Caméra d’Afrique: interview with Ferid Boughedir

Picture of the movie Caméra d'Afrique ( African Cinema : Filming Against All Odds ) © Marsa films / Restauration Direction du patrimoine du CNC

In Caméra d’Afrique (African Cinema: Filming Against All Odds), Tunisian director Ferid Boughedir explores the first 20 years of these new “auteur films” from Sub-Saharan Africa through clips from films, rare documentaries, and interviews with directors. The film, presented in Un Certain Regard in 1983, is being screened again in Cannes Classics as a restored print.  

How did the idea for this documentary come to you?

I was lucky enough to have made movies at the same time the first festival in the world dedicated to African and Arabic films, the Carthage Film Festival, was created in Tunisia. It was thus that I saw the first feature film from Sub-Saharan Africa. It was a shock for me since I was used to enjoying Western films in film clubs. For the first time, I was seeing another perception of cinema, another way to film. Then, I attended FESPACO, the Panafrican Festival of Ouagadougou, which enabled me to see all the first African films. This film is a testament to my love for all these works as well as the filmmakers’ fight to bring them to life. I wished to show that these directors succeeded in creating wonders with few resources, and that their cinema cannot be ignored. 

How did you get access to the archives?

I primarily selected auteur films to show the richness and diversity of this cinema. Thanks to my career as a director, I was considered a brother by these filmmakers, who gave me access to their films. They all showed me tremendous generosity by allowing me to contact the laboratories directly without asking me for anything in return. 

What resources did you draw on?

This film was mainly self-produced. I didn’t have any money at the time, and I made it under the same precarious conditions as all these filmmakers did. Thanks to my status, I didn’t have any worries making this film, except having to find the funding myself, which consequently cost me ten years to produce the final result. However, the directors and Tunisia helped me a lot. The film is the product of unfailing solidarity. 

You depict Sub-Saharan and Arab Africa; why didn’t you include English-speaking Africa?

The film only includes one clip from Nigeria, quite simply because cinema from English-speaking Africa doesn’t exist. The English never supported cinema in the countries they colonized. The culture there was also totally different. You can also see in the Nigerian film clip that it doesn’t come from an auteur film, but rather from an entertainment movie. The French speakers had incorporated the idea of expressing themselves through the imagery, which was not the case in the English-speaking countries. 

What do you think about African cinema’s representation internationally?

It survives weakly. At one point, African cinema was becoming quite popular at the festivals. And then this trend ended, as the programmers returned to the idea that one film was enough to represent Africa. I think that African cinema is only presented internationally thanks to this willingness to demonstrate cultural diversity. There is also a problem on the continent since African governments don’t take enough interest in cinema. In the end, the best films that one sees are financed by countries such as France.