Contemporary French Civilization

African cinema and its “ancestor”: local encounters in Jean-Marie Teno’s Lieux Saints

Contemporary French Civilization (2018), 43, (1), 91–108.

Abstract

Jean-Marie Teno’s 2009 documentary Lieux Saints was filmed in Saint Léon, a poor neighborhood of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and focuses on the paradox that local and regional audiences do not have access to African films, despite the city’s longstanding significance to African cinema. In this article, I present and analyze how Lieux Saints is thinking through the constraints of African cinema while also imagining its creative potential. The film looks to the past of African filmmaking to assess the present and imagine the future. Through its encounters with a video club owner, a writer, and a djembe-maker and musician, the film captures the creation of goods that are destined for the local marketplace and/or that connect meaningfully to the lives of the people of Saint Léon. This theme presents a counterpoint to the contemporary situation of filmmakers from Francophone West Africa who struggle to connect with audiences outside of festivals and cinemas that show the occasional African feature. The film’s particular treatment of the djembe-maker musician establishes a relationship of kinship. My analysis of this relationship reveals an instance of translocal collaboration, which may indicate new possibilities for African cinema to circulate, or orbit, among audiences in spaces such as Saint Léon.

Lieux Saints, le documentaire de Jean-Marie Teno réalisé en 2009, se passe dans le quartier populaire de Saint Léon à Ouagadougou au Burkina Faso, et dénonce le paradoxe que les publics locaux et régionaux n’ont pas accès aux films africains, malgré le statut de la ville comme centre du cinéma africain. Dans cet article, j’analyse la manière dont Lieux Saints pense les limites du cinéma africain tout en imaginant son potentiel créatif. Le film se tourne vers le passé du cinéma africain afin d’évaluer son état présent et son avenir. A travers les trois personnages principaux, dont le propriétaire d’un ciné-club, un écrivain, et un fabriquant et joueur de djembé, le film met en scène la création et la réception de produits culturels qui ont du sens dans la vie des habitants du quartier. En même temps, ce thème révèle les limites du cinéma africain, notamment la situation actuelle des cinéastes francophones ouest-africains dont les films restent largement hors de portée des publics du continent. Le traitement particulier du joueur de djembé établit un rapport filial entre l’instrument et le cinéma, et mon analyse révèle un exemple d’une collaboration translocale qui signale de nouvelles voies pour le cinéma africain dans des espaces telles que Saint Léon.

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Keefe, Anna V.