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Women in Film in Cameroon: Thérèse Sita-Bella, Florence Ayisi, Oswalde Lewat and Josephine Ndagnou

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There is a dearth of African women in prominent roles in the media, particularly females who work as directors in the motion picture industry on the continent. For a woman to build up a significant career in the media industry, she has to navigate through the archetype of the film director being a man’s privilege. This article, however, describes a political and socio-economical context in which the cinematic contribution of Cameroonian women is momentous. This is because of their relentless gaze and uncompromising self-introspection, probing the depth of their country’s insecurities and dysfunctions. This cinematic effort has a resonating effect on the larger Cameroonian society because it expresses the buried resentments of people long imprisoned by the ambient mediocrity of their governing elite. Hence, what gives this cinema power is not so much the symbolic order, but rather the ways in which this cinema formats real crises with narratives that evoke the police-state, the epidemic of political violence and the politicization of the judicial system. As such, Oswalde Lewat’s Black Business (2009) addresses narratives that evoke the police-state, the epidemic of political violence and the politicization of the judicial system. Josephine N’dagnou follows up in Paris or Nothing (2009) with gritty tales of a country’s socio-political economy featuring a battered and depressed youth driven to economic exile and aggravating issues of brain and muscle drain and de-facto condemning their country to perpetual underdevelopment. In response, Kim Longinotto and Florence Ayisi’s Sister-in-Law (2005) frames ordinary citizens’ access to law and a judicial system that is responsive to their needs. In aggregate, these cinematic techniques are reflective of the experiences of ordinary Cameroonians coming to sense with their own political worth, which fits the general narrative of defiance against the normative and self-destructive design of a modern dictatorship. Taken together, this cinema anticipates and propagates the decrepitude of this gratuitous and sterile form of domination
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Keywords: African women’s cinema; colonial legacies and postcolonial chaos; decolonization and democracy; grassroots media activism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Southwestern University

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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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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