PLANET AFRICA 1995
In 1995, the Toronto International Film Festival launched Planet Africa,
a new section showcasing films from Africa and the African diaspora.
Over its 10 years, Planet Africa brought films by Safi Faye, John Akomfrah, Abderrahmane Sissako, Euzhan Palcy, Charles Burnett, Djibril Diop Mambéty, and more to Toronto. They held World Premieres, screenings, panels, press. conferences, networking events and hosted the hottest ticket in town, the Planet Africa Party.
2020 marked the 25th anniversary and return of Planet Africa - screenings, panels, virtual parties and the official launch of this Planet Africa Legacy site Capsule, chronicling a decade in film history (1995 - 2004).
September 7 - 17, 1995
Planet Africa Programmers' Note
One hundred years of cinema, 30 years of Africa cinema. In that gap – between the Lumiere brothers and Ousmane Sembene – lies a world history, and one of the prime motivations for Planet Africa.
Each year, the Festival’s newest permanent section will showcase the best films from Africa, side by side with films made by African people wherever they live. This year, that means some of Africa’s greatest filmmakers – Idrissa Ouedraogo, Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Djibril Diop Mamberty and Drissa Touré – plus Frances-Anne Solomon and Roberto Bangura from Britain, and Americans Joe Brewster, Tanya Hamilton and Thomas Allen Harris. Planet Africa will cover the continent from Carthage to Cape Town, and the African world from pole to pole. Why? Because Africa has long since exceeded its borders.
Launched in 1966 with Ousmane Sembene’s classic Black Girl, African cinema has had a lot of catching up to do. Working against a tide of ethnographic films and ludicrous jungle movies that swept audiences into the dark about the continent, filmmakers looked instead to the traditions of African narrative and the contradictory realities of African lives as inspiration. Their work took the gains made by African independence movements – nearly 50 new states created in a generation and carried them into the century’s most insistent form of communication – moving images.
Even as it remains the most popular form of entertainment in much of the continent, cinema in the African context has always borne the responsibility of saying what needs to be said. If that means confronting the powerful, resisting censorship, calling out the hypocrites of the day, so be it. Cross the Atlantic and the picture’s the same. The boom in African-American cinema, the rise of black British filmmaking and the birth French Afro-Arab cinema have all insisted on questioning community even as they build it. In the best of these films, nothing is taken for granted. A few centuries of slavery, colonialism and economic migration may have scattered African people all across the globe, but what scholars call African continuities don’t die so easily.
In this year’s Planet Africa, that affinity is what connects Drissa Touré’s dynamic city portrait Haramuya, with Joe Brewster’s Brooklyn story, The Keeper. It’s what makes The Killers, Tanya Hamilton’s drama of a Jamaican girl exiled from her parents, resonate with Frances-Anne-Solomon’s What My Mother Told Me, where a black British woman returns to Trinidad and confronts a mother she hardly knows. It unites that historical sweep of Cheick Oumar Sissoko’s masterful Guimba with Djibril Diop Mamety’s delirious Le Franc. One is epic and the other satire, but both wrap magical storytelling around events that play like news bulletins.
While there are deep thematic bonds linking the continent with the Americas and Europe, the economics don’t translate so easily. Continental African filmmakers are lucky if they can get a film made every five years. Financing has to be cobbled together mainly outside the continent. And distribution – both within Africa and without – is a nightmare.
Planet Africa plans to do its best to boost the presence and the appreciation of African cinema in North America. In that task, we are grateful for the assistance we’ve received from the countless interested people and organizations. Deep thanks go to our sponsors, Oxfam Canada and to the Black Film and Video Network and our media partner,
The Metro Word. Filippe Sawadogo and the Pan African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) have been invaluable colleagues. And we couldn’t have done it without this city, home to one of the most diverse African populations in the world. Toronto is where descendants of Canadian slaves and British loyalist mingle with American draft dodgers and immigrants from every Caribbean island and all parts of Africa. There’s no better place for a party like this.
Planet Africa, Program Introduction
20th Annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
TIFF PLANET AFRICA PROGRAMMING TEAM:
Cameron Bailey, Planet Africa Programmer
Julie Crooks, Planet Africa Program Assistant
FILMS & FILMMAKERS:
Afrique, Afrique, mon Afrique... | Idrissa Ouedraogo | FRA
Le Franc | Djibril Diop Mambéty | SEN
Guimba (The Tyrant) | Cheick Oumar Sissoko | MLI/BFA/DEU
Haramuya | Drissa Touré | BFA/FRA
The Keeper | Joe Brewster | USA
The Killers (short) | Tanya Hamilton | USA
Sidney's Chair (short) | Roberto Bangura | UK
Vintage: Families of Value | Thomas Allen Harris | USA
What My Mother Told Me | Frances-Anne Solomon | UK