2017

It’s popcorn season! Around the world, film festivals are kicking into gear and no matter where you look, you’re bound to stumble across something worth talking about 😉

In the heart of New York, it’s all about Africa. Bringing back its Storyscapes section for another year, the Tribeca Film Festival is plunging its viewers into virtual reality. And while there are any number of directors making their mark in the section, few are making an impact quite as impressive as Kathryn Bigelow.

The Oscar winning director has announced a one of a kind VR project, bringing scenes of national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo to life. Working alongside National Geographic and African Parks, Bigelow got up close and personal with the African rangers in the region who tasked with protecting elephants from ivory poachers. The documentary is guaranteed to be nothing short of spectacular, bringing this rich part of Africa to New York.

Another project in the selection will put the beauty of the African continent in the spotlight, too. Senegalese creative Selly Raby Kane will present her VR experience “The Other Dakar”, a production created alongside African funding partner Electric South. An homage to Senegal, the film gives viewers a chance to rediscover its rich landscapes 😉

All that’s left to do is pick up a ticket to Tribeca….. Africa is waiting for you!

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In La La Land, Africa is the star of the scene

Stories - March 14, 2017

Each year, the bright lights of Los Angeles focus on a different kind of star, thanks to the arrival of the Pan African Film Festival!

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the festival’s 2017 edition was bigger and better than ever before, bringing some of Africa’s finest filmmakers to the heart of La La Land. Works from Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania all had their time to shine, shown as part of the sprawling competition 🙂

When it came to the winners, Egyptian director Hala Khalil picked up the award for best narrative feature with her work “Nawara”, while Senegal’s Daouda Coulibaly was granted the jury’s recognition for his feature “Wulu”.

It wasn’t all about the big screen, either. This year, like every year, the Pan African Film Festival put a focus on the best artists from the continent, giving them a space in which to present their creations. Packed full of unique workshops, fashion shows, art fairs and musical performances, the Los Angeles-based festival is truly one of a kind, changing the face of Hollywood – for a few weeks, at least 😉

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See you next week!

To be continued - March 08, 2017

Next Wednesday, we’re ready to shop till we drop at the funkiest shops in the world!

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