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Black Diaspora Cinema

Short films session

Haile Gerima, Charles Burnett and Jean-Marie Teno


The versatility, economy, and freedom of the short film have made it one of the most favoured formats by means of which black directors have approached the key themes of black communities, while independently experimenting with the form.

In this session we bring together Haile Gerima and Charles Burnett, members of the Californian L.A. Rebellion collective—a unique collaborative movement which, since the 1970s, has united Africans and Afro-Americans at the UCLA with the aim of creating a new black cinema—and Jean-Marie Teno, the Cameroonian documentary filmmaker who has critically analysed political, historical, and social matters of Africa while reflecting on cinema as a tool of resistance.


Hour Glass
Haile Gerima
1971 / United States / Digital screening / 13 min / Original version with Spanish subtitles

Presenter: Daniela Ricci (Italy). Film critic and researcher.

The first film of the Ethiopian director Haile Gerima who emigrated to the United States, is about a young African American becomes conscious of his black identity in “White America” during a basketball game, leading him to think about the works of Fanon, Martin Luther King Jr., and Angela Davis. An experimental piece with a syncopated montage and a rich soundtrack with compositions by The Last Poets, this initiatory work is a statement of motives by a young director who would become one of the voices of reference in African diaspora cinema (Bush Mama, 1979; Sankofa, 1993; Teza, 2008).


The Horse
Charles Burnett
1973 / United States / Digital screening / 13 min / Original version with Spanish subtitles

Presenter: Tocarra Thomas

Described by its author as “a kind of allegory of the South”, this lyrical, enigmatic rural story about a horse that is about to be slaughtered, told through the eyes of a young black boy, was filmed during a break in the shooting of Killer of Sheep (1977). Basing his film on a story by Willian Faulkner, Burnett displays his skills in composing shots, creation of narrative ambiguities and dramatic tension, and placing the soundscape at the centre. Filmed in 16mm, it features his fellow actor at UCLA, Larry Clark, another key name in independent Afro-American cinema.


Jean-Marie Teno
1985 / Cameroon / Digital screening / 13 min / Original version with Spanish subtitles

Presenter: Jean-Marie Teno

In this intimate short film shot in 16mm, the director returns from France to his homeland for his father’s funeral. Once back in his village, he takes up old discussions from years before by means of a script that simulates the reunion of two old friends who meditate on their childhood, traditions, emigration to cities, and life in postcolonial Cameroon. The striking, moving story recalls tales told around the fire at sunset, using images filmed by Teno on his journey home.


La tête dans les nuages (Head in the Clouds)
Jean-Marie Teno
1994 / Cameroon / France / Germany / Digital screening / 35 min / Original version with Spanish subtitles

Presenter: Jean-Marie Teno

With a brand-new law degree, Jacky searches in vain in the streets of Yaundé for a job that is worthy of him. Iréne Pessonka, public servant, must sell food to top up her meagre salary, and Pascale Martine Tayou, poet and artist, finds materials in the rubbish dumps that are overrunning the capital to express a situation of personal and national crisis. Always alert and receptive to encounters with others, Jean-Marie Teno, shows these acts of individual resistance against the sombre reality of Cameroon, where kleptocracy runs wild with abuses of wealth and power in a parasitical system with colonial vestiges.

This activity is part of William Kentridge, Black Diaspora Cinema

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