Role of African Filmmakers as Griots

Posted: July 31, 2012 by phermc10 in Film Critique(Evaluative Analysis)

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Western Africa is the western most part of the Africa Continent, covering an area of roughly five million square kilometers for its sixteen countries. Burkina Faso where the film was shot is one of them.

Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) is the largest film festival that is held once in every two years in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, in West Africa since 1969 after independence of the region from British and France ruling. It attracts many a great local and international filmmakers and celebrities.

In colonial time, films were only allowed to be produced by Western filmmakers for Africa who distorted the image of Africa as an exotic region devoid of culture and history. The Africa Queen was said to be one of those films. Following independence, it has become the task of African film directors and the people to correct the largely flawed image and rescue the real one of the region abroad and home as films became one of the important and effective tools to do so.

There is an idea that filmmakers are acting like griots through their films in order to confront the outside world which is imposing radical changes on African ageless traditions. The director of the film Keita, Dani Kouyate, himself is a descendant of griots for the Keita clan. The existence of griots dated back to 2000 years ago when the society specialized in different groups such as farmers, blacksmiths, hunters, court men and griots. Looking back at history, human arrival in the continent began as early as 12,000 BC and many glorious empires such as Ghana (750-1076), Mali (1235-1645) and Songhai (1275-1591) were accomplished.

Therefore, the films concentrates mainly on social and political topics instead of only on commercial entertainment theme and conflict between tradition and modernity is one of them, showing the changes infected in African societies from the West.  By doing these tasks, filmmakers are trying to unite the society back which is increasingly split by individualism and competition charged with Western ideological influence through schools.

Thal Sandy Tun

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