The world of cinema can become an interesting matter for discussion as movies themselves are something more than a series of dialogues between the characters. Studying cinema can help to know more about the people that it shows. Among others, African movies can tell the viewers the story of struggle and independence (Tomaselli 10). In her article on African cinema, Francoise Pfaff makes a research into the topic of new tendencies in African cinema and the specific features that make it different from Western cinema (Pfaff 58).
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The author supposes African cinema to have a little in common with traditional Western cinema. At first, she sees tendencies peculiar for African movie making as a kind of protest against the dominance of European and Western cultures in the world of cinema. It started to develop when African countries were trying to become independent from colonists. Due to that, many movies filmed that period were used as a weapon in political struggle. Pfaff claims that earlier African movies were focused on depicting intercultural conflicts and African lifestyle pattern, and this naturalism is still popular today. In most cases, the features that make African cinema different are connected to specific elements such as folk music and cultural icons. Furthermore, unlike Western directors, African ones tend to put stress on unraveling the plot rather than using many special effects.
In the end, African cinema can be characterized by its singularity. Besides, the respect towards ancestral traditions is stronger here than in the Western world.
Creating a movie
Creating a movie is a process that requires a lot of efforts. It is common knowledge that every good movie is filmed in order to express a specific idea; to do that, the directors can use a wide range of expressive means helping to show the situation in its true colors. Within the framework of cinema, numerous details connected to characters help the viewer to see the aggregate picture and understand the message that the director wanted to convey. There are a lot of approaches used to enhance the expressiveness of the movie; one of them is a specific use of clothes that the characters wear. Due to that, the director has an opportunity to highlight some specific traits of their personalities or demonstrate their cultural background. “Xala” filmed by Ousmane Sembene in 1975 is not an exception (Xala). This movie is an interesting object of research for those who are interested in politics and cultural studies (Repinecz 181). It shows the conflict between African and European cultures after Senegal has managed to become independent from France (Jones 17).
The movies by Ousmane Sembene are believed to be a significant contribution into African cinema of the twentieth century. In general, his “Xala” can be described as a comedy film telling about quite serious problems of common people living in Senegal (Zesseu 342). The protagonist of the film, businessman El Hadji suffers from erectile dysfunction that symbolizes the government’s inability to solve the problems of Senegal and its citizens. The movie shows his numerous attempts to “become a man” again in order to stop disappointing his young wife.
Watching the movie, the viewer can notice that African and European cultures seem to have mixed in citizens’ mind; they prefer wearing their colorful national dresses in order to state their independence from European influence. For instance, in one of the key scenes, a group of Senegalese men enters the chamber of commerce in order to chase out the Europeans sitting at a long table. This scene is very interesting as it shows emotional disposition of Africans who are tired of being under someone’s control; among other things, the director uses the contrast between bright national clothes that Senegalese men are wearing, and black and grey formal suits of Europeans. The brightness of African clothes symbolizes common people’s hope for brighter future of independent Senegal; compared to them, black suits of European policy makers look like a symbol of dark years that are already in the past. By means of highlighting the difference between the clothes of Africans and Europeans, the director shows the contrast between the emotional states of people losing and gaining the power. Nevertheless, we cannot say that European influence disappeared; new rulers change their bright clothes for black suits as the latter are regarded as a symbol of power.
In the end, it can be said that clothes play a very important role in the discussed movie as they help to indicate the characters’ emotional state and the positions in the society that they hold.
Jones, Hilary. The Metis of Senegal: Urban Life and Politics in French West Africa. Indiana University Press, 2013.
Pfaff, Françoise. “New African Cinema.” Cineaste, vol. 22, no. 4, 1997, pp. 58-59.
Repinecz, Jonathon. “This is Not a Pipe? Reflexivity, Fictionality and Dialogism in Sembène’s Films.” Journal of African Cinemas, vol. 8, no. 2, 2016, pp. 181-197.
Tomaselli, Keyan. The Cinema of Apartheid: Race and Class in South African Film. Routledge, 2014.
Xala. Directed by Ousmane Sembene, New Yorker Films, July 1975.
Zesseu, Claude Tankwa. “Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-First Century: Art Films and the Nollywood Video Revolution.” Canadian Journal of African Studies/La Revue canadienne des études africaines, vol. 47, no. 2, 2013, pp. 342-343.