Africa’s Lost Classics: Continued Impact Project at the Film & TV Department

Africa’s Lost Classics: Continued Impact Project at the Film & TV Department

Issued: Thu, 15 Feb 2018 10:00:00 GMT

The University of Glasgow worked with Africa in Motion Film Festival on an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project that aimed to bring to a larger audience some of Africa’s Lost Classic films (ALC), writes Dr Stefanie Van de Peer, Film & TV at the School of Culture & Creative Arts.

This partnership developed an extensive programme of 17 “lost” African films, works that have been neglected or forgotten, that were screened across Scotland during the festival in October and November 2017, and across the UK at African film festivals in London, Wales and Bristol. Through this project, contact with archivists around the world led to discoveries of films that were deemed lost, and collaborations with restorers have brought old and decaying film reels back to life.

The project continues to build on the work of Dr Lizelle Bisschoff, founder of Africa in Motion and Lecturer in Film and TV studies.

Among the 17 African classics were a package of African animation for children and films for young people on diversity and race relations in the UK; and we restored, subtitled, digitised and screened three “lost” women’s films, films which had never existed with English subtitles and had never been screened to audiences in the UK before.

By organising a one-day symposium on Curating the Global Film Archive, we also placed African cinema at the centre of the global film archive, while providing a context of worldwide archival curation and research. We invited scholars from across the world to Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall, among whom keynote speaker June Givanni from the Pan-African Film Archive in London. Alongside the symposium we curated an exhibition that revisited the long history behind some of the world’s masterpieces of African cinema. Twelve central displays provided information on the films’ histories, political and cultural contexts, and restoration stories.

Exhibition visitors said: “Such amazing work, this was an eye-opener!”, “Fantastic exhibition, really enjoyed this.”, “Beautifully presented exhibition, thanks so much!”.

School screenings and events around animated films also enabled children and young people to grow in confidence and media-literacy when watching African films. The films served as content for two teaching resources created for primary and secondary school teachers. The resources are intended to educate students about (1) Africa and a sense of place, about family-ties and the role of storytelling in education in Africa, and about animation; about (2) racism and race relationships in the UK, and about diversity in modern society. Both packs can be downloaded from the project website, and are intended to stimulate imaginative and creative thinking, encourage children and young people to think about the similarities and the differences between those living in the UK and in Africa, enhance cultural awareness, and improve listening skills through storytelling.

One teacher said: “I just wanted to thank you both again for the wonderful experience we had in working together with you. This was a fantastic experience for our children.”

The women’s films we restored are Fatma 75 by Selma Baccar (Tunisia, 1976), Flame by Ingrid Sinclair (Zimbabwe, 1994) and Mossane by Safi Faye (Senegal, 1994). With the restorations we have been able to ensure a longer life for these pioneering films. Because of recent events and developments in the global film industries, more attention than ever is paid to women’s roles in cinema. The overall objectives of this project are to readdress the cinematic canon, its white male dominance and euro-centric nature; to bring attention to the role of African women in film histories; and to encourage inclusivity and diversity in film and media education from a primary school level onwards.

Mark Cousins said: “For decades I and many others have been angry at the amnesia about African cinema. Reading the Africa’s Lost Classics list I felt relief. The arrival of these classics in cinemas across the UK shows that walls can come tumbling down. It’ll be a long time before African directors achieve parity of recognition, support and esteem, but what a lot can be achieved by dogged researchers with an arts and humanities research grant to the University of Glasgow.”

Though the AHRC project is now finished, the project has just received confirmation of a continuation with Glasgow University’s KE funding, which will ensure a longer life on the film circuit for the three restored women’s films in the UK for the next six months, and another opportunity for school children to view African films and learn about animated films from all over the world.