African “first films”

Gendered authorship, identity, and discursive resistance

Authored by: Anne Ciecko

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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In 2008, Focus Features, the arthouse division of NBC-Universal, launched a sponsorship program called Africa First, a competition to support the pre-production, production, or post-production of short films by filmmakers based within the African continent. The name Africa First has multiple connotations, including an overture of prioritizing African filmmaking, placing it at the forefront. The phrase might also suggest positionality, a hierarchical logic informed by hegemonic perceptions of developing economies and culture industries of what is variously considered the Global South or the “Third World.” The declared mission of the Africa First financial support and mentorship initiative (which lasted from 2008–12) was to cultivate “auteurist” talent, as well as international profiles of African filmmakers (Sanogo 2015). Through this framing, such films may also potentially register as inaugural to particular audiences (e.g. first African films screened/viewed from particular nations, novel iterations of particular genres, etc.), as they circulate in the international image market. The African First project thus begs the question: What’s at stake in being an African film “first?”

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