Documentary filmmaking holds a special place in the history of African women’s cinema. In 1972, Senegalese filmmaker Safi Faye became the first sub-Saharan African woman to make a commercially distributed feature film when she directed “Kaddu Beykat”. The film, a mixture of fiction and documentary, depicts the economic problems suffered by Senegalese village farmers because of agriculture policies that Faye says rely on an outdated, colonial system of groundnut monoculture. Faye would go on to direct several documentaries often focused on rural life in her native Senegal.
African women who have taken documentary filmmaking to new levels come from across the continent and handle a wide range of topics. The films show an Africa that is not often seen, according to Beti Ellerson, director of the Center for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema. Ellerson, who teaches courses in African studies, visual culture and women studies in the Washington, DC, area, is also the producer of a 2002 documentary, “Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema.”
Much has changed since Faye’s early Senegalese films. The emergence of the Internet, social media and crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter now offer a new generation of African women documentary filmmakers the tools to realize their visions. To learn of the challenges and opportunities facing African women filmmakers, AllAfrica’s Genet Lakew and Rahwa Meharena asked three women - Salem Mekuria, Rahel Zegeye and Sosena Solomon (pictured above) - to share their stories. They represent two generations of Ethiopian documentary filmmaking.
The head of the UN refugee agency has called on leaders meeting at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland to keep sight of humanitarian crises around the world as they seek solutions to economic troubles in other parts of the globe.
Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said on Friday that economic turmoil was fueling conflicts around the world and hurting those already hard-hit.
“When prices go up and unemployment goes up, tensions increase and more conflicts are triggered, more people are victims of war in different parts of the world,” he told The Associated Press news agency.
“These people suffer enormously.”
Guterres was speaking on the sidelines of the WEF in Davos, Switzerland, where about 40 heads of government and leader’s from the world’s biggest companies have gathered to discuss issues ranging from the eurozone crisis to Iran’s nuclear programme and other issues.
Guterres, who is at the Davos summit to ask for further financial aid for the UN’s aid effort, has asked for “massive support” from the international community to assist hundreds of thousands of refugees, particularly in Sudan and South Sudan.
More than 350,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes in three states in Sudan and South Sudan, according to the UN agency.
Two of the states - South Kordofan and Blue Nile - are in Sudan, while the third - Jonglei - is in the world’s newest nation.