Senegal was once at the forefront of African cinema, with directors like Ousmane Sembene and Djibril Diop Mambety receiving international acclaim in the years after the country’s independence from France in 1960.
But 50+ years later, thanks in part to an economic crisis in the 1980s that broke support systems, Senegalese filmmakers are despondent over the future of an industry which they say has been completely abandoned by the government.
“Senegalese cinema was born before the Asian cinema… Today the Asian cinema is in the front row in Hollywood, at the Oscars, Cannes … while ours is stuck debating a crisis that has lasted for years,“ says filmmaker Mariama Sylla in a report on the matter by the AFP.
In the past 10 years, almost all of Senegal’s roughly 100 cinemas have been sold off, becoming shopping centres, nightclubs and churches. 10 are still in business but struggling to survive.
This means movies like Moussa Toure’s La Pirogue which we’ve been following here on S&A since its Cannes Film Festival debut earlier this year, or Alain Gomis’ Tey (which we’ve also been following wince its Berlinale debut) may not been seen by the average Senegalese.
However the appointment of a new Culture Minister in world-renowned musician Youssou Ndour, has inspired some new hope. Ndour’s first act was to publish a report in June that states that the country’s film industry crisis is “symptomatic of the non-existence of state support,” and promises “the real revival of cinema in 2013.”
“I see Senegalese cinema not as something dead, but as something which is diseased, on the operating table, in a coma of course. Now will this sickly thing wake up … or will it die?” said filmmaker Mamadou Ndiaye, an award-winning director who won the prize for the best television series at FESPACO last year, with his show Ismael Ndiaxum.
Watch the AFP report below: