Jean Odoutan in “Looking Back, Looking Forward”

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I became a filmmaker out of defiance, to put an end to that antiquated boilerplate, those old clichés according to which, in the France of the 1980s, the black African was just an extra or a silhouette, or at best played the roles of the grinning garbage man, the sly marabout with the bawdy laugh, the old rogue with the crestfallen mug; a void, therefore, in the films made by white people of questionable morals! And in a broader sense, over and above this sacrilege, I see it as my duty, without the least trace of megalomania, to add to this edifice that bears the name “cinema,” offering unparalleled works, anti-morose, which will undoubtedly take their place on the shelf of what is commonly known as the “World Cinema Patrimony,” making an Eiffel Tower of my minuscule person: a monument, in other words!

What challenges and opportunities will African cinema face in the coming

From the local to the universal! To refuse any kind of complacency. To put out the utmost of original films without trying to please anyone.To pose thunderous subjects and jeer at the critiques, which come normally from finger-waggers and penny-ante specialists in black culture. The director from the Dark Continent has everything to gain by setting forth works that speak of the terroir; he will no longer be stymied with technical burdens, the heavy apparatus of 35mm, the astronomical budgets, the old song-and-dance about “bankable” actors.With his miniature digital toolbox, the opportunity is his for the taking, to invent, to flaunt assorted pompous dramaturgical rules, to show his ingenuity while respecting his three Elements: Time, Place, and Space. Then he can launch a singular stagecraft that grazes against the quintessential. Because it is the good fortune of the contemporary cineaste from the Dark Continent that our theatrics are still completely virgin, unknown, and underexploited, and ask only to be deflowered with poetry. For today is tomorrow already!

Excerpt from “Looking Back, Looking Forward: 20 Years of the New York African Film Festival” (2013).