A careful look at information platforms from industrialized countries shows that they are, and have been for a long time now, representing Africa in what can be said to be a negative way. All “newsworthy” events in the continent are related to war, poverty, hunger, and political struggle. The same can be said of its credits in movies and TV shows. I recall a few months back, the acclaimed American TV show “The Blacklist” was suggesting during its season premiere that Douala, Cameroon housed fearsome mercenaries. The question however is : Since the postcolonial period, how have African been portraying their beloved continent in the 7th art ?
Africa as a continent, is one that has had many dark times in its history. Therefore, many filmmakers think it is their duty, as representatives and sons of the continent, to not only acknowledge that part of their history, but to make sure that future generations can be informed as well. At the core of it, is the idea that Africans should be the ones narrating their stories and not, as it is sometimes the case, Europeans and Americans. As a result, many of these movies are either biographies or inspired from real events.
Like I said they are movies about the darkest times of the continent, and ethically, their jobs would demand that they portray the events as close as possible to how they happened, whenever they are allowed to do so. I am not against this type of movies, I encourage it even. But they have been so focused on this quest that they seem to have forgotten that cinema blends much more emotions than just drama. There is a need for these filmmakers to diversify the products they are offering. For example, Burkina Faso is increasingly becoming popular for its action movies “African style” which mix drama, comedy and action in a format that pleases its audience. They are offering something different and that is what makes their success.
The key word for this situation is “Fiction”. It has many uses in more developed movies industries but for the frail African movie industry, it mostly represent the ability to show the continent not how it is, but how it could be. Better, stronger, and why not, even using superlatives. Behind many works of fiction today, hides the intent to build hope, to open to people to a dream of a better life, maybe not for themselves but for their children. Many ideas born in fiction some decades ago are nowadays close to be a reality. African filmmakers must understand the everlasting power that movies can have and use it properly in an effort to build the future of an entire continent.
In the world we live in today, we are so frequently defined by how we present ourselves to the world that it is a missed opportunity not to use means at our disposal-movies, TV shows, and media- to showcase the best of ourselves. Africans should lead the change they want to see in the world tomorrow.