Voices of African Women in Cinema

Excerpts from the interviews from the book and film Sisters of the Screen
Excerpts from interviews from various sources (which are cited)
Link to interviews

Aïssatou Adamou – Niger – Director

Any project without the participation of women is doomed to fail. (Sisters of the Screen).


Raji Amari – (France) Tunisia - Director

The only problem with being a woman filmmaker and having a woman as the film's subject is that the woman is often seen as the victim and is soft-spoken. They don't have very strong issues. They're not pushy, they don't go far enough and I really want to push the envelope, to go outside of that and really tackle difficult subjects and not be so sweet and soft-spoken about it. I think that's the tendency for women filmmakers making films about women. (Interview by Kate Schultz)

Gyasiwa Ansah – Ghana – Director -
Daughter of the award-winning filmmaker, Kwaw Ansah

The one person who motivated me was Ama Ata Aidoo.  She writes her books in a manner that elevates women in society, which encourages women.  I thought that if I could be motivated by her literature, then as a filmmaker I could also use the film media to educate society and women. (Interview by Beti Ellerson, February 1997).

Selma Baccar – Tunisia – Director

Each shot is a painting. I start by sketching it out with the actor, then, I gradually go into the details. The actor is “matter” both humane and sensitive. I have to mould the “matter-actor” with the “matter-character”. I have to find the point of osmosis. What I expect from my actor cannot be done without her or him, without her or his contribution or will. I have to listen to my actor. Besides, my choice of actors brings about the creation of a character in the screenplay; to the point that sometimes I mix the character and the actor… (Tahar Chikhaoui, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 8, 1994, p. 13).

Chantal Bagilishya – (France) Rwanda – Producer ( passed away in September 2009)

It is true that the rapport that [African women] may have is not as close because we are not always able to communicate with each other.  Another problem we have coming together is the difficulty of inter-African travel. It definitely complicates our being able to network...  (Sisters of the Screen). Also see: In Memory of Chantal Bagilishya.

Marie-Clémence Paes – (France) Madagascar – Producer collaborates with husband director Cesar Paes from Brazil

We have a tacit agreement which is; when we are not in agreement…he has the last word.  I know he is the director, and as the producer I don't want to lose money or time... I feel that the écriture of a film, the sensibilities that come from both of us are very much visible in the film.  We complete each other very much. (Sisters of the Screen)

Mahen Bonetti - (New York) Sierra Leone – Founder/President, New York African Film Festival 

My main purpose for [creating the NYAFF] was twofold: to show images and to educate people.  Ultimately our goal is to promote an awareness and understanding, and to increase knowledge of African culture using the cinematic medium. (Sisters of the Screen).

Isabelle Boni-Claverie - (France)  Cote d’Ivoire - Director/Screenwriter

Everything is connected and shares the same source. A story can live in me as a literary form. The images and sensations that the text arouses in me can give me the desire to make a film. (A Conversation with Isabelle Boni-Claverie in African Women in Cinema Blog, 2010).
See also: Interview with Marie Lesure discussing her work as a director and novelist, Amina, April 2005. Olivier Barlet analyzes her film Pour la nuit, Africultures, July 2004.

Sarah Bouyain - France (Burkina Faso) - Director/Writer

My grandmother was born in 1920 in the territory that is presently Burkina Faso from a encounter between a colonial French soldier and a young African woman. Les Enfants du Blanc draws from her story and my relationship that developed from it. The discovery of the particular fate of the bi-racial minority to which she belonged—from the requisitioning of their mothers, to the abandonment by their fathers and their obligatory relocation to orphanages—brings me to my own bi-raciality. (Quoted from Les Enfants du blanc. Follow link to narrative in French by Sarah Bouyain at Africultures).

Tsitsi Dangarembga – Zimbabwe – Director and Writer (of the internationally acclaimed novel
Nervous Conditions)

I am very happy with [filmmaking] especially because I think it reaches more people more easily.  To understand a film you don't have to be educated to the same extent where you do when you pick up a book.  I write in English so if I am thinking of a Zimbabwean public, it would have to be people who can read in English and that isn't everybody.  Whereas even if a film is in English, I think that if it is made well enough, a person can probably understand what is going on. (Interview with Beti Ellerson, March 1997).

Zeinabu irene Davis – USA – Director

I do think that there are some issues that African women have to deal with that women in the African Diaspora don't have to, such as access to  equipment and training. If [women from the Diaspora] really want to have access to equipment [they] can go to a public access cable station and learn…or go to film school. There are also different issues in relation to production. The way that African women work in the television medium is very different from the way that African American women in the U.S. in particular, work in the same medium.  In some instances, I think that African women may have more power… (Interview with Beti Ellerson, March 1997).

Annette Mbaye d’Erneville - Senegal - Veteran Journalist, Audiovisual Specialist, Film Festival Organizer and Critic

It is simply a matter of giving voice to women, witnesses of their epoch, who, while expressing themselves, and, through their own lives, reflect a specific image of Africa. (Annette Mbaye d’Erneville: Une femme de comunication/Annette Mbaye d’Erneville: A Lady with a talent for communication by Rokhaya Oumar Diagne an Souleymane Bachir Diagne. Presence Africaine 153 (1996): 93).

Assia Djebar – Algeria – Director/Writer

I realized that woman was forbidden any relationship to the image: While her image cannot be taken, she does not own it either.  Since she is shut away, she looks on the inside.  She can only look on the outside if she is veiled, and then, only with one eye. I decided then, that I would make of my camera this eye of the veiled woman.  Benesty-Sroka, Ghila, "La Langue et l'exil", La Parole métèque, 21 (1992): p. 24, cited in Ousmane Sembene et Assia Djebar by Sada Niang ed. (Paris: Harmattan, 1996). My translation.

Hélène Maïmouna Diarra – Mali – Actor

After receiving a diploma in theater at the Institut National d'Art of Mali I spent ten years on stage with the National Drama Group commonly called the "Koteba of Mali." Koteba is a traditional form of theatrical expression in Mali.  It is adapted to all kinds of stages but most particularly to the "round stage."  In Koteba theater, everybody can be simultaneously spectator and actor. It is a way to expose the defects and various conduct of the leaders.  This theatrical form has worked so well for the drama group that the public has dubbed the group, ‘Koteba’. (Sisters of the Screen).

Thérèse M’bissine Diop – Senegal – Actor

When playing a character, whether it is the main character or a secondary role, I do not want to incorporate it too deeply within me.  I tell myself that it is a dress that I am wearing today.  As soon as I come home, I take it off.  I attempt to behave like everyone else, leaving behind the character that I played on the set.  I lay it aside and live as everyone else. (Sisters of the Screen). Also see Thérèse M’bissine Diop: A Pioneer in African Cinema

Alexandra Duah – Ghana – Actor (Alexandra passed away in 2000)

I thought to myself, ‘You have been playing roles as "Mother Africa," what will the public say if your character makes herself that cheap by sleeping with her daughter's boyfriend?’  I developed a very sympathetic character that appeared quite decent and responsible.  She showed that money isn't everything and once in a while, a woman, no matter how old she is, needs a warm embrace.  It is through this identification with the spectator that I managed to survive that role by not disgracing women. (Sisters of the Screen).

Safi Faye – (France) Senegal – Director

Mossane…is a song to women.  The things that I find so beautiful, the things that I have lived that I have experienced or that I have been told.  And then, I made these images according to my vision. (Interview by Beti Ellerson, February 1997).

Anne-Laure Folly Reimann – (France) Togo – Director

The image of Africa in Europe has been in existence for three hundred years, and there is not a readiness for change.  The attitude is: even if Africa does evolve, it must do so slowly.  In addition, while Africans have been voicing their own thoughts, it is viewed that Europe has contributed to these thoughts.  What interests Europe is what it has taught us about Africa.  When other perspectives are presented, they are not accepted. I remember, during preparation for a French television program on African women, I was invited to come because my film was included.  I was told that the women in my film were not really African women because they were modern.  I made the film, Femmes aux yeux ouverts, here in Burkina Faso, about women, all illiterate, who fought against excision.  They were considered too modern, because the écriture was modern.  They did not think that these women, or people anywhere in the world who submit to exploitation, are conscious of their exploitation.  The people who are exploited are not stupid.  It was a perspective that was very difficult for them to grasp. (Sisters of the Screen).

Margaret Fobé Fombé – Cameroon – Director

It occurred to me very early on that images”, made by a woman on women, could be used in breaking down taboos and encouraging women to assert themselves…When I made “The female petrol attendant” [in the series “Portraits of women”] there were hardly any women who did this job. Since the programme was shown, things have evolved to my great satisfaction, both on the part of women who have been encouraged by the example shown and by petrol station owners who have opened their stations to women. (Clément Tapsoba, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 8, 1994, p. 27).

Lucy Gebre-Egziabher – (USA) Ethiopia – Director

…In terms of identity, if you are an African with any type of awareness, you cannot help but explore this issue.  It is what Frantz Fanon describes in the three stages of the decolonization process and it is the same with film and it is the same with everything.  First assimilation… you identify with the colonizer.  Then you go into a stage of melancholy about your own.  And the third stage is when you really start being one with yourself and your culture…it is a fight in the literal sense, it is a psychological fight, which is the most dangerous kind, versus the physical kind… (Sisters of the Screen).

Izza Genini – (France) Morocco – Director

Filmmakers dream of fiction films to prove their talent, but documentaries may reveal talent as well weaknesses. At the same time, when I read I like essays, as a film viewer, I like documentaries. It is a genre that I appreciate, as it lets one discover things and people in a very “physical” way. The heritage of Black Africa and of the Maghreb is not well known and a great many documentaries should be made. There is no lack of subjects or ideas. The documentary in particular, is a unique school. It is impossible to foresee events and as such, it cannot be scripted. These conditions make documentary shooting an adventure with the possibility of unlimited results. (Therese-Marie Deffontaines, Ecrans d’Afrique, nos. 5-6, 1993, p. 15).

Mila Guerra – Algeria – Director 

I prefer to contextualize women—women’s relationship with men, as it relates to immigration. Ultimately, I prefer to do fiction, to tell a story. Though on the other hand if I find a interesting subject I would not reject the idea of doing a compelling documentary about women. Amina, July 1994.

Miriama Hima – Niger – Director (Former Ambassador of Niger to France) 

I like to make sketches of events, and very often I keep a small camera in my handbag.  I made four short films that could be defined as research films, which I did for my [thesis] in film.  I chose to reflect upon a subject that concerns me a great deal, the retrieval of used objects and their transformation.  It is a vital enterprise for certain sectors of society.  For example, I saw how metals were recycled from cans into pots.  This research informed my thesis which provokes much thought in the west about their consumption practices, as well as to African economists.  This informal economic sector should be organized, without formalizing it.  (Amina, No. 327 August 1997, p. 50).

Martine Condé Ilboudo – (Burkina Faso) Guinea – Director (Organizer of the first MICA—African Film Market—at FESPACO in 1983)

The problem of ‘African women of the image' is self-censorship. When a woman has the courage to make her claims, men listen to her. I challenge both men and women alike, who think that the situation of African women makes it more difficult for them to make films. What really counts is talent and diligence. As women, we must present another image of ourselves. (Clément Tapsoba, Ecrans d’Afrique, nos. 17-18 1996, p. 23).

Valerie Kaboré – Burkina Faso – Director (Founder and General Manager of Media 2000)

In general, the development of Africa depends on what we will do for women of our generation and those of the future. If we extend this philosophy in the context of cinema, we, with a woman's sensibility, can bring a great deal to this continent.  While the number of women who go to school is not very high, the number in the area of the media and cinema is even less.  Though we are only a few in this field, if each of us would aim her camera towards the area of awareness-building—or even commercial filmmaking—she may contribute in her own way to the development of the continent. (Sisters of the Screen).

Wajuhi Kamau – Kenya – Director

We say that the women are the traditional storytellers.  What kinds of stories have we been perpetuating?…although we are saying that the society is male dominated and therefore a lot of stuff is seen from male eyes, the women are telling the stories, they are painting the  characters.  We, as storytellers, are not creating the female heroes.  So one would look at those stories, yes, they may have picked them from oral literature, but again, how relevant are they?  Is it a story that you want to perpetuate?  Or, is it a story that you want to put on paper and put question marks around?  Because quite honestly, a lot of our oral stories, they call the woman the woman, but they name the man in the story, they name the boy in the story. (Sisters of the Screen).

Rumbi Katedza - Zimbabwe - Director

Zimbabwe is a country with many stories to tell, and it is through the powerful medium of film that we can create cinematic stories from our own perspectives. Goethe Institut

Rahmatou Keïta - Niger - Director | Journalist

I definitely believe that the future of cinema lies in the hands of oppressed countries, who do have untold stories to share with the whole world. We tell stories in a way that no other part of the world could ever do. And mine and my peers’ work is only the beginning of things to come: I am convinced that cinematic treasure resides on our continent. And in this future, regardless of gender, we as filmmakers are all walking in the same direction. African Cinema: an interview with Rahmatou Keita by  Solane Moffi. Sevenglobal.org, last accessed March 2009.

Aï Keïta-Yara – Burkina Faso – Actor

In African cinema, I would say the role of all actors is to be a vehicle in which to convey a message on the screen to our society.  It is in this context that I, as an African woman actor, contribute in bringing a message to our people.  I want to make my contribution to the development of African cinema. (Sisters of the Screen).

Wanjiru Kinyanjui – Kenya – Director

African women should take part in film criticism because they can correct images of themselves and even of their surroundings.  Their point of view is important, seeing that they comprise at least half the population of the continent; and also, they can tell us how they really see men, either as a suppressing group, as husbands, as fathers, as rulers, etc., and be able to pinpoint some discrepancies evident in the way they apparently ‘are’ or how they ‘think’. (Sisters of the Screen).

Kadiatou Konaté – Mali – Director (Animation)

The animation genre is an excellent medium for children, and I want to educate all my African children and myself about the tales, customs, culture and realities of Africa. (“African animators collaborate on a Mali tale for children” by Dana Hearne).

Palesa ka Letlaka-Nkosi – South Africa – Director

All human beings exist through relationships—with lovers, family, environment, technology, spirituality—but it seems that only stories about relationships situated around western contexts are considered “universal”. When it comes to African stories of relationships, they can’t be universal, they have to be “African. Why is it? In the South African context for instance, we, Blacks, are the ones who still wear the masks in the sense that we are constantly moving through various contexts, playing parts, adapting (language, place, home, work) unlike white South Africans who live in a unilingual monoculture, therefore, our experiential vocabulary is broader… (Corinne Miglioli, Ecrans d’Afrique, nos. 21-22, 1997, p. 42.

Werewere Liking – Cameroon – Writer/Painter/Director (Theatre and Film)

…If Africa’s challenges are to be met, they must first be posed in relation to Africa itself and to the real needs and aspirations of its peoples. And as long as the peoples of Africa do not encounter in the productions of their creative artists an image in which they can truly recognize, question, improve, and love themselves, and feel their divine power as proud self-creators, nothing will be changed by the gaze of others... “An African Woman Speaks Out Against African Filmmakers.” Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire (New York University) Fall 1996, p. 174.

Amssatou Maïga – Burkina Faso – Actor

I don't know if other actors have the same reaction, but when I see my image on the screen I only see the negative aspects.  I think, "Ah, I could have done better."  In other words, I correct myself while viewing my image on the screen.  However, in the final analysis, the audience can better judge the actor. (Sisters of the Screen).

Sarah Maldoror – (France) Guadeloupe/France/Angola – Director

There is no actual distribution of African films because Africans do not go to see African films.  They will go see an American, French, German, or English films.  But they will not go see African films because they find them inferior.  As long as there is not an African public who will go to see African films, there will not be an African cinema. There may be African films, but there is not an African cinema.  There is a Japanese cinema because the Japanese go to see Japanese films.  There is an American cinema because Americans go to see their own films.  So as long as we do not go to see our own films we cannot say there is an African cinema.  It's not true. (Sisters of the Screen).

Ouméma Mamadali – (France) Comoros – Director

Although [Kabire Fidaali and I] have a different perspective as a woman and a man, we have a similar sensibility that allows us to create something together.  I think there is a richness that comes from working with a man and a possibility to be able to discover a common sensibility and way of seeing things.  Even though there is a twenty-year difference in age between us, for me it has been a very rich experience…It is very difficult for two people to make something together, it takes a great effort…We have a vision that is complementary, as a woman and man.  For example, the personality of the women in [Baco] evolved from our combined effort.  We wrote the dialogue together. I had my ideas but he added to them.  And that is what is very rich.  I think the roles of the women, as well as the men, would have been different if I had work with a woman. (Sisters of the Screen).

Salem Mekuria – (USA) Ethiopia – Director

When I'm working, I don't think necessarily that I would operate as a woman filmmaker.  It's when I am in front of an audience that I know I'm being looked at as a representative of some rare sort, especially as an African woman or as a black woman in the United States, and I feel somewhat responsible, to be responsible.  Because I think we have a lot of work to do, I feel that if I don't do well maybe others won't get the same chance that I have. (Sisters of the Screen).


Joyce Makwenda – Zimbabwe – Director

When I started my research then later made the film, there was a lot at risk for my marriage. People here don’t always understand and the profession’s demands are difficult to reconcile with a family life. My husband was very understanding. We women have to believe first and foremost in what we undertake. That is how we will show just how serious we are. (Ecrans d’Afrique, nos. 5-6, 1993, p. 40).

Soraya Mire – (USA) Somalia – Director

In 1986 I began to study filmmaking at the University of California at Los Angeles. It was there, as an assistant teacher of African culture that I found my focus. One night my teaching centered on rites of passage, and the class’s intense interest uncovered a hidden chord. The next day I quit teaching to make a film on the subject [Fire Eyes]. My mutilation became the bittersweet impetus for my filmmaking…  “A Wrongful Rite” by Soraya Mire. Essence (USA) June 1994, p. 42.

Flora M’mbugu-Schelling – Tanzania – Director

As a filmmaker, producer, distributor, essentially, I make films about women because I am a woman, and I think that I have a story to tell.  A story different than that told up to now by men. Since African films are seen more often outside of Africa than within, I think it is time that they are shown to our populations.  Also I would like to create a distribution company that has the objective to be a library of African films and of women throughout the world.  And I hope that in the near future UNICEF, UNESCO and others will aid us in sensitizing the youth towards the cinema profession by showing our films in the schools.  It is indispensable to form these professions in all spheres--from the making of films to film criticism…In my films I give women the chance to speak, to finally write their own histories, they say to the world how they live, what they are thinking and what they expect out of life. Amina (France) May, 1991, p. 22.

Zanele Mthembu – South Africa – Director

There has not been that much work by South African directors or producers, and when there has been, it has been mostly work by white directors and white producers.  As people in exile come back into the country with skills in directing, cinematography, and other areas, I see this as a beginning.  I see this stage as very important because we can really come together and show what we as black producers and film directors can do. (Sisters of the Screen).

Thembi Mtshali – South Africa – Actor/Singer

“My chances being at DCTV (Public Access Television of Washington, DC) [a community-based television station] will allow me to grow step by step. I think that it is a great concept because in South Africa we do not have these kinds of facilities.  I am really excited about it.  I would never have thought that I could see myself operating a camera and shooting something.  And I have already produced something.  I really see so many possibilities coming from this experience of learning the concept of community television production and its inner workings.  I see myself growing in this and being able to produce my own shows, my own children's programs.  I love working with children.  I would love to produce plays for children, educational programs. (Sisters of the Screen).

Catherine Wangui Muigai – Kenya – Producer

I think that a woman knows the needs of other women.  They feel those needs.  As women, we are exposed to the variety of experiences and problems that women go through.  We are able to feel it, be it within our homes, or with the children.  These experiences may be, as victims of discrimination, or of not feeling completely free to do what one would like to do.  So I think these issues undertaken by women in filmmaking may be presented much more practically and effectively. (Sisters of the Screen).

Anne Mungai – Kenya – Director

[As regional coordinator of the pan-African organization “Women of the Image”] I represent eleven countries of East Africa and I have been trying to reach the women in my region.  But I don't know how to reach the women in Djibouti or Ethiopia, for instance.  I tried once to organize a workshop in Kenya and I brought in some women from East Africa.  We met in Nairobi.  And when they went back, there needed to be a follow-up.  Faxes and telephones are needed.  We are struggling making films, we have needs at home, we are mothers; we have to feed our children. So you are not really going in your pocket to get money to travel, meet or do faxing, it's not possible.  So funding has been a major obstacle.(Interview by Beti Ellerson).

Fanta Régina Nacro – (France) Burkina Faso – Director

To talk about African cinema is a bit complicated because it is a cinema that is going through a tremendous crisis. A crisis of scripts and stories, a crisis of distribution, a crisis of production…African cinema, or more accurately African cinemas—because there are many African cinemas—is going through a turbulent period…we need to consider new ideas in order to redirect this cinema.  Perhaps this restructuring will help us come out of this ghetto.  The problem with African cinema is that it has been a cinema that has looked to the outside for its audience, in the hope that it would make a profit in order to do other projects.  We quickly forget about our own public…We have a significant population—however, only ten percent of the African population sees our films.  Even if they pay a small amount for entry fee into the cinema house, if ninety percent of the African population goes to see our films, perhaps we could succeed in resolving the problems around production.  At this moment we are going through a complete overhaul: we are reflecting, we are pulling our efforts together to give a new orientation to this cinema which will become even greater. (Sisters of the Screen).

Branwen Okpako - Nigeria - Director

As an African, one is always used to going into foreign societies and feeling one’s way and finding out the way things function, the way the system works and how to fit into it. So because of the instinct that we Africans have, I am almost like equipped with the ability to be able to sense what’s going on in the society and I have had the opportunity to use my African eye to look at German society from the outside, obviously looking at people of African origin as well, so it is not completely nothing to do with me. I am looking at foreign society from an African point of view. New York African Film Festival

Pascale Obolo - France/Cameroon - Director

My character [in Femme invisible/The Invisible Woman] is a black woman who, while walking through the streets of Paris, her thoughts wander as she reflects on the notion of the star, whose image in the history of cinema, is commonly associated with the blonde. Africine: entretien de Mériam Azizi avec Pascale Obolo

Ngozi Onwurah –  Britain/Nigeria – Director

For me as a filmmaker, I have two eyes always, constantly; I am both on the outside looking in and the insider reporting out.  And I think that is something slightly different in my work from other black women filmmakers, whether they are African filmmakers, or black British filmmakers.  Quite often I have an insider's eye and an outsider's eye on the same situation and that goes through all my work.  So that when I made the film in Nigeria, it was both as a Nigerian and woman. (Sisters of the Screen).

Zulfah Otto Sallies – South Africa – Director

This film [Through the Eyes of My Daughter] was very different and difficult at certain points because it’s so personal. For Muneera it was also difficult for her to allow me to see a different side of her: to let me in. It’s not easy being in your own film. You can’t structure it, you can’t control it. Things happen and it’s a letting go process. It’s not just a documentary that other people watch; it’s also a document for my family. I am lucky that it turned out that it really brought my family closer. It could have gone the other way and I knew the risk that I was taking. I think in that way it is something that you can’t predict.” (Interview by Isla Haddow - Accessed March 2009 - pdf).

Franceline Oubda – Burkina Faso – Director

We are realizing that we do not have the power to control the influx of  outside images.  We are bombarded with these images and perhaps what is necessary is a policy within African countries to find a way to examine these images and their influences.  It is a very complicated situation.  People buy satellite dishes and connect to whatever network they want.  It is very difficult. We also sense that Africans do not like their own images.  They actually prefer foreign images.  This comes from the fact that we are not used to seeing our own images.  And I think it is up to us as directors to fight in this regard and assist our public in developing an appreciation for our cinema. It is a cinema that speaks of our reality, of our development, and we must reach this objective.  It seems that even the people in the North do not like our films.  They have another vision of us.  They have always portrayed Africans as spectacular and sensational, or naked and hunger-stricken, with swollen-belly children.  We do have value and worth and it is up to us Africans to value our culture, what we have.  As a result, others will also appreciate our culture and our images.  This is the only way that our cinema will evolve.  If we are only content with images that are thrown at us, I think African cinema will never thrive. (Sisters of the Screen).

Aminata Ouedraogo – Burkina Faso – Director/General Secretary the Pan-African Union of Women in the Image Industry/L'Union panafricaine des femmes de l'image (UPAFI)

Do you know why you do not see African women in the area of film criticism?  Because in the film arena in general women are not well represented.  And as long as this is the case, there will not be women visible in the various spheres within the field of cinema.  When women enter in larger numbers in these different areas, you will then see women film critics doing objective criticism and analysis of films.  It is not because you have not seen any that there are none.  If you were to attend the debates that take place after the film screenings during FESPACO, you would see that when women take the microphone to talk they do critique the films that they have seen, they give their opinions about the films that they have just seen. (Sisters of the Screen).

Miriam Patsanza – Zimbabwe – Director

Whilst there are specific gender related obstacles for the majority of us in Southern Africa, the problems endured by most women in television and film are the same as those experienced by males who have also been excluded because of their race. The strategy for change, therefore, is to address the issues of media ownership and cultural representation as a joint force whilst at the same time insisting on bringing about respect and acknowledgement of other sexes, different languages, and the culture and style of indigenous peoples. (Julie Landau, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 8, 1994, p. 31). 

Françoise Pfaff – (USA) France – Film Scholar

I tell [my] students, ‘I am going to show you Africa, maybe not as you dreamed about Africa, but Africa as seen by African filmmakers with a certain amount of realism, and you might not be very pleased.’  Because members of the African Diaspora can have the idea of Africa being a mother and a paradise.  We have a dream about Africa, but when we go there, we are disappointed because it doesn't match our expectations. I tell them, ‘I want to prepare you for your first trip to Africa by showing you a realistic approach to African society.’  And then a student will say, ‘Well, why can't we keep our dreams; after all, aren't we entitled to dreams’" I respond, ‘If you want to keep your dreams, fine, but the purpose here is to show that Africans are people like everybody else.  They have aspirations, they have disappointments, they have evil and good people in society just like any other society.  And one should not mythicize 'Mother Africa' but rather see it realistically. (Sisters of the Screen).

Monique Mbeka Phoba – Dem. Rep. of Congo – Director

I would say that the woman could very easily accept being the carrier of a message, carrier of the message of hope, the message of change, the message of evolution.  The woman can be a medium of transmission.  We must not generalize too much, of course, but what I sense is that we have a personality, an identity that allows us this role.  The "feminine" identity is in some ways the preservation of the nuclear family.  Our aspirations are closely linked to the security of the community, of which we are psychologically, materially, and emotionally responsible.  This means that during this period of evolution, the woman must commit herself, she must be there, because she must be the role model. (Sisters of the Screen).


Bridget Pickering – Namibia – Director/Producer

As a filmmaker [Dreams of a Good Life] touched me on many different levels. I feel honored to have shared in the lives of these women who made me realize the potential and strength of human beings to overcome their circumstances. The power of the film is in the power of the women. It celebrates their strength and ability to keep going and to laugh even though they sometimes want to give up. (Day Zero Film and Video - South Africa).

Gloria Rolando – Cuba – Director

In Africa, you may find some cities, but the majority of the people live in the rural areas.  It is a history that concerns all of us. I need to clarify this because I live in a city, but I know that it is part of my roots…I want you to understand my culture and the culture of the black people in my country.  We need to consider it a phenomenon of migration because it is something that belongs not only in the past; it also is in the present.  We also need to come together because I think it is not only my personal work; we need to work together to defend our culture, our point of view.  So I am trying to get technology to bring to Cuba not only for my own work, it is a collaboration between filmmakers, between people involved in culture, a culture that we need to defend. (Sisters of the Screen).

Horria Saïhi – Algeria – Director

Algerie en femme, resembles the title of a film that was made by René Vautier, which is called Algerie en flamme, it was about the war of liberation.  In Algerie en femme, I speak of the struggle of women.  It is an intersecting perspective of a woman filmmaker and a woman photographer.  The latter makes an imprint of the moment; the former gives her the opportunity to speak about her profession.  There is also another realm of women: an artist-painter who continues to paint although it is prohibited; a peasant woman who takes up arms; and the wife of a director of fine arts whose husband was assassinated at the same time as their son.  I speak simultaneously of life and death.  It is this combat of which we are in the midst. (Interview by Beti Ellerson).

Naky Sy Savane – Cote d’Ivoire – Actor

I learned very young that as an African woman I had to defend myself, no one would fight for me.  We had to fight, each of us in her own way.  At an early age, I handled things on my own.  I decided to fight in the best way I could so that the African woman may have the place that she deserves. I feel that the African woman plays a pivotal role in society.  She works a great deal and manages the family.  Because there are men who do not have work, the women go to the fields to work, or if they are not cultivating the fields, they are at the marketplace the whole day selling in order to bring money home.  The woman cannot be overlooked.  She makes a tremendous contribution to the development of her country. (Sisters of the Screen).

Cilia Sawadogo – (Canada) Germany/Burkina Faso – Director (Animation)

We are often the victims of a certain stereotype when doing animation films.  Especially when they are presented in festivals where there are no animation films at all. Moreover, people often don't really know what animation is.  Yet, many animation films are made for the general public or even for adults only.  Oftentimes children don't really understand what is going on or they are not comfortable with what they are seeing.  I think in the West there is not a large market for animation films for adults.  However, we find in Asia that adults watch animation films just as much as they do other films.  Personally, I like doing films for children.  It does not bother me at all.  I enjoy it very much and I find that I have much more freedom.  Because for children we can do things very "fly" as we call it here in Montreal, with much fantasy and fun, where the filmmaker can really let herself go.  One is not obliged to be too down-to-earth, and I like that, actually. (Sisters of the Screen).


Ingrid Sinclair – (Zimbabwe) United Kingdom – Director

Only when I understood that African women had the same emotional reactions as mine and I learnt to recognize the expressions of these, only then did I feel that I could make a film about them. I based my research on questions like this: in that situation, what did you feel or what would you feel. Very often they gave me the answers I was expecting, but not always. For example, the greatest sacrifices for them were not of an emotional nature, but were far more practical, such as hunger, the continual search for food…I often asked the women I interviewed [for the film, Flame] if they mined that an Englishwoman made a film about them. They said: “Since you can do it, go ahead! (Alessandra Speciale, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 16, 1996, p. 14).

Wabei Siyolwe – Zambia – Director/Producer

I have a duty in terms of my own family to tell the right story.  I have to tell our history from our perspective. (Sisters of the Screen).

Thérèse Sita-Bella – Cameroon – Journalist  

…Remember that I am also a filmmaker. I have many scripts that are lying idle that I would like to film. I will retire shortly and filmmakers are ageless. This will be my way of leaving a message. Amina (France) September 1989, p. 44. (Thérèse made the film documentary Tam-tam à Paris, 1963. She died on February 27, 2006).

Oumou Sy – Senegal – Costume designer

[Djibril Diop Mambety] is not a director like the others. He gave me the script and said, “This is your film, I’ll let you do whatever you want”. So I was free to create…After having read the script and visited the setting [of Hyenas] the inspiration came by itself. Linguere Ramatou, the protagonist of the film, has traveled widely and returns to the country of her birth with a fortune and rich in experience. I did not want to talk about a country or a city in particular, but create a mixture in which it was possible to find the whole world. Colobane is the whole world. The feather in Ramatou’s hat is a sign that is also found with the pygmies, and the head covering of the village Imam evokes ancient Egypt. A little of all this is also inside me. I am of Peul origin and the Peul are said to come from Egypt. How can I get Egypt out of my head, if it’s in my blood? (Alessandra Speciale, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 2, 1992, p. 104).

Moufida Tlatli – Tunisia – Director

If the origin of the story owes everything to my mother, I also made the film thinking of my daughter who lives in a modern Tunisia but where the burdens of tradition continue to play every important political, social, familial and religious role…In Les silences du palais, I talk to both my mother and my daughter. I want my daughter to take on her freedom despite all the dangers and contradictions that this implies in our societies. Women are ready for the choice of modernity, but are men? Is discourse transformed into acts or reality? That’s why I intend, in my next film, to imagine a continuation, with the daughter of the main female character in Les silences du palais as my heroine. (Interview by Tahar Chikhaoui, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 8, 1994, p. 11).

Najwa Tlili – (Canada) Tunisia – Director

I speak of a woman's sensibility in the sense where...in the case of my film [Rupture], I speak of violence.  It is not only the woman who is beaten by her husband who understands what it is like.  I always say that I suffer for all the others, for this chain of women behind me, that I have in my genes, which I feel are here inside me.  One has it or one does not.  A man can feel it and understand it; he does not live it.  I live it.  I live it through my mother, within myself, through my daughter.  This brings a certain treatment to the subject, the questioning is different, the vision is different.  Even from one man to another, one filmmaker to another, and even from one woman to another.  This vision that comes out of women's experiences is problematized in another way, for better or worse, but nonetheless, differently.  Here, we are talking about a woman's sensibility. (Sisters of the Screen).

Prudence Uriri – Zimbabwe – Director

I took some locally-produced films to rural areas as a pilot project.  The objective was to make people aware that there are a lot of relevant films around which they should gather to see, to provide entertainment, and to discuss their views about the film we make with their participation.  But the films usually end up as information suppliers.  The films never get back to them and they usually do not know how we use the information they give us.  In a way it’s giving them back what we as filmmakers take from them, allowing us to assess what issues they feel are important to be discussed through film. The response was overwhelming and my only problem now is that I have created an expectation.  Often they asked if in the future we would maintain a continuous schedule and keep them updated through visuals.  I intend to use this experience to raise money for a relatively on-going mobile festival in the rural areas.  I came back with some very specific film ideas from the discussions that I had with the viewers there. (Sisters of the Screen).

Zara Mahamat Yacoub – Chad – Director

…Les enfants de la guerre, or what I call "in the oubliette”—because the surviving children are the forgotten ones—is a film that speaks about the trauma that haunts children who have lived through war.  My film does not only reflect the reality of Chad; it also speaks about the children of today, whether they live in Rwanda, Burundi, or Liberia.  It speaks of all the situations where there has been war. What moved me to address this problem in my film is the need to record this phenomenon.  Because today when there is a war in a particular part of the world, all eyes are riveted on the country where it takes place.  The whole world precipitates to this location; the press, the humanitarian organizations.  The world is focused on this country, on the children and women who die.  As soon as the war is over, there is not a word spoken about this place and the aftermath of the war.  No one even attempts to find out what happened to the survivors. (Sisters of the Screen).

Dommie Yambo-Odotte – Kenya – Director

...There are lots of people commenting on the deformation of images of Africa by foreign media… I would like to analyze our share of the responsibility. It depends on Africans themselves to change the negative images of Africa by offering the rest of the world positive images that are also critical of our realities. (Noufou Ouedraogo, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 12, 1995, p. 20).

Florentine Yaméogo – Burkina Faso – Director

I was very pleased with the choice of [the 1997 FESPACO] theme, "Cinema, Childhood and Youth" because it was a theme in which I was already interested.  Through this topic, I felt that we were given the opportunity to really think about the impact that images have on our children.  I work for the television and we have very few national programs for children.  We know that children like to imitate, and so everything that they see on television they try to imitate.  We are realizing that if we make films that address their needs in particular, that treat themes and subjects that interest them, that, in fact, we will actually participate in their intellectual, cultural and physical development. (Sisters of the Screen)

Hafsa Zinaï-Koudil – Algeria – Writer/Director

Daily life in Algeria has something heroic about it. Every daily act, even the most ordinary becomes an act of resistance…As for being a woman, that is practically a danger in itself. If you add being an artist as well, as I am, that gives yet another reason for death threats. (Interview by Cheick Kolla Maiga, Ecrans d’Afrique, no. 12, 1995, p. 14).


Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema |

Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinéma