"We Must Invent": Film and the Unfinished Project of Decolonization Film Screenings

Curated by African Historian
Julie MacArthur (Assistant Professor, Department of Historical Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

7 – 9pm

e|gallery, CCT Building, UTM


FREE, all welcome



Presented in the context of the exhibition The Day After by Maryam Jafri on view at the Blackwood Gallery from January 13 - March 6, 2016.

Image: still from Concerning Violence (Sweden/USA, 2014) Dir. Göran Olsso

In the conclusion to his classic text Wretched of the Earth, psychiatrist, humanist, and revolutionary Frantz Fanon calls on the need for those in the colonized world not only to violently throw off the yoke of colonial rule but moreover to invent new ways of being. Across the decolonizing world, film has been a central medium through which to recover the past, liberate the present, and imagine a postcolonial future. In conjunction with Maryam Jafri’s exhibit “The Day After,” this film series brings into dialogue a diverse range of cinematic engagements with the question of decolonization from across the African continent. From experimental documentaries to magic realist reimaginings of the past, these films interrogate the power of the image and reclaim the cinematic gaze for the project of decolonization. While these films all reflect the need to “invent” new postcolonial realities, they also expose the continuities of violence and the deep ambiguities of the “moment” of independence.


Wednesday, January 27
Introduced by Julie MacArthur

CONCERNING VIOLENCE (Sweden/USA, 2014) Dir. Göran Olsso (84min.)
No thinker has had as profound an impact on the conception, and practice, of decolonization as Frantz Fanon. In this found-footage documentary, set to the text of Fanon’s revolutionary text The Wretched of the Earth (powerfully voiced by activist and artist Ms. Lauryn Hill), filmmaker Göran Olsso explores multiple episodes in the history of decolonization, from the everyday experiences of those fighting for independence to the views of white settlers in South Africa and Rhodesia to the lingering violences and injustices of the postcolonial world.

LA NOIRE DE… (Black Girl) (Senegal, 1965) Dir. Ousmane Sembene (60 min.)
A pioneering film from the “father” of African cinema, LA NOIRE DE… tells the story of Diouanna, a young Senegalese woman who moves to France with the white family for whom she has been working as a governess in Dakar in the early days of independence. Once in France, Diouanna is forced to confront the “myth” of decolonization, the continuing violence of colonialism, and what Frantz Fanon called the “fact of blackness.”


Wednesday, February 3
Introduced by Julie MacArthur


IL ÉTAIT UNE FOIS L’INDÉPENDANCE (A History of Independence) (Mali, 2009) Dir. Daouda Coulibaly (22min.)
Inspired by a parable by Malian master storyteller Amadou Hampâté Bâ, IL ÉTAIT UNE FOIS L’INDÉPENDANCE depicts the lost dreams of African independence and Pan-Africanism through the personal narrative of a newly married couple. Coulibaly weaves oral traditional storytelling with archival material to create a powerful film that tracks the intertwined histories of the aesthetic and the political in African cinema.

THE TUNNEL (Zimbabwe, 2009) Dir. Jenna Bass (25 min.)
Set during the massacres in Matabeland, Zimbabwe in the early years of independence in the 1980s, THE TUNNEL follows “Rabbit”, a young girl with a talent for storytelling. When her father goes missing, Rabbit must tell the most important story of her life. Mixing fact and illusion, South African filmmaker Jenna Bass draws on local myths and the rich environment to creating this visually arresting journey. THE TUNNEL collapses time and space creating a sort of historical magical realism to interrogate the social impact of decolonization, urbanization, disappearance and, war.

YELLOW FEVER (Kenya, 2012) Dir. Ng’endo Mukii (7 min.)
A product of her thesis project for the Royal College of Art in London, Ng’endo Mukii’s YELLOW FEVER is a deeply personal exploration of race, history, beauty and the body. Mixing animation, dance and painterly imagery, Yellow Fever explores the subject of skin bleaching and the psychological impact of colonization through the eyes of Mukii’s young niece.

TWAAGA (France/Burkina Faso, 2013) Dir. Cédric Ido (30 min.)
Filmmaker Cédric Ido begins TWAAGA, a short film produced in association with Focus Features’ Africa First program, by invoking the memory of the assassinated leader of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, who came to power in 1983 as part of a revolutionary coup promising to rid the country of continuing “Western imperialism.” TWAAGA proceeds to tell the story of Manu, a young boy who imagines himself as a superhero, righting injustices and fighting for a people’s revolution in the image of Sankara. Combining the imagery of the graphic novel with archival radio broadcasts of Sankara’s anti-imperialist program, Ido embeds the imagination into the construction of historical agency and the everyday into the unfinished project of decolonization.


LUMUMBA: LA MORT DU PROPHÈTE (Lumumba: Death of a Prophet) (France, 1992) Dir. Raoul Peck (69 min.)
In the critically acclaimed documentary LUMUMBA: LA MORT DU PROPHÈTE, Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck explores the fractured and unfinished process of decolonization through the life and assassination of the first Prime Minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba. Although unable to shoot in the Congo in the early 1990s (still under the oppressive reign of President Mobutu), Peck reveals the sense of displacement and alienation brought on by the vestiges of colonial violence through the careful juxtaposition of modern-day Belgium, personal reflections, interviews, and archival images. In this way, LUMUMBA: LA MORT DU PROPHÈTE becomes as much about what is seen as what is not seen, what is remembered as what is forgotten.


Wednesday, February 24
Introduced by ECASA (Erindale Campus African Students Association, UTM)

AFRICAN LENS: THE STORY OF PRIYA RAMRAKHA (Kenya, 2008) Dir. Shravan Vidyarthi (55 min.)
AFRICAN LENS commemorates the life and work of Kenyan photojournalist Priya Ramrakha, whose career documented the end of colonial rule and the early days of independence in Africa. Producing some of the most enduring and humanist images of decolonization, Ramrakha was a pioneer of photojournalism in Africa whose life was tragically cut short when he was killed while on assignment for Time-Life magazine covering the war in Biafra, Nigeria, in 1968.

TESTAMENT (Ghana, 1988) Dir. John Akomfrah (76 min.)
Subtitled “war zone of memories,” world renown visual artist John Akomfrah’s debut feature film TESTAMENT explores themes of exile, memory, trauma, and postcolonial identity. Through a fragmented, poetic style, TESTAMENT tells the story of an activist turned television reporter’s return to his home country of Ghana for the first time since the 1966 coup that unseated Ghana’s father of independence, Kwame Nkrumah.


For complimentary parking passes, shuttle tickets, or questions: blackwood.gallery@utoronto.ca


The Blackwood Gallery is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, and the Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga.