5 Films to Watch at the Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes

The 10th edition of the International Pan-African film festival in Cannes, France goes from April 17-21. If you’re lucky enough to attend, here are five films on our radar. Dialemi – Elle s’amuse (My Love: She’s having fun) by Gabonese director Nadine Otsobogo is a bit of magic realism. A sculptor pounds away at a stone bust in his seaside home, where he lives alone. A mysterious woman appears, who the sculptor’s been waiting for. Excerpt above. Next, though 5 Egyptian Pounds is Egyptian director Mohammed Adeeb’s first film, it was chosen to be screened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner. A middle aged woman is being followed around Cairo by a somber, mysterious younger man. The climax of the film is revealed through his significance to her: 

Not much has been discussed about Rafael Padilla, a formerly enslaved Cuban man who became one of the first Black artists in France. Omar Sy is set to star as Padilla in an upcoming feature length film on his life. This documentary by directors Samia Chala and Thierry Leclère captures the stage production: Chocolat – Clown Nègre (“Chocolate, the black clown”). They hope to “interrogate our gaze, our confronting of the other, our construction of stereotypes and our discourse on xenophobia.” Here’s a fragment, and below’s a video with the makers of the film (in French):

Colored Confederates. A touchy subject in my own family (there are rumors that there was a Black Confederate soldier by choice), Ken Wyatt is hoping to shed some light on this much-debated topic and whether that “choice” ever truly existed. Anyone from the South in the United States is familiar with the arguments by mostly White southerners of the historical legacy surrounding the Confederacy and its flag.

And lastly, Tunisian filmmaker Mohamed Zran exposes a complete timeline of the Arab Spring in his documentary, Dégage, purportedly wholly from the perspective of everyday citizens. The trailer introduces an oft not heard perspective, from a child:

One thought on “5 Films to Watch at the Pan-African Film Festival of Cannes

    March, 2013
    Elegy for a Revolutionary nominated for an AMAA- Africa Movie Academy Award.
    The short film has won 11 Best Narrative Short Awards on the International film festival circuit. This film tells the true story of the South African white anti-apartheid activist John Harris who engaged in extreme methods of protest against segregation and was eventually hung.
    BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE: short South African film called “Elegy for a Revolutionary.”
    April 1st, 1965: JOHN HARRIS, white anti-apartheid martyr: On this date in 1965, John Harris was hung in Pretoria Central Prison for an anti-apartheid bombing: the first and only white person put to death for political crimes in apartheid South Africa.
    An idealist, John Harris (played my Martin Copping in the short film “Elegy for a Revolutionary”) planted a bomb in a whites-only section of Johannesburg’s Park Station, intending to demonstrate that whites, too, opposed racial segregation. But the bomb threat he phoned in was not acted upon, and the device killed a 77-year-old woman and badly burned many others. His death by hanging (reportedly with him singing “We Shall Overcome”) earned affecting tributes and flattering comparisons from his black countrymen.
    “Mr. Harris identified himself with the oppressed people and suffered persecution and is one of those few courageous White men in South Africa who believed passionately in racial equality”.
    Based on this true story, “Elegy for a Revolutionary” is an adaptation from the novel by C.J. Driver (banned in South Africa for many years) which is a loose adaptation of the African Resistance Movement (ARM) in South Africa during the ‘60’s. It’s a story of betrayal knowing no limits, when this small group dreamed that they could help topple the apartheid regime by blasting down electric pylons and government installations. They called themselves the African Resistance Movement. Encouraged by his friend (Jeremy James), a young, idealistic journalist (Donald Quick) joins the African National Congress (ANC) to protest racial inequality. When their acts of sabotage turn to murder, their relationship falls apart and with a country divided and loyalty strained, two men are forced to choose sides and suffer their fate.
    Like many others, John Harris, became convinced that there was no way left to influence the apartheid situation except by clandestine activity. The responsibility for the consequences lay very much on the rulers of Pretoria who, in defiance of the world and all sense of decency, created a situation which left no other alternative to decent people than to engage in violence. When most of his colleagues in the underground organization were jailed or fled the country, he tried to plan a spectacular demonstration. He placed a bomb in the Johannesburg station and telephoned the police so that the area would be cleared. The police did not act promptly and people lost their lives as a result of the explosion.
    Harris’s conviction was secured with the states-evidence turn of one of his compatriots (played by Brian Ames). For this betrayal, his freedom was earned and he was exiled by the time Harris was executed.
    In mourning the execution of Mr. John Harris, it was said he will not be forgotten, that in the struggle of the South African people this man, a member of the privileged group, gave his life because of his passionate belief in racial equality. This served to strengthen the faith of all those who also fought against the dangers of a “race war” and helped to retain faith that all human beings can live together in dignity irrespective of the color of their skin.
    The director, Paul van Zyl, grew up in South Africa and as a student worked for many left-wing newspapers, where he spouted popular left-wing dogma while working on behalf of the ANC/ARM movement. This story joins several others in which this compromised, messy and contested narrative has been written up. The film has won 11 Best Narrative Short Awards on the International film festival circuit, totaling 22 award recognitions, which might mean that this epic confession of shame deserves to be a feature film.

    Here is our official trailer:

    Based on a true story:


    Paul Van Zyl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s