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Documentary Filmmaking Practices in Africa : an International Conference

Toronto, June, 13th, 2016 (Univeristy of Toronto). From January 19-20, 2017, In January, an international conference about Documentary Filmmaking Practices in Africa will take place at the University of Toronto, Canada. The keynote speaker is Sheila Petty, from the University of Regina, Canada. The conference is organized by Suzanne Crosta (McMaster University), Sada Niang (University of
Victoria) & Alexie Tcheuyap (University of Toronto)

Since the 1970s, African film production has undergone significant transformations, as demonstrated by many researchers. Given the ample interest in African cultural productions, especially African filmmaking, this seminal Conference will track the emergence, diversity and recent developments in African documentary filmmaking.

Indeed, if African documentary practices have recently been invigorated by technological innovations, it is noteworthy that African fiction filmmaking has generally, since inception, had affinities with documentary aesthetic forms (with the prevalence of social realism in its founding phases).

Moreover, as documentaries have been revitalised in the West, largely through cinema screenings (Chanan, 2007), African practices merit further study since the genre has proliferated in contexts where public viewing spaces are paradoxically restricted, particularly in Francophone Africa.

The rise in African documentaries can, therefore, be postulated by a number of factors including 1) the transition from film to video and the financial benefits that ensued; 2) the rise of distinct female voices amongst documentary filmmakers in a field that was once almost exclusively male (Tcheuyap, 2010, 3) the opening of new “democratic” spaces in the 90s and emerging political and social discourses; 4) the training of many documentary filmmakers in Francophone and Lusophone Africa by the French association Ardèche Images (“the AfricaDoc school”); 5) more recently, the development of narratives about the Chinese presence in Africa.

It is within this context that this inquiry on Documentary Filmmaking Practices in Africa will consider the emergence and development of the genre within the continent. Given that critical attention has, largely, focused on African fiction films, this conference seeks to examine the historical, political, sociological, economic and cultural dynamics that have facilitated the rise of documentary films, a genre in which Africa has been problematically anchored in anthropological discourses.

This Conference will, also, assess the emergence of documentary filmmakers from different generations whose training, mobility and views on social, cultural, gender, political and environmental issues demonstrate subtleties in their discursive, aesthetic and ethical trajectories and prerogatives.

A list of possible topics to be examined include, but are not limited to:

  • Theory and practice of documentary filmmaking in Africa
  • Fiction and documentaries: relationships and limits
  • History and documentary filmmaking in Africa
  • The political economy of documentary filmmaking
  • Documentaries and the testimony aesthetics
  • Ecocriticism and documentaries
  • New technologies: opportunities and challenges
  • Documentaries as catalysts for cultural, linguistic and creative diversity
  • Documentaries, the Internet and emerging distribution platforms
  • The documentary: a more “feminine” genre?
  • NGO and documentaries: political and ethical issues
  • The documentary: an “inevitably activist” genre?

Papers may be presented in French or English, however only those written in English will be considered for publication. Proposals, as well as a brief biographical statement should be sent to africadoc@utoronto.ca. The deadline for proposals is September 15, 2016. There will be no conference registration fee, coffee or sandwich will be served. However, participants will be expected to assume all other costs.


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