Cinema, Round-Tables, Debates, “The legacy of cultural relationships between Africa, the Soviet Union and related countries during the Cold War”

EGEAC -Galerias Municipais/AFRICA.CONT presents RED AFRICA and the programme The legacy of cultural relationships between Africa, the Soviet Union and related countries during the Cold War at Cinema São Jorge, Lisbon, on February 20 and 21.

Planned as a complement and counterpoint to the exhibition Things Fall Apart presented at Galeria Avenida da Índia until March 12, the present film screenings and the debates that accompany them at Cinema São Jorge, intend to open up, contextualise and, most importantly, foster a local debate on the themes of the exhibition and the ensuing publication.

Including perspectives that go beyond, but remain linked to, the struggles for independence of the African territories under Portuguese colonial rule as well as to the intimate relation between decolonisation and democratisation in Portugal after the Carnation Revolution, this initiative intends to offer the possibility to revisit or discover a set of films that deal in a more or less explicit way with the topics of the exhibition.

The exhibition Things Fall Apart was first presented at Calvert22 (London) in January 2016. It grew out of a seminar and discussion group focusing on questions of socialist friendship, drawing together researchers mainly London based who had a particular interest in this area (Polly Savage, Ros Gray, Nadine Siegert). We also invited Milica Tomic to discuss a Yugoslav perspective. As part of the exhibition, a programme of discussions, events and screenings was held under the banner of Red Africa. This format was developed further by Nadine Siegert when the exhibition travelled to Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth, Germany. Here, the program was organized with scholars of the Bayreuth Academy of Advances African Studies and connected to their research on the iconography of revolution and socialist utopia.

The exhibition and parallel programme were intended to include a local contribution at each venue, so for the German iteration two artists were added to the exhibition proper, as well as a reflection on East Germany’s connection to Africa. For the iteration in Lisbon we hope to deepen the reflection on the work of lusophone artists as well as explore the Portuguese post-colonial legacy, with a special emphasis on the artistic aspects.

The publication Red Africa, Affective Communities and the Cold War was intended to present the work of researchers who contributed to discussions in London and subsequent venues. In this current season of debates and screenings at the Cinema Sao Jorge I would like us to focus particularly on the area of ‘affective community’. That is to say what connects us as curators, artists and researchers is an emotional investment in the legacy of communism and socialism in Africa.

-Mark Nash

Programme February 20:

11am – Visit to the exhibition Things Fall Apart, Galeria Avenida da Índia, with Mark Nash

3pm – Octobre (36’) / Rostov-Luanda (58’)

5pm – Round-table: Red Africa, The Book, The Exhibition :

The panel will bring together artists and participants who contributed to the exhibition Things Fall Apart, and the publication Red Africa, Affective Communities and the Cold War, in order to contribute to a reflexion on the legacy of the cultural relationships between Africa, the Soviet Union and related countries during the Cold War.

Participants: Ana Balona de Oliveira, Ângela Ferreira, Nadine Siegert, Polly Savage
Moderator: Mark Nash
Conversation in english

7pm – Black Sun (97’)

9:30pm – Teza (139’)

Films:

Octobre (1993, 36’) France
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Script: Abderrahmane Sissako, Gheorghy Rerberg
Production: EJVA (Moscou), La Sept Arte, ATRIASCOP
Editing: Galina Galouchkina
Cinematography: Gheorghy Rerberg
Sound: Larissa Choutova
With: Irina Apeksimova, Wilson Biyaya
English subtitles

Synopsis: Octobre, Sissako’s second film, made while he was a student at VGIK, the Moscow film school, is about the relationship between Ira, a young Russian woman working in a hospital, and Idrissa, an African student in Moscow. The film follows both characters in their daily lives as they experience casual racism of neighbours, the vibrant musical culture of African buskers on the metro, and arbitrary encounters of everyday life. Filmed in a semi-vérité style, the film reflects the rather despondent mood of its characters: Idrissa’s impending departure for Africa looms, and Ira decides to conceal her pregnancy from him.

Rostov-Luanda (1997, 58’) Angola, France, Germany, Mauritania
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Production: Morgane Films (Belgique), Movimento Production, RTBF, ZDF
Editing: Claudio Martinez
Cinematography: Jacques Besse
Sound: Paolo de Jesus, Jean-Jacques Quinet
Music: Man’ré
English subtitles

Synopsis: Rostov-Luanda documents Sissako’s visit to Angola in the 1990s, when he returned to the country to find his friend Baribanga. He discovers a country and a people completely dislocated and demoralized by nearly twenty years of war between Communist (particularly Cuban) forces endorsing the existing government, the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), and the West-backed National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), supported by a South Africa that was at the same time fighting an independence war in neighbouring Namibia. The Cold War soon became a hot war in Angola, and Rostov-Luanda chronicles the disenchantment and pessimism which Sissako’s finds both within himself and throughout the country as a whole, a dramatic contrast to the utopianism that Angolan independence once represented for the entire continent.

Black Sun (Chyornoye solntse, 1970, 97’) URSS
Director: Aleksey Speshnev
Script: K.Kiselev, A.Speshnev
Production: Belarusfilm
Cinematography: Yuri Marukhin
Music: Lev Solin
With: Ambroise Mbia, Nikolay Grinko, Gemma Firsova, Amponsah Sampson, Bob Tsymba, Rein Aren
English subtitles

Synopsis: The film is a Soviet historical drama about the tragic fate of the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. It is created like the memories of two people who have been victims of political intrigue: the Prime Minister of the fictional African country Robert Musombe and UN advisor Mr. Burt. The events mostly follow the Congo Crisis in 1960s.

Teza (2008, 139’) Ethiopia, Germany, France
Director: Haile Gerima
Production: Negod Gwad Production
Editing: Loren Hankin, Haile Gerima
Cinematography: Mario Masini
Sound: Stephan Konken, Umbe Adan
Music: Vijay Iyer, Jorga Mesfin
With: Nebiyu Baye, Ludi Boeken, Takelech Beyene, Aaron Arefe, Mengistu Zelalem, Teje Tesfahun
English subtitles

Synopsis: Ethiopia in 1990. Anberber has returned to his village with a leg missing and his head full of ghosts. He left Ethiopia as an empire under Haile Selassie and finds it a socialist state under Menghistu Haile Mariam, after emigrating in the 1970s to study medicine in Germany, where he encountered widespread racism. His dream now is to care for his people, who suffer the dual affliction of famine and totalitarian regimes. Coming back allows him to take stock of the political and social chaos in his homeland. He narrowly avoids being lynched and seeks refuge in his native village. Inside a hut, before the fire, he realizes how powerless he is in the face of the collapse of human values.

Programme February 21:

11am – Round-table: Cinema, Utopia, Propaganda:

The panel aims at fostering a debate on the role of cinema in the context of African independencies, considering its emancipatory potential and the risks of being reduced to a propaganda tool.

Participants: Alexander Markov, Margarida Cardoso, Raquel Schefer
Moderator: Maria do Carmo Piçarra
Conversation in english

3pm – O Regresso de Amílcar Cabral (31’) / African Rhythms (50’)

5pm – Round-table: Africa, Socialism, Cold War:

The panel aims at contextualising the relations between national independencies, socialist solidarities, affective communities and the cold war, drawing on concrete experiences and life stories.

Participants: José António Fernandes Dias, Júlio de Almeida “Jujú”, Luis Carlos Patraquim, Mamadou Ba, Manuel Alegre, Ondjaki
Moderators: Lívia Apa, Manuela Ribeiro Sanches
Conversation in portuguese

9:30pm – Mueda, Memória e Massacre (75’)

Films:

O Regresso de Amílcar Cabral (1976, 31’) Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sweden
Directors: Sana Na N’Hada, Flora Gomes, José Cubumba, Djalma Fettermann, Josefina Crato
English subtitles

Synopsis: The Return of Amílcar Cabral is a collective film notable today as the first production directed and accomplished by Guinean filmmakers after the liberation from Portuguese colonialism in 1974. The film documents the transferral of the remains of Amílcar Cabral from Conakry (where he was assassinated in January 1973) to Bissau in 1976. Intriguing coverage of the solemn event, recordings of Guinean songs, and archive footage of Cabral during the guerrilla war create an homage to an outstanding political thinker and freedom fighter. According to Sana Na N‘Hada, the original aim of the film was to call upon the Guinean diaspora to come back to the newly liberated nation. Just after it was premiered in 1976, the film appears to have been screened all over the world and until recently was one of the very few traces of early collective film production in Guinea-Bissau that could occasionally be found in official records. The convocation of lament in this film is a gesture that provokes a multiplicity of returns.

African Rhythms (1966, 50’) URSS
Directors: Irina Venjer, Leonid Makhnach
French subtitles

Synopsis: The song which is sung in the merry green city of Dakar was first heard in the capital of the Senegal Republic at the First World Festival of Afro-Negro Art, 1966. Delegates from 37 countries of the world met there. For the first time fraternal cultures met at such a grand scale in Dakar.

Mueda, Memória e Massacre (1979, 75’) Mozambique
Director: Ruy Guerra
Script: Calisto dos Lagos, Ruy Guerra
Production: INC Mozambique
Editing: Ruy Guerra
Cinematography: Fernando Silva, Ruy Guerra
Sound: Valente Diamonde, Gabriel Mondlane, Carlos Silva
With: Filipe Gunoguacala, Romão Canapocuela, Mauricio Machimbuco, Baltazar Nchilema
In collaboration with Cinemateca Portuguesa -Museu do Cinema
Portuguese subtitles

Synopsis: Considered the first fiction feature of the People’s Republic of Mozambique, the film is, in a first reading, a historical re-creation of the events of Mueda, where on June 16, 1960 Portuguese soldiers opened fire on a demonstration, killing hundreds of people. The massacre is considered as one of the factors that triggered the anti-colonial struggle in Mozambique.

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Related Exhibition

Date
Title
Artists
Curatorship
Gallery
07.12.2016
– 03.03.2017
RED AFRICA – Things Fall Apart
Alexander Markov, Ângela Ferreira, Burt Caesar, Filipa César, Isaac Julien, Jo Ractliffe, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Milica Tomić, Onejoon Che, Paulo Kapela, Museum of Yugoslav History, Travelling Communiqué, Tonel, Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu, Yevgeniy Fiks
Mark Nash
Avenida da Índia Gallery