Africans expanding film image

Helmer Ngangura doubles decade's output with 'Pieces d'Identites'

CANNES — It’s almost 10 years since a feature made it through the whole production process in Congo (formerly Zaire) and now director Mweze D. Ngangura has doubled the output of a decade with his Cannes Junior sidebar entry “Pieces d’Identites.”

Alongside Burkina Faso-born director Pierre Yameogo, who has his “Silmande” screening in the market at Cannes, Ngangura is trying to develop a wider audience by shooting pics that go further than the somewhat stereotyped image of “life in a village,”‘ an image often associated with the continent’s cinematic output.

“African cinema has been an assisted cinema, which has been defended by certain people, both critics and festival programmers,” Yameogo says.

“The problem is that those same people have an image of what African films should be about and look like, and when we try to put out more urban-based subjects, which could reach an urban, African audience, there seems to be resistance from our previous supporters.”

Both Ngangura and Yameogo produced their pics and have chosen to set up base outside their own countries. Ngangura’s Films Sud is based in Brussels, while Pierre Yameogo has a Paris-based production shingle, Afix Prods.

“I can do films about Burkina Faso, but I can’t raise the financing there,” Yameogo says.

Both have chosen contemporary stories for their pics. “Pieces d’Identites” follows an aging Zairian king who arrives in Belgium to look for his long-lost daughter, who is making her living as a cabaret dancer.

“Silmande” is a dramatic comedy about a Lebanese family living in exile in Africa, combining a sharp look at the political, economic and social realities of Africa.

As both helmers promo their pics in Cannes, they share a sense of dismay that “festival programmers appear to find certain types of cinema fashionable. A few years ago, it was Africa, then it was South America, now it has been Asia for awhile. It’s upsetting to be confronted by this fashion thing.”

Despite considerable difficulties facing them, both directors are prepping new projects.

Yameogo will produce the tentatively titled “La Legende” from Dani Kouyate, while Ngangura is prepping a musical comedy “The Gentleman of Kinshasa.”