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Image courtesy of Aïssa Maïga

Aïssa Maïga To Lead Ground-Breaking Forum on Black Women In France's Film Industry at Cannes

The Senegalese-French actress will lead a forum alongside 15 African actresses to discuss negative portrayals of black women in France's film industry.

It would seem that there's nothing Aïssa Maïga can't and won't do in her fight for equality and inclusion of black women in the French film industry.

Now, the award-winning Senegalese-French actress will be leading a historical forum focusing on inclusion and portrayals of African actresses in the French film industry.


Featured as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women In 2017, Maïga remains unstoppable, paving ways for other African women seeking careers in the film industry. She's already starred in over 70 French films and TV shows, and became the first black actress nominated for a Best Actress César for her role as Melé in Abderrahmane Sissako's Bamako. She also received a Globes de Cristal award for her role in Prêt à tout. On top of it all, she's now an ambassador of L'Oreal, and it's hard to imagine that anyone would helm the forum better than Maïga.

The forum is the first of its kind. "For the first time in the history of the Cannes Film Festival, 16 black women will appear on the festival's red carpet on May 16th," as stated on EGM NY's press release.

The 15 fellow African women and women of the diaspora joining the forum are featured in Maïga's upcoming book, Black Is Not a Profession. The women will be holding a discussion to unpack the negative, stereotypical roles of black women in French cinema and lackthereof black women present in the industry. Some of the women include Mata Gabin (Bye Bye Blondie), Eye Haïdara (C'est la vie!), and Sabine Pakora (Samba).

As reported in The Glow Up, Maïga stated, "Now is a moment like no other in the history and evolution of black people in the film industry. Black Panther—need I say more? It's a pleasure to see our French sisters seize the power and momentum of the zeitgeist to speak out as one against racism and sexism to take their rightful place in depicting the wealth and dignity of their contributions to the rich and fascinating fabric of French society."

We are looking forward to hearing more words of wisdom at the upcoming forum to be held at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

UPDATE 05/17/2018: Aïsa Maïga speaks further on the protest in a new interview with France 24.

Maïga shares the day she made her break in the French film industry as an actress only to be disturbed by the outcome of her efforts. "I acted in a film and I succeeded—finally, halleluja, in playing the part of a girl. Just a girl in a couple. It was a romantic comedy. The shoot went great, everything was great. And then the moment the film came out I saw the poster and I wasn't on it."

Maïga's experience is one too many women share not only within the film industry, but in nearly every workforce. To be discredited from that which one has put blood, sweat, and tears to accomplish just for being a woman is never a great feeling, and it is an issue Maïga and 15 other successful women spoke out against yesterday. "We would like the world of cinema to understand we are done with cliché roles, we're done with bad offers and disrespect, and it's about time to get moving," says French-Rwandan actress and director, Sonia Rolland, in the video.

According to France 24, out of 2,617 roles, 171 were filled by black actors, and 31 of those roles were leading in 2017.

Interview
Photo by Trevor Stuurman.

Interview: Thando Hopa Never Anticipated Acceptance in the Industry—She Anticipated a Fight

We speak to the South African lawyer, model, actress and activist about her historic Vogue cover, stereotypes imposed on people living with albinism and her work with human interest stories about vulnerable groups as a WEF fellow.

Vogue Portugal's April edition was a moment that caused everyone to hold their breath collectively. For the first time ever, a woman living with albinism was featured on the cover of the magazine in a sublime and timeless manner. Thando Hopa, a South African lawyer, model, actress and activist was the woman behind this historic first. It was not just a personal win for Hopa, but a victory for a community that continues to be underrepresented, stigmatised and even harmed for a condition outside of their control, particularly in Africa.

At just 31, the multi-hyphenate Hopa is a force to be reckoned with across different spaces. Through her considerable advocacy work as an activist, Hopa has and continues to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about people living with albinism as well as changing what complex representation looks like within mainstream media. In 2018, Hopa was named the one of the world's 100 most influential women by the BBC. After hanging up her gown as a legal prosecutor after four years of working with victims of sexual assault, Hopa is on a mission to change skewed perceptions and prejudices when it comes to standards of beauty.

As a current fellow at the World Economic Forum, she is also working towards changing editorial oversights that occur when depicting historically underrepresented and vulnerable groups. The fellowship programme prepares individuals for leadership in both public and private sectors, and to work across all spheres of global society.

OkayAfrica recently spoke to Hopa to find out about how it felt to be the first woman with albinism to be featured on Vogue, the current projects she's working on and what's in the pipeline for her.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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