On Black Women in Film



Djenabu Mare lives in Toronto Canada with her family. She is a singer/songwriter and documentary filmmaker.

(Kenya London News) Women have to stand up and be counted. The "Image of Black Women Film Festival" (link), in London this weekend, is great. It's definitely a pity that I won't be in London for this. More so, that, this year we have a Kenyan woman director exhibiting.

I'm yet to watch "The Secret Life Of Bees". Going to the movie hall has lately become a luxury for me. But then I guess with family engagements, this is inevitable with most mothers. Recently the U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama, admitted that she can’t remember the first time she went to an adult movie.

Thinking that there was a time when every Friday night caught me in the theatre; it is a pity that I don't catch anything on giant screen in surround sound any more. I should have thought of it yesterday when you asked me about movies, including mainstream, that interest me. I caught one called "Phat Girlz" featuring Monique and Jimmy Jean-Louis. Written and directed by Nnegest Likke. This one I actually bought legit!

Another movie I own that is truly wonderful is "The Amazing Grace" directed by Jeta Amata and produced by William Ebiye. This is the Nollywood version of the movie, because there is a Hollywood rendition too. I haven't watched it yet -- not necessarily a good thing because Youssou Ndour acted in it. You know how I love me some Youssou Ndour! It is based on the same story, but featured different takes of it. I will need to get it and watch it now actually. Interesting to note though that upon its release, the Nollywood version outsold the Hollywood version! We definitely can do great things in film -- we just need that ever elusive consumer solidarity because we are so many, but tend to be disjointed when it comes to financially standing behind our own artists in all forms.

As a consumer base, we need to bring it -- spend money on our movies, CDs, DVDs, make concerts the high charged and patronized events that they used to be, collectively stand firmly against piracy, before the mainstream understands that the African art form is a powerful force. We also don't need any external validation. There will be nay-sayers -- that is the nature of the beast. But if Tyler Perry has done nothing at all, the success of his very first movie (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) which was driven by African-Americans, does indeed prove that as a people, we can believe in something and support it wholeheartedly, naysay or not. Let's of course not forget that he was already doing great with his underground plays before he started filming them for the movie screen. Maybe a lesson in patience. Work on that base even at an underground level and they will spur you on -- all in good time.

My firm conviction however is that before we can target the consumer level of our independent movie/film directors, our governments -- African governments in particular -- need to start supporting the arts. Way too much lip service is paid. It is time that governments realise that our arts are an aspect of our cultural make-up that needs to be nurtured and heavily backed from a high level. I am one of those people who will watch a movie/documentary and wait for the credits to roll. I watch each and every credit all the way to the very end and wait for the blank screen before I consider the show finished. I have watched many documentaries about Africa and its people which have partial funding from levels of government from Canada and the U.S. for example, along with other sources. A couple that come to mind immediately (since I just watched this again within the last two weeks) are "Their Brothers' Keepers" and "The Man Who Became King". Then I ask myself, where is African government presence in all this?

I will, however, note one country which is very present in the support of its artists -- Burkina Faso. The land for whom Thomas Sankara fought and died. Home of FESPACO and the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou (best known by its French acronym, SIAO). It is no wonder that as an artist, this is the country I have every intention of relocating to. A couple of movies that I have watched from there (with subtitles) include Tilai (Idrissa Ouedrago) and Bud Yaam (Gaston Kabore). (source)