Cinema of Niger

Cinema of Niger

The cinema in Niger grew from ethnographic documentaries in the colonial period to become one of the most active national film cultures in Francophone Africa. Filmmakers such as Oumarou Ganda, Moustapha Alassane, Mahamane Bakabé, Inoussa Ousseini and Moustapha Diop have had their work featured around the world. The Niamey African Film Meeting (rencontres du cinéma africain de Niamey RECAN) is one of the premier film events of the continent. Unlike neighboring Nigeria, with its thriving Hausa- and English-language film industry (see Nollywood), most Nigerien films are made in French and Francophone countries have been their major market, while action and light entertainment films from Nigeria or dubbed western films, fill most Nigerien theaters.


Colonial beginnings

Nigerien cinema first appeared in the colonial period. Jean Rouch, a French ethnographic filmmaker, is generally considered the father of Nigerien film. Despite arriving as a colonialist in 1941, Rouch remained in Niger after independence, and mentored a generation of Nigerien filmmakers and actors, including Damouré Zika and Oumarou Ganda. By 1950, Rouch had made the first films set in Niger with "au pays des mages noirs" (1947), in 1948 " l'initiation à la danse des possédés" and "Les magiciens de Wanzarbé" in 1949.

Still, many of the ethnographic films produced in the colonial era by Jean Rouch and others were rejected by African film makers because in their view they distorted African realities.

During the 1950s, Rouch began to produce longer, narrative films. In 1954 he filmed Damouré Zika in "Jaguar", as a young Songhai man traveling for work to the Gold Coast.[1] Filmed as a silent ethnographic piece, Zika helped re-edit the film into a feature length movie which stood somewhere between documentary and fiction, and provided dialog and commentary for a 1969 release. In 1957 Rouch directed in Cote d'Ivoire "Moi un noir" with the young Nigerian filmmaker Oumarou Ganda, who had recently returned from French military service in Indochina. Ganda went on to become the first great Nigerien film director and actor. By the early 1970s, Rouch, with cast, crew, and cowriting from his Nigerien collaborators, was producing full length dramatic films in Niger, such as Petit à petit ("Little by Little" : 1971) and Cocorico Monsieur Poulet ("Cocka-doodle-doo Mr. Chicken": 1974).[2]

1960s and 1970s: a golden age of Nigerien film

In the 1960s, Moustapha Alassane shot to fame with his animated short films, most notably Aouré, F.V.V.A, Toula ou le genie des eaux, Samba Le Grand, Kokoa (la lutte) and Le Retour de l'Aventurier (1966). Also in 1966 his mort de Gandji won the "prix de dessin" at the first Festival mondial des Arts nègres in Dakar. In 1960 Oumarou Ganda's Zarma language Cabascabo (about his service in Indochina) became the first African selection at the Cannes Film Festival, and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Moscow Film Festival the same year. Ganda was one of the dominating figures of early African cinema, demonstrated by his awards at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), a festival he and other Nigeriens helped to found, and which has become the premier festival on the continent. Ganda's Le Wazzou polygame won the first prize (Étalon de Yennenga) at the 3rd FESPACO (1972), while he won the "Congratulations of the Jury" at the 4th (1973), and his Saïtane won a "Special mention" at the 5th (1976). FESPACO now presents an "Oumarou Ganda Prize", given for the best first film.

And Ganda was not alone. In 1979 Gatta Abdourahamne won the «caméra d'or» at FESPACO for the film Gossi. The same year, he won the Screenwriters award for la case at the UNESCO festival in Nairobi Kenya. Other Nigerien directors gaining international recognition included Djingarey Maïga, Mamane Bakabé, Inoussa Ousseini and Moustapha Diop.

Decline and growth

Since the 1980s, Nigerien cinema has faded, in part due to weakening state sector financing, and in part due to the growth of lighter action and romance films, especially the Hausa language film industry of neighboring Nigeria. Niger cinema had tended toward French style art films, and in one of the world's poorest nations, public funding could no longer be justified.

In 1994, Nigerien Producer-Director Ousmane IIbo Mahamane founded The Niamey African Film Meeting (rencontres du cinéma africain de Niamey RECAN) as a biennial festival without prizes and a center for film making and film studies. In 2006, RECAN, presented some 70 films in Niamey. It's 2005 features included "Tuwo yayi magana", the first film by the Tarbiyya- Niamey film group. Based on a novel by Abdou Ouma, it is presented in Hausa.

Other contemporary Nigerien film figures include the actress Zalika Souley who won the "insignes du mérite culturel" at the 1990 Carthage Film Festival and the director Rahmatou Keita.

See also


  1. ^ Three men dramatized their real life roles in the film, and went on to become three of Nigerien cinema's fist actors. See: Jean Rouch. Notes on migrations into the Gold Coast. (First report of the mission carried out in the Gold Coast from March to December, 1954) Tr. into English by P.E.O. and J.B. Heigham. Accra, (1954) OCLC 11092127 and Jean Rouch, Steven Feld. Ciné-ethnography. University of Minnesota Press, (2003) ISBN 0816641048 pp. 352-353
  2. ^ Alfred Adler and Michel Cartry, Jean Rouch (1917-2004), L’Homme, 171-172 July-December 2004, [Online 24 mars 2005]. Viewed 7 April 2009.
  • Much of this article has been translated from French Wikipedia's Cinéma nigérien, accessed 2008-02-20.

External links

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