Sundance 2015: Senegalese Documentary 'Sembène!' + Rwandan Filmmaker Kivu Ruhorahoza's 'Things Of The Aimless Wanderer'

Senegalese documentary 'Sembène!' and Rwandan filmmaker Kivu Ruhorahoza's 'Things Of The Aimless Wanderer' are screening at Sundance 2015.

Ousmane Sembène

Though the selection of African cinema at Sundance has never been staggering, it has served as a platform for amplifying the reach of stellar features, documentaries and shorts from African writers and directors that we've loved, such as Andrew Dosunmu's visually stunning 'Mother of George' and Frances Bodomo's ode to the afrofuturist imagination 'Afronauts.' With the 2015 edition of the festival now underway, below we take a look at two films by and about Africans screening this month in Park City.

First up is Sembène!, a documentary film that focuses on the the life and legacy of late Senegalese auteur Ousmane Sembène. The feature, co-directed by Sembène's official biographer/mentee Samba Gadjigo and filmmaker Jason Silverman, follows Sembène's trajectory from primary school dropout and dockworker to one of the most important artistic and socio-political voices in African film and literature. Using a mix of rare archival footage, animation and exclusive material from Gadjigo’s travels with his mentor, this doc promises to be a sprawling visual homage to one of Africa’s greatest storytellers. Sembène! saw completion with the help a of successful Kickstarter campaign and will be making its world premiere at Sundance in the World Documentary category. Watch the film's trailer below.

Still from 'Things Of The Aimless Wanderer'

Things Of The Aimless Wanderer is the second feature from Rwandan filmmaker Kivu Ruhorahoza, and will be making its world premiere as part of the festival's New Frontiers category which "showcases films that expand, experiment with and explode traditional storytelling." An eerie and suspenseful trailer for TOTAW (below) doesn't give away too much of the plot, however the film's official synopsis sheds more light on the film as a meditation on Western paternalism and the colonial gaze as it relates to Africa and Africans today.

A white man meets a black girl. Then the girl disappears. The white man tries to understand what happened to her and eventually finish a travelogue. When the first explorers visited East Africa, the local Bantu populations called them “wazungu”. The word comes from the verb “kuzunguka”, to spin around, as a result of the explorer’s propensity to get lost in their wanderings. Things of the Aimless Wanderer is a film about the sensitive topic of relations between “Locals” and Westerners. A film about paranoia, mistrust and misunderstandings. Half a century after African independences, one would have imagined that relationships between African “intellectuals” and the West would be appeased by now. But more than ever before, tensions are rampant and mistrust is at its peak. In these times of easy access to the Internet, those who consider themselves depository of African authenticity are alert to the Things of the Aimless Wanderer. The ways of the Westerner.

The 2015 Sundance Film Festival began January 22nd, and runs through February 1st. Visit the official website for a full list of selected films.

Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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