Alex Moussa Sawadogo

Showing a new generation of African film makers as yet little known in France

The creator of the Afrikamera festival in Berlin, the founder of Ouaga Film Lab – a film development and co-production laboratory in Burkina Faso – as well as artistic attaché for the Lausanne African Film Festival, Alex Moussa has been working for over ten years to promote African cinema. He is currently acting as a cinema expert in the creation of the Africa2020 Season, which will open next June in France.

Updated on 05/06/2020

5 min

Alex Moussa
© DR

You have joined the Africa2020 Season team at the invitation of its curator, N’Goné Fall. What has been your motivation?

My first motivation is to be able to show a new generation of African creators who are as yet not well known in France. We are proud to have such outstanding references as the Burkinabé director Idrissa Ouedraogo and the Malian film maker Souleymane Cissé, but today there is a new generation of film makers who break the taboos of the African continent. These artists need the support of public and European institutions. They also want to be seen as directors in their own right, not just young African film makers. I hope to contribute to this new wave.


What characterises this new generation of film makers?

This is a generation that is adapting to the current reality of African cinema where there is much less funding, but where the means of production are lighter, thanks to the arrival of digital technology. African film makers organise themselves in collectives to carry out their projects without waiting for an investor's green light. This dynamic has led to the emergence of pockets of creativity almost everywhere on the African continent: Madagascar has a very good animated film industry, the Democratic Republic of Congo is getting a second wind thanks to documentary, and South Africa and Rwanda have a large pool of young talent. Each cinematography project thus tries to build an identity and even create a few gems with the limited means available.


Is the recent success of Mati Diop’s Atlantique (Atlantics), winner of the Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, an example to follow?

The success of Atlantique is interesting in that it highlights a new process. Many African film makers tend to think it takes just one camera to make a movie. However, as Idrissa Ouedraogo said, cinema is “art and technique”: it is essential to master an entire process in order to make a great film.

Mati Diop started her project in 2012 at the Open Doors laboratory at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. She then allowed herself the time and resources to make this major film. Her example is one of many. I am also thinking of Joël Karekezi, a Rwandan film maker who won the L’Étalon d’Or de Yennenga award at FESPACO in 2019 for his film La Miséricorde de la Jungle (The Mercy of the Jungle), which was also championed at Open Doors in Locarno and at the Institut français’ Fabrique Cinéma programme in Cannes in 2013. Also worthy of mention is Tunisian director and screenwriter Mohamed Ben Attia, who attended Dora Bouchoucha's Sud Écriture workshop before winning an award at the Berlinale for Hedi, un vent de Liberté (Hedi) in 2016. These journeys show that the way of making films has changed: to make impactful works you have to attend laboratories and residences, and call on the help of experienced producers.

"This is a deeply African generation who don't want to be confined to local issues and want to say something about the modern world."

What are these film makers recounting to us today?

Film makers want to give universal resonance to the stories that torment their continent. When a film maker like Hinde Boujemaa films the situation of a Tunisian woman torn between her children's education, her violent husband and religion with Noura rêve (Noura’s Dream, 2019), she starts from a story rooted in the Arab world to evoke the condition of women in general. Similarly, the war that Joël Karekezi films is located in Africa, but refers to other current conflicts. This is a deeply African generation who don't want to be confined to local issues and want to say something about the modern world.


How are these films perceived in Africa and in France?

On the African continent, a new audience is emerging. It shares the same references as current film makers. This mirror effect allows the films to be well received by local viewers. In France on the other hand, there is sometimes a tendency to view African cinema solely from the perspective of the French-speaking world. Yet there is a massive and exciting creative effort coming from Portuguese- and English-speaking Africa. There is little talk, for example, of prolific film makers like South African Jahmil X.T. Qubeka or Sudanese Hajooj Kuka. It therefore seems important to me that French producers and distributors look beyond French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa.


How is the Africa 2020 Season being created?

The idea is really to co-construct the programming. Today, apart from the Ouaga Film Lab, and Sud Écriture (Tunisia), Ruche documentaire (Morocco) and Realness (South Africa), most development laboratories are located in Europe. For strong contemporary African cinematographic creations to emerge, it is very important that African and French professionals collaborate. We can create positive synergy by highlighting the work of African structures and local actors in the film industry.


As an observer and programmer, what do you expect from the Season?

First of all, I hope that the Africa 2020 Season will reflect the abundance and dynamism of the African scene. We need to be able to show that a new cinema exists on the African continent and that it has a great diversity of views about the world. I'm also excited to be able to bring these unique films and projects, which have never been seen before, to all French audiences, not just those in major cities. For us Africans, it is a great source of pride to be able to disseminate our work throughout France and I remain convinced that these encounters will have an impact on the way our contemporary creations are viewed.

The Institut français and the project

Initiated by Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic, the Africa2020 Season will take place throughout France (mainland and overseas territories) from December 2020 to mi-July 2021. It will be dedicated to the 54 states of the African continent. Find out more about the Africa2020 Season


Visit the Africa2020 Season website

L'institut français, LAB