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Télesphore Mba Bizo
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films, artistes, structures ou événements liés à cette analyse
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Télesphore Mba Bizo

Newton I. Aduaka

Issa Serge Coelo

Ezra, Newton Aduaka, 2006

N'Djamena City (Tartina City), Issa Serge Coelo, 2006

Democratization Through Filmmaking In Africa
Ezra, The Kadogo Brothers, and Tartina City
Media effects are having a say in Africa as government censorship over works of arts becomes less sensitive. Gone are the days when a filmmaker, a singer or an author would be jailed for his or her ideas. Otherwise, Newton Aduaka, Joseph Muganga and Issa Serge Coelo would have been of blessed memory now for betraying their states. Their films are more or less a whole revolutionary and denunciative discourse on war time and its blunders. The following paper is made up of four sections. The first three start off with reviews and then overview the various environments of production of the three selected films. The article ends up examining the function that cinema as useful media and national policy watchdog has been fulfilling in advancing democracy in Africa in section four. Here is a combined analysis of film texts, contexts and effects where fiction well matches reality.

Stagging war films is new and news in Africa. This statement rejects the consideration of high-profile productions such as Blood Diamonds, for its "africanness" is limited to the setting and some few under-exposed, decorative local characters. As such, Ezra, The Kadogo Brothers and Tartina City deserve not to go unnoticed at ZIFF 2008, the 11 th edition of the Zanzibar International Film Festival, as regards the programming of features. This is why due credit should respectively go to Newton Aduaka, Joseph Muganga and Issa Serge Coelo for being innovative by succeeding in crossing the line that the overwhelming majority of African film directors have had to toe through out their careers with mixed fortunes.

Two main reasons account for these under-mentioned filmmakers' originality. First, there is a major shift in themes. Regular topical issues in African cinema are the fight for freedom, poverty alleviation, women empowerment… as opposed to the anti-war message in Ezra, the child abuse case castigated in The Kadogo Brothers and the freedom of expression advocated in Tartina City. The directors have neglected the trivial to emphasize the bizarre. The second change occurs in film genres. Although there are handful exceptions, the scarcity in war films is a fact that people have been living with for decades in Africa.

Ezra: Heralding Anti-War Propaganda In Sierra Leon And Nigeria

The first film will capture anyone's attention. Young Ezra (Mamoudu Turay Kamara) is abducted in school along side other classmates to join the rebels and fight for them. They claim that they want peace before holding elections and the government is out for the reverse. Chaos rocks and overwhelms the country as children soldiers from the rebel camp are unwillingly given illicit drugs in order to invade and ransack the localities that are in support of the government ceased-fire prerequisite of elections before peace. So, Ezra is all about the week-long hearing of a 16-year old boy involved in war massacres. Chronological flashbacks intervene in the narration at crucial moments so as to achieve filmic textual cohesion and coherence. Very few will cast doubt on Ezra's technicality. It uses the hand-held camera technique and close-ups to instill emotion. From the costumes, it is obvious that the tragedy is occurring in Africa. The fighters' outfit clearly determines what specific armed section they identify with. The rebels are poorly dressed. Yet, their leaders have control over the land of diamonds. That money is said to flow into their personal pockets, regardless of all the efforts the children soldiers make to fight back the loyalist forces. Actually, the film seems to insist that mismanagement is standard practice in both camps at war time. On the contrary, government service people display discipline in their battle-dress. However, their top-ranking officers are permanently receiving pieces of advice from their Western world counterparts. They have no decision to make on their own. It reflects the continuity of new colonialism, and lack of self-sufficiency of the African local leadership.
As a matter of fact, Sierra Leonean brothers and sisters are fighting without knowing that the actual war beneficiaries are Westerners. They manufacture weapons and make money and profit out of it as they sell arms, and collect diamonds at dirt cheap prices, leaving blood and sorrow behind them. This film is a fictional remake of a truly experienced misfortune. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that questions Ezra is the fictional replication of the one that was set up in Sierra Leon in 2002.
Ezra is also speaking to Nigeria. This Sub Saharan leading nation had witnessed one of its bloodiest period in the late sixties. The Biafra war killed over one million citizens. Those who were willing to secede from the Federal state were called the rebels. To say the least, Newton Aduaka is a native of Eastern Nigeria, Onitcha, where the Biafra war actually occurred. Furthermore, he saw the light of day on the eve of this war that broke out in 1967. It is needless to stress that the memory of it all is still vivid in his mind. As such, he has to be very vocal about these atrocities.

The Kadogo Brothers: Ivorian Children Soldiers Caught In An Unguarded Moment of Traumatic Post-War Torment

The second film is The Kadogo Brothers. The expository scenes take the spectators right into the jungle. The Secretary General of the Progressive Forces is to deliver an important message about the end of the war. All the children soldiers have to demobilize. The process of their reinsertion into the legal forces of defense fails to come true. They find themselves roaming the streets. Jim, Tom and Billy know no other thing apart from fighting wars as they were forced to enroll in the rebel faction at ten the day their classroom was broken into. Their headmistress was even raped and one of their female classmates murdered. They will ever live to hate school education because of this misfortune that the flashback successfully explains. Now, the three fellows are uneducated. But they must survive. To this end, they embark on stealing, taking advantage of their mastery of weapons and fighting techniques they acquired at war front to overcome the toughest criminals and citizens. They all smoke Indian hemp. They jump from scandal to scandal, committing offences even in the premises of the House of Community for abandoned children and orphans, where Father Joseph has been trying to reduce their sorrow and have them trained in carpentry in order to socialize afresh and make their way on their own in day-to-day life later on.
The Kadogo Brothers portrays actual, contemporary pictures of Africa. It narrates the tragedy in Cộte-d'Ivoire. Indeed, there is no clear-cut line between fiction and reality here as one the most promising country in Africa has been making the sad headlines of repeated military coups. The rebel group has the northern area of the country under control. It is the world most successful cocoa-producing territory. Government forces protect the South, including the capital city and the Abidjan seaport, one of the largest in West Africa. So far, the disarmament talks in the rebels-controlled zone have been at standstill, although their leader has accepted a comfortable position at the helm of the consensus government as Prime Minister. The absorption of former rebels into the army has been dragging and dragging. The Presidential elections to be held in the country remain a long-awaited call and cry. In one word, The Kadogo Brothers are synonymous to today's Cộte-d'Ivoire. All the promises made to the rebels seem to be void. This is exactly what Jim realizes at a press briefing where his war time bosses are telling tissues of lies about the issue of the heartfelt sadness of children soldiers. That is why the child rebel, lone survival of the three Kadogo brothers, is forced to gun them down on a live broadcast television show.

Tartina City: The Fiction Is As Bitter As Chadian War-Torn Reality

Last but not the least, Tartina City also deserves a close and fresh look. Injustice is rampant as from the start of the story as photo-journalist Adoum (Felkissam Mahamat) has to challenge the impossible in order to be issued a passport. He is aiming at flying overseas to tell the world that his country is heading for doom. Unfortunately, he is caught at the airport with a compromising letter on him. The plot develops from there and takes the audience to an underground prison cell. Chadian-born director Issa Serge Ceolo uses green lighting system to describe the sorry state of inmates. The prisoners' dinner is made up of a mixture of bread and sheeps' bowels. They are all victims of a corrupt government. Those who oppose the regime are sentenced to death in one way or the other. A professionally organized death squad has its eyes open on the least movements of people. Terror reigns supreme as the firing squadron leaves no stone unturned to achieve its goals. It is headed by a war evil. Colonel Koulbou (Yousssouf Djaoro) is to be commended, for his acting fits into the role of the wicked. He is always ready to raise hell, if need be. Few are those who can catch him off-guard. Even his second spouse suffers from his brutality. He commits the unbearable as he shoots down his mother-in-law the very way a vehicle can hit or run over a mouse. He embodies the devil and wrong-doing. To crown it all, the anti-hero is a sold-out to the powers that be.
Here again fiction comes to match reality. Even if the information gathered all through filmic narration does less to determine the setting and indicate the country where the shooting took place, the landscape easily associates with Chadian geology, geography and climate. Many may dare to say that the director forgot to specify the locations on purpose. He seems to be reluctant to identify his film with the uprising in the northern area of the country for security sake. Chad has been witnessing widespread witch-hunt, following the attacks that the rebels perpetrate in a bid to topple President Idriss Deby. However, it may be misleading to strictly draw a parallel between Tartina City and today's Chad. To some extent, it makes more sense to compare the fiction with the Chad of yesterday, especially the eighties and nineties. They are termed the years of repression. Opinion prisoners crowded police cells. People in leadership enviable positions took advantage of that situation to frustrate the underprivileged. They abused innocent citizens with total impunity. It even resulted in chores settling. Women were cheap victims in that context. They were tortured. In the film, the spectators are offered to discover many a form of tortures. That, the director could not have stressed out of naivety. To some observers, the story of Adoum and the director's hidden intentions result in one and the same thing, that is to achieve mass-exposure of the wrongs that prevail in Chad. Both the main character and the director exploit the (mass) media ideologically, the printing press and cinema respectively, in getting their human, peaceful messages across. There is no room for neutrality, when it comes to repelling public and personal violence.

Film Content Impact On Both The Experts And The Criticized

The issue of film effects can be tackled at two various levels as stories of this magnitude sell well. They draw the audience's attention without much prompting. Here, any good story tells itself as it provides first-hand information on war front, mass graves and what ever bizarre issue one may name.
The first step asserts that these three films make waves in Africa and the world at large. They are all multiple award-winning fictions. As concerns Ezra, it goes home with both the Golden Dhow and International Critiques Prize Awards. Its most prominent international recognition is its crowning as Best African film at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival, FESPACO 2007: the Golden Yennenga Stallion. As regards The Kadogo Brothers, it was distinguished with the UNICEF Award in Zanzibar. The film was also presented with the Best Fiction Film Award at the FESPACO in 2007. It is less interested in highlighting the differences between loyalist and rebellion armies. As to Tartina City, it is the winner of the SIGNIS Award, the world Roman Catholic Association for Communication. It also won the Innovation Award at the 31st Montreal Film Festival. This displays the wide acceptance of these three movies among film pundits. They shower praises on these films' innovative aspects. In this regard, the Nigerian-born filmmaker is said to be the fresh face of African cinema as he enjoys both commercial success and artistic acclaim. So far, they have been forming two conflicting values in Africa. Ezra sells well thanks to the ways it approaches war. Issa Serge Ceolo is said to be the director to monitor in the Central African Sub region.
The second step emphasizes feedback from the people in authority. They conspicuously keep a low profile. No news has so far leaked that any of these directors have had their lives threatened owing to their virulent criticism about a number of governments that are assigned guilt in their films. Indeed, no news is good news as things would have been worse in those days of state rampant brutality. For sure, top-ranking officials cannot welcome these films with pump and pageantry. At least, they are learning to accept their presence within their midst as an alternative critical discourse on the African public sphere. The African political landscape is not static. It listens to the call for modernity. Thanks to these productions, African cinema has started fulfilling its function of counter-power. In this regard, cinema as a genuine media goes a long way to the question public management of state affairs. In other words, these filmmakers observe their close environment. In so doing, they monitor government action. They are already free to congratulate or criticize at will. This is the contribution of films to the democratization process in Africa. Cinema is promoting the attitude of accepting the difference and encouraging dialogue among citizens from all walks of life. It is already democracy, even if it leaves room for completion by implementing the tradition of free and fair elections organized on the one man one vote principle. Ezra, The Kadogo Brothers, and Tartina City are an insult to various African governments as they highlight the evil concerns of the-have as against the-have-not. The almost unprecedented issue about them is that they give prominence to facts that would be raised in no way in cinema and television in the Sub Saharan Africa of yesterday, the one where permanent punishment and escalating violence became second nature to political figures.

Télesphore MBA BIZO

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   liens films

Ezra 2006
Newton Aduaka

Frères Kadogo (Les) 2006
Joseph Muganga

N'Djamena City 2006
Issa Serge Coelo

   liens artistes

Aduaka Newton

Coelo Issa Serge

Djaoro Youssouf

Muganga Joseph


11/07/2008 > 20/07/2008
festival |Tanzanie |
Festival International du film de Zanzibar 2008 (ZIFF)
20e édition

   liens structures

Cameroun | Yaoundé

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