Waiting for the New Voice of Africa
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes (for Brightness in 1987), Malian 72-year-old writer-director-producer Souleymane Cissé is now shooting on digital, but is ready to hand over to a new generation.
As an African veteran director and producer, where do you see the most important problems for African cinema today?
One word: politics. As long as there is not a clear political vision for Africa, it will not be easy for filmmakers to come through with their films. For 40 years I have been struggling with this problem - that was the reason why I created the Union of Creators and Entrepreneurs of Cinema and Audivisual of West Africa (UCECAO), uniting producers, directors, actors, distributors. But I am sure this vision will be given by the new generation, the new Voice of Africa.
But you have yourself been able to make films all these years. What was your secret, and was your greatest achievement?
I think my passion for cinema. Admittedly, passion is one thing, becoming militants for a cause and convincing people, another. But then Locarno selected my second film, Work, for the 1978 festival, and it even won a prize [the Ecumenical Prize], which was great for me. Since then I have been very devoted to Locarno.
This year the festival’s Open Doors are focusing on the 24 countries in sub-Saharan francophone Africa. Will this help the region?
It is a beginning – just being here, meeting other film professionals, seeing all the projects, discussing, is important. Personally I brought everything I was doing to a standstill to come here, but we must give it time, before we expect concrete results. They will come – I am sure.
Is digitisation part of the solution for African cinema?
In ten years time everything is digitised anyway, there is no film footage – we will only need it for the archives. I made myself a film on digital in 2009, Tell Me Who You Are, which went to Cannes the following year. Still the problem has nothing to do with technical issues – it is within people.
What do you have on the agenda yourself?
I am just about to finish a documentary on Senegalese director Sembène Ousmane, who died in 2007 – I think his passion for cinema was even greater than mine. And for my production company, Les Films Cissé, I am staging a new film by a Malian newcomer, Daouda Colibally – Ladji Nyè – about a young man who is fed up from working twelve hours a day for nothing, and joins organised crime. I want to support the new generation of filmmakers by providing the opportunities we never had: a way of producing their films.