Academic journal article African Studies Review

African Film: Re-Imagining a Continent

Academic journal article African Studies Review

African Film: Re-Imagining a Continent

Article excerpt

Josef Gugler. African Film: Re-Imagining a Continent. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. xiii + 202 pp. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. $59.95. Cloth. $24.95. Paper.

In this wide-ranging volume, Josef Gugler re-imagines Africa south of the Sahara through "comprehensive accounts" of seventeen feature films from around the continent that promote the "different perspective[s] African directors bring to bear on Africa" (9). Although he contends that the work is organized into "five conflicts," the films are actually divided into six thematic sections which range from "Recovering the African Past" to "Between the African Mass Market and International Recognition" (7). Covering a broad scope of topics drawn from three decades of African film practice, films as diverse as Ousmane Sembène's Xala (1974, Senegal) and Ramadan Suleman's Fools (1997, South Africa) are analyzed through the lenses of society, culture, and politics.

The introduction provides the necessary framework for the uninitiated through an excellent overview of the major issues affecting the African film industry, including history, production contexts, distribution, and exhibition. Gugler's style is readable and jargon-free, and he peppers his discussion with interesting "insider" information on the films' production history. The end of each section offers a selection of useful references and lists for further reading that are especially useful for students and academic researchers. Furthermore, the numerous references to African literature and culture make this a very interdisciplinary discussion.

The volume's major strength is also its major weakness. As a result of a strong sociological approach to the films, Gugler does not deal with aesthetics in any great detail, relying instead on broad generalizations of style. For example, he argues that "most African films adopt a realist mode" (10) without tying the observation directly to the works discussed in the volume or developing the argument in a way that illustrates why this form of realism is specifically African in context and execution. …

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