Book Chapter

Introduction: Revising the Classics: Opening up the archives of African cinema



Murphy D & Bisschoff L (2014) Introduction: Revising the Classics: Opening up the archives of African cinema. In: Bisschoff L & Murphy D (eds.) Africa’s Lost Classics: New Histories of African Cinema. Moving Image, 5. Oxford: Legenda, pp. 1-21.

First paragraph: The long journey that has led to the present volume began almost a decade ago when we started planning for the inaugural Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival (, at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, which took place in October 2006. The complete programme for the festival consisted of 25 films from all over Africa (shorts, documentaries and feature films from the 1950s to the 2000s), and was designed to give audiences a sense of the aesthetic diversity and richness of filmmaking across the African continent. However, if part of our motivation stemmed from a desire to reveal the geographical range of African cinema, we were also particularly anxious to provide greater historical depth to our audience’s understanding of film in Africa, and it was with this aim that we embarked on a research project—generously funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council—which allowed us to curate a series of ‘Lost African Classics’ as part of the first AiM. The primary aim of the project was to bring little-known films—by both major and neglected African directors—to the attention of theorists and critics, as well as to the general viewing public. At the time, very few African films were screened to the general public in the UK; statistics obtained in 2005 from the now defunct UK Film Council showed that only nine African films were theatrically released in the UK between 1995 and 2005. African films could only be seen in the UK in niche film festivals or occasionally in international film festivals or in special retrospectives in independent art house cinemas. The four ‘lost classics’ screened at Africa in Motion 2006 focused on Francophone West African filmmaking from the 1960s, which a general critical consensus (at that time finally beginning to crack) had long held to be the place and time at which something called ‘African cinema’ was born. The films screened were: Le Retour d’un aventurier/The Return of an Adventurer (Mustapha Alassane, Niger/France, 1966); Concerto pour un exil/Concerto for an Exile (Désiré Ecaré, Ivory Coast/France, 1968), Contras’ City (Djibril Diop Mambety, Senegal/France, 1969) and Badou Boy (Djibril Diop Mambety, Senegal/France, 1970). The two screenings of the Lost Classics package during AiM 2006 were well received by audiences and were, as with the rest of the festival, practically sold out

Title of seriesMoving Image
Number in series5
Publication date01/11/2014
Publisher URL
Place of publicationOxford