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Violence in Souleymane Ciss's films: a cultural perspective

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This article looks at the cultural and historical sources of paternal wrath in five feature films made by Malian film-maker Souleymane Ciss between 1975 and 1995. These movies depict the conflict with patriarchal tyranny within the family or in the public sphere. In all five films, young victims attempt to escape their tyrant by returning home to confront him on his own territory. The article first deals with shooting locations and the mental appropriation of space. Second, historical precedents of the paternal urge to kill an offspring are traced back to African epics, for example the story of Karamoko's execution by his father, Emperor Samori. Finally, the Mande oppositional concepts of fadenya (male rivalry) and badenya (female cooperation) serve as landmarks in Ciss's quest for improved governance and socialization. As Ciss tempers his indictment of African violence with elliptical and metaphorical cinematography, the author opted for a cultural approach to elucidate the social and political meaning of aesthetic emotion.

Keywords: Souleymane Ciss; culture; film interpretation; history; myth; violence

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The University of Adelaide, Australia.

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film. 
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