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Subjects of exile: Alienation in Francophone West African cinema

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Based on research conducted at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs' African Cinmathque, this article explores the narrative and aesthetic manifestations of alienation in francophone West African films of the past five decades. Rather than examine immigration films, it focuses on francophone West African films that interrogate the concept of alienation from points of view firmly grounded within Africa, such as Sembene's Niaye (1964), La Noire de (1966), and Xala (1974), Samb-Makharam's Et La Neige N'tait Plus (1965), Mambety's Touki Bouki (1973), and Sissako's Waiting for Happiness (2002). The choice to centre Africa in this way within Francophone Studies has political value, and seeks to acknowledge the internal (psychological) as well as external (bodily) dimensions of exile. After a theoretical consideration of alienation in relation to contemporary Africa, the article identifies and analyses similarities that traverse specific films dealing with exilic experience, attempting to account for the prevalence of images of feet, the inscription of voices, and a palimpsestic aesthetic. Ultimately, the article acknowledges the painful and repetitive nature of exile while also arguing that alienation, in the context of francophone West African cinema, has become a source of creativity and psychological survival against hostility from both without and within.
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Keywords: African cinema; West African cinema; alienation; exile; exilic cinema; francophone cinema; immigration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of London.

Publication date: 2009-04-01

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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