Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Now into its 33rd year, Vues dAfrique, founded director, Gérard Le Chêne (now International Festival Director) – with his daughter Géraldine now acting as general director – is North America’s largest and most important pan-African film festival. This year, Morocco is being spotlighted. In fact, journalists assembled in Montreal’s beautiful Moroccan Cultural Centre to get a taste not just of great Moroccan food but an earful of news that also presented us with consul generals from Gabon, Madagascar and Cuba. VIPs also include nine jury members, such as the brilliant Andre Boulerice, Doris Posch and Iolande Cadrin-Rossignal.  Author and actress, Maimouna N’Diaye led the press confernece ceremony as the opening speaker. She’s a star in her own right.  “L’Oeil du Cyclone” by Sékou Traoré garnered her several acting awards in many festivals.

Over 107 films will be presented this year of every genre, and with Morocco more or less being the master of cinema highlight this year, “La main de Fadma” by Hakim Belabbes will open the festival, and four more of his films will be presented, as well. His notable feature, “Sueur de Pluie” also by Hakim Belabbes won best prize at Tanger’s national film festival last year.
“Raja Bent El Mellah” by Abdelilah Elijaouhary will have his documentary film shown. 
There’s even a Moroccan short, “Ima”, and many more that will be presented from this and other sister countries.
The panel speakers from Dar al Maghrib area of Morocco are sure to engage all who attend as they speak about the Moroccan experience as a filmmaker.  Canadian panellists will also join this event. After all many of the festival 107 films are co-productions. Filmmaking is rigorously flourishing in every country in African, and Vues d’ Afrique as snagged the best of the lot.
The festival runs from April 14 – 23. An exciting mix of artistic activities, including educational projects with participation from children are on the agenda.


For information on tickets and more visit: www.vuesdafrique.com.

Reviews follow

(Directed by Nicolas Deleveux)

 Virunga is the oldest national park in Africa. It is the biodiversity jewel of Congo. But poachers, a 20-year war and militia have killed not just so many animals there, but the guards and many more villagers who live in this park that spans 500 kilometres x 30 kilometres.  In 2007, great massacres occurred. With stunning mountains to its north and south, the park was founded by King Albert of Belgium in 1925 after he first came here seven years prior. The protection of flora, fauna and the gorilla population has involved all who inhabit the park and Unesco. Emmanuel de Merode who was once shot during an ambush, directs the park, and it is during this film that we meet the princess of Belgium, whose father was Leopold III. he came to this park.


As Princess Esmeralda is taken on an amazing in-depth tour of all the park’s facilities, its school, hospital, newly built hydro electric plant and the guard garrison of brave people, we begin to realize that it takes a village to create a miraculous park. We are moved by the close relationship one man who has risked his life to be with the gorillas. 

We meet many brave villagers and experts whose life work is the park. The park’s 800,000 hectares I is hope to a love nest of gorillas who live high up. The princess and a group of park experts and two soldiers take the long trek to be with them. The volcano looms in the distance, as does Rwanda and the imminent dangers incurred not by animals but by vicious human beings whose only mandate is to kill for profit. The camera work was astounding. You felt like you were there with the princess. The interviews with all the people involved in the park were telling and unrehearsed. The park sustains the 4 million people whose live is in some way dependent on the stunning reserve of river, and greenness. Deforestation has happened, but with the brave people who are educated to combat man’s insidious disregard for natural wonders, the park will endure and develop properly, guided by the mindful, supremely wise and caring experts. (Screened at Vues d'Afrique Festival).



                                   WELCOME TO GONDWANA (Directed by Mamane) **

Somewhat ridiculous but an obvious farcical satire on France playing big brother in   African countries. This  fictitious one happens to be Gondwana –  toted as the “very very democratic state”. Of course, it’s anything but. France sends a delegation to observe voting during the elections, and it seems everyone in the group has his/her own agenda. The French deputy wants fairness and a girl he meets.

 There’s a businessman who is more intent on selling his asparagus to VIPS than doing his job as an official observer, and there’s a female whose revolutionary actions cause havoc.
The French know how to create fun characters, but this 100-minute film is childish. Still, its light-hearted tone works well. (Screened at Vues d’Afrique Festival)

                                          A MILE IN MY SHOES (Directed by Said Khallaf) ***

It is very difficult to make a film with several characters and to attempt to chart their entire unlucky lives from childhood to adulthood. Editing is key in this type of film, and it failed. Plot-wise Said endures a life of abuse and blame. Violence stalks him in all kinds of life stages, and the two loves of his life – his aunt and his girl friend suffer through the turmoil. Staged like a theatrical play at times, with melodrama setting the tone, then switching to raw reality, the film is a mix of confusion. It ends happily, but the worst side of Moroccan life as shown in this film loses credibility. (Screened at Vues d’Afrique Festival).

                                                          CAHOS (Directed by Hervé Roesch) ****

 High up in the mountains of Haiti is Cahos and the few inhabitants who for centuries were able to make a living out form the coffee bean plants that grew beside them. But those days are over. Faced with deforestation, cyclones and rain, where soil falls into the river and the plants no longer grow, the future is dismal.  What to do, but have cock fights, sit and look out at the mountains, and drink the little coffee they roast.  Ironically, the inhabitants are forced to cut down trees to make coal.

 The lack of trees provide no buffer to protect potential growth of coffee bean plantations.
The pickings are few; but the villagers' humour prevails.


KEMTIYU-SEEX ANTA (Directed by Ousmane William M'Baye) *

Archival stills and film clips attempt to reveal the genius of Cheikah Anita Diop. This brilliant Senegalese man went to Paris’s Sorbonne to study philosophy as a young man, and also chemistry. He became an advocate for proving Egypt was not European , but a nation of blacks. In fact, it is African. He wrote volumes on African history, and upon returning to Senegal, opened up a carbon 14 laboratory.

 This wonderful man was arrested for his beliefs on Egypt, and only got his due after his death, when the University in Dakar’s name changed to take on his name.  He died in 1986 at the age of 63. What a loss! The film was far too long, and the assortment of people who were interviewed were so many that the film in trying to distil his life turned into a talking heads historical narration that did not truly capture this great man’s passion. 

LA MAIN DE FADMA (Directed by AHMED El Maanouni)****

In Jamaa El Fna in Marrakech, Fadma is a wonderful mother whose grown-up so, Karim is a joker and lovable stay-at-home devotee to his mom. He makes her laugh and is dependent on her.

 But he has dreams and eventually fulfils them, and he does by the end of the film with his uncle and Ahmed, his  computer addicted business man brother and his family and their friends. This happens six months after Fadma travels to France to visit her son and wife. The teenage daughter is a real brat. Fadma finds a way to endear her granddaughter to her, even joining her in the play “Romeo and Juliet” in which the daughter stars. Fadma is a woman of great warmth and several talents. The ending of the film is happy, and makes a message that being Arab is a joy that one should never hide when one lives in Europe. Indeed, it seems that Marrakeck and its inhabitants really know how to live and love.


LA COLERE DANS LE VENT (Directed by Amina Weira) *****

A living hell in the dust bowl town of Arit. Here inhabitants are suffering from uranium toxicity from the mine in Areva, Niger. The two mines there have doctors that ignore x-rays showing illness.

 Their homes are full of toxic material from the mines, as the bricks are using Argyle Company’s deadly chemical. The wind, the forlorn sadness is uncovered by the filmmaker whose father tries to rally the men against their situation. She herself is on camera. An important moving film that uncovers a little-known huge problem in this region of Niger.

Amina Weira

RAJA BENT EL MELLAH (Abdelilah Eljaouhary) *****

How sad! In Marrakech,  a young Najat Benssallem squats in a hovel holding her broken award – won for best actress in the film in which she starred, “Raja”. Now she is destitute. 

She lines up everyday hoping to get in to the film ceremony awards held in her city. No one knows her; no one recognizes her. Her co-actor, Pascal Gregory, from France gets her in once, but he admits he can’t help her at all in life nor get her another film role. Jacques Doillon made the film in 2003 which features this rebellious girl as a love interest with an older French man. Now Najat sells cigarettes to earn money on a moment to moment basis. We follow her from 2007 to 2009 to 2011 to 2015. Once thin, she gains weight, and rejects her sister’s invite to live with her in a far away village. Najat was exploited as an actress, never got royalties and was discarded like an old bag after her moment of glory. 


CHANTRAVY (Issonet Charlot)****


The camera follows the community of workers from La Miele, an appallingly poor village in north-east Haiti. The workers travel in a truck to another area in the Dominican Republic.  The workers sing as they work, even a song “to the bamboo”. Kids play.

But this is a documentary that closes in on the mix of voodism with Christianity, and a worker who drinks water and gets cholera. The sorrowful man goes to a clinic and the cure is to go to a voodoo man who uses cards and some kind of drink to heal him. 


The result is he ends up in a coffin. Impoverished conditions combined with voodoo ‘tricks’ is not helping Haiti banish the evil of abject poverty. Such a short but powerfully sorrowful film.
                        BENEATH THE ART (Zandile Wardle) *

A South African film flirting with homosexuality. Khanya is a dancer who wishes to go places but something is holding her back in her rehearsals. One of the other female dancers could be adding to her problem. The dancing in the film had its moments, but by and large a very amateurish film whose content was childishly handled.

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