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The Rise of African Cinema at the 76th Cannes Film Festival

African Cinema Shines with A Record Number of Films in Competition


French-Senegalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy (C) arrives with Senegalese actor Mamadou Diallo (L) and Senegalese actress Khady Mane for the screening of the film "Banel E Adama" (Banel and Adama) during the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 20, 2023.

Four Daughters from Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania and Banel

The 76th Cannes Film Festival has been a remarkable showcase for African cinema, with a record number of films from the continent in the official selection, spanning various genres and styles. From Tunisia to Senegal, from Morocco to Sudan, from Algeria to Congo, African filmmakers have brought their stories, visions and voices to the Croisette, challenging stereotypes and celebrating diversity.


Among the highlights of this year's edition are two films in competition: Four Daughters from Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania and Banel & Adama from Senegalese-French filmmaker Ramata-Toulaye Sy. Ben Hania, who was nominated for an Oscar for her previous film The Man Who Sold His Skin, explores the mystery of a woman whose two older daughters have disappeared, using professional actresses to play their roles in an experimental documentary. Sy, who makes her feature debut, tells an epic love story set in a remote village in northern Senegal, with elements of magical realism and Greek tragedy


Another film that has generated buzz is Omar la Fraise, a crime comedy set in Algiers, directed by Elias Belkeddar and starring Reda Kateb and Benoît Magimel. The film follows Omar, a washed-up gangster who tries to get back in the game, drawing inspiration from the films of Sergio Leone and Takeshi Kitano. Omar la Fraise was screened as a Midnight Screening entry, along with Les Meutes, a Moroccan thriller directed by Kamal Lazraq, about a young man who gets involved with a dangerous gang.

Image: Omar la Fraise, directed by Elias Belkeddar and starring Reda Kateb and Benoît Magimel.

The Un Certain Regard section also featured four African films: The Mother of All Lies, a documentary by Moroccan director Asmae El Moudir, who investigates her family's secrets; Omen, the feature debut of Belgian-Congolese hip-hop artist Baloji, who mixes musical sequences and social commentary in his portrait of Kinshasa; Goodbye Julia, the first Sudanese film to screen at Cannes, directed by Mohamed Kordofani, who depicts the struggles of a woman who wants to divorce her abusive husband; and The Last Shelter, a documentary by Malian director Ousmane Samassekou, who follows the lives of migrants in a hostel on the border between Mali and Mauritania.


The presence of Africa at Cannes was also marked by a tribute to Malian great Souleymane Cissé, who won the jury prize in 1987 for his film Yeelen. Cissé was honoured with a special screening of his restored masterpiece and a masterclass. UNESCO also organized a round-table to promote the African film industry and its potential for growth, highlighting some of its initiatives to support it, such as the partnership with Netflix for reinvented African folk tales and the African Film Heritage Project with Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation.





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The Rise of African Cinema at the 76th Cannes Film Festival

May 18, 2023

Fredrick Favour

2 min read