Coming for the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the global cinema stakeholders return to La Croisette. Africa will compete with two feature films in the official selection. A film production that primarily reflects the realities of the continent.
What if Africa won its second Palme d’Or this year, almost half a century after the Algerian Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina did it for “Chronicle of the Era of Fire (1975)? After Mati Diop, the first African filmmaker ever in the running for the Palme d’Or and winner of the Grand Prix of the Cannes Film Festival with “Atlantic” in 2019. Indeed, there is room for hope: among the 24 films vying for the prestigious prize this year two are African.
The first, “Casbalanca Beats” by Franco-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch – best known for his controversial “Much Loved” (see his portrait) – follows the footsteps of Anas, a former rapper working in a cultural center in a working-class neighborhood of Sidi Moumen in Casablanca, who passes on his passion for hip-hop to a group of young people in search of direction. A striking picture of a Morocco that oscillates between tradition and modernity, and which earned the Cherifian kingdom its first selection for the Palme d’Or.
The second, “Lingui, The Sacred Bonds”, is the new feature film by Chadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, a regular at the Croisette: winner of Jury Prize in 2010 for “Screaming Man”, he was a member of the jury a year later, before presenting his feature film “Grigris” in 2013. He will then return in 2016 to present, out of competition, Hissein Habré, a Chadian tragedy, a documentary that gives voice to the victims of the former dictator. After a short political interlude – he was briefly appointed Minister of Culture, Tourism and Handicrafts by Idriss Déby Itno in 2017 – he decided to devote himself to writing the screenplay for Lingui, the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who must resolve an unwanted pregnancy in a country where the law and religion oppose abortion.
«Casablanca Beats » and « Lingui », two fictions founded on social panorama
Two fictions founded on social panorama, and which wonderfully embody contemporary African cinema, a faithful mirror of the continent’s realities, with its strengths and weaknesses. They contradict with the clichés still offered by some directors from elsewhere when they put their cameras in Africa, like the French film “OSS 117 Red Alert in Black Africa” – a parody of the famous James Bond -, which will also be screened at the closing of the Cannes Festival.
In addition to the race for the Palme d’Or, the continent will also be present with the Franco-Tunisian director Leyla Bouzid, who will unveil “A Story of Love and Desire”, the meeting between a young Franco-Algerian and a young Tunisian woman on the benches of the university in Paris. In fact, the film testifies to the renewal of Tunisian cinema since the advent of democracy, while fostering a little more the reputation of the young filmmaker (born in 1984): the first feature film of Leyla Bouzid, “As I open my eyes”, had won the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2015.
More unusual, “Secret Interrogation” is a sixteen-minute drama by Junior Kapinga from Kinshasa, in which the main character (played by Rachel Kiesse Mbangu) learns of her HIV status and go soul searching to find out the source of her illness.
Giving visibility to young talents from Africa
The short film is one of eight films highlighted by the “Talented Cameras of Africa”, a program developed by the African Cultural Agency (ACA) to give international visibility to young talents from the continent. Same as the “Afriques Pavilion”, a platform « [which] brings together African cinema stakeholders in one place and whose strength lies in its common objective: to showcase talent and shows film lovers around the world the richness of African cinema, » says Karine Barclais, founder of this initiative that takes place on the occasion of the Cannes Film Market.
In total, Africa will be represented by 6 films on the Croisette and we will have to wait until July 17 and the end of the festival to know the winners of this 74th edition of the Cannes Festival. In the meantime, the African cinema can already be proud to have among the jury members, one of its most brilliant ambassadors, Mati Diop. Another elegant and subtle way, to represent the continent.