10 Chapters
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8 Revealing the Past, Conceptualizing the Future On-Screen: The Social, Political, and Economic Challenges of Contemporary Filmmaking in Morocco

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Valérie K. Orlando

THIS ESSAY OFFERS an analysis of Morocco’s contemporary cinematic industry and focuses on films produced and distributed from 1999 to the present.1 In the last decade, notably since 1999 and the death of King Hassan II, which ended “Les Années de plomb” (the Lead Years, 1963–99), Morocco has transformed itself, socioculturally and politically.2 These transformations have been shown in film and on television. Both have proved to be the media of choice for depicting the sociocultural and political issues in contemporary Moroccan society. Encouraged by the more openly democratic climate fostered by young King Mohammed VI (popularly known as “M6”), men and women filmmakers explore the sociocultural and political debates of their country while also seeking to document the untold stories of a dark past. The themes they present to audiences explore some of today’s most pressing questions in Moroccan society. Topics of films fluctuate between restoring suppressed or obfuscated memories and critiquing contemporary sociocultural challenges. Certain films tell the stories of the past that have not been told until recently. The themes include the torture and imprisonment of countless victims during the Lead Years, the exodus of thousands of Jews to Israel in the early 1960s, and the hard realities of the present, such as domestic violence, acute rural poverty, and the dismal plight of street children. In today’s cinematic oeuvre, no subject is too controversial. Filmmakers seek to describe a country that has come to be known as “Le nouveau Maroc” (the New Morocco), a term fraught with conflict. Often schizophrenic in how it views itself, Morocco is a nation caught in debate over unanswered questions that persist from its past while it strives to plot new strategies for moving forward.

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7 Reading “Beur” Film Production Otherwise: The Poetics of the Human and the Transcultural

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Safoi Babana-Hampton

IN HIS ANALYSIS of the cinema verité of the 1960s both in Europe and Quebec, especially as practiced by French filmmaker and ethnologist Jean Rouch, Italian filmmaker Paolo Pasolini, and Quebecois filmmaker Pierre Perrault, Gilles Deleuze proposes a new viewpoint from which to understand the distinction of fiction versus truth or subjective versus objective: “Objective and subjective images lose their distinction, but also their identification, in favor of a new circuit where they are wholly replaced, or contaminate each other, or are decomposed and recomposed” (149). As a consequence, Deleuze continues, “the cinema can call itself cinéma-vérité, all the more so because it will have destroyed every model of the true so as to become creator and producer of truth: this will not be a cinema of truth but the truth of cinema” (151, my emphasis). As Deleuze’s lines suggest, the conventional boundaries governing our understanding of the two notions of “truth” and “fiction” collapse and disappear in favor of a new notion of “truth” as being primarily a construct, or a situated act of formalizing human experience. This act characterizes the very essence and raison d’être of the cinematic enterprise, whose field of application Deleuze extends even to works traditionally defined as documentary reportages or ethnographic investigations, such as those produced by Rouch and Perrault (149). Deleuze thus develops a view of the cinematic work as a visual field within which the poetic, the lyrical, and the aesthetic as well as the documentary and ethnographic elements are intertwined and interdependent and cross-fertilize each other in order to depict a multilayered reality or lived experience. All these considerations of the cinematic work are deeply inscribed in his conception of the artist, of whom he offers the following definition: “What the artist is, is creator of truth, because truth is not to be achieved, formed, or reproduced; it has to be created. There is no other truth than the creation of the New” (146–47).

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6 Le Freak, C’est Critical and Chic: North African Scholars and the Conditions of Cultural Production in Post-9/11 U.S. Academia

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Lamia Benyoussef

IN AN INTRODUCTORY English composition class I taught a few years ago, an African American student asked me if she could write her comparative essay on the immigration and integration experiences of Arab and Caucasian Americans. When I pinpointed that the U.S. Census Bureau classified Arab Americans as Caucasians and suggested that she drop the racial categories in favor of a geographic terminology (that is, Middle Eastern and European immigration), in total shock and disbelief she exclaimed: “Arabs do 9/11 and they are still whites?” For a moment I froze there, not knowing what to say. I was not sure if she was angry at me because I was guilty by association or at her own self for still failing to be “white,” even though she was no evildoer like me, her teacher. That life-altering teaching moment repatriated me in W. E. B. Du Bois’s discourse on the Negro veil in The Souls of Black Folk. “It dawned upon me with a certain suddenness” that North African women academics too (alias moukéres or les négresses des sables) “are different from Others; or [like them perhaps] in life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.” If the point of this essay can be summed up in one sentence, it is the desire to tear down that veil, to creep through the silences and wonders of the academic world “and live above in the blue sky,” free from the pitfalls of colorisms and the haunting shades and “shadows”1 of diversity. This chapter is inspired not only by my own experience as an Arab and Muslim academic in the South but also by the scholarly work and experiences of other North African scholars who find themselves, like me, in the double bind functioning as a native informant (after all, Islam keeps enrollment high) while remaining on the threshold of American academia because their physical presence is as critical as the critical languages they teach.

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3 Provocations: African Societies and Theories of Creativity

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Moradewun Adejunmobi

MY OBJECTIVE IN this essay is to argue that cultural studies scholars who focus on Africa should give at least some of their attention to producing scholarship that also provides a wide-ranging justification for humanities research as occasion demands, and that deciders and the society at large must understand that the value of humanities scholarship can never be taken for granted anywhere in the world. What is more, the need to address why humanities scholarship matters becomes all the more urgent in times of economic and political uncertainty when the temptation is highest to curtail, underfund, and if possible eliminate institutions dedicated to humanities scholarship. I shall make the argument for attending to such justifications by way of a commentary on current trends in studies of African cultural production.1

In 2012, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina took advantage of an address to the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom to counter Taiye Selasi’s celebration of the “Afropolitan.”2 As far as reactions to Selasi’s declaration go, Wainaina’s riposte did not represent an isolated incident. Selasi’s 2005 manifesto “went viral” in its initial instantiation in an online magazine and generated considerable commentary in blogs dedicated to discussion of African culture and identity. Similar controversies trail the multiple national affiliations attributed to authors like Teju Cole and Dinaw Mengestu, among others, and the claims to African identity made for Tope Folarin, winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing.3 Discussions of this question in print and online indicate a return to prominence of a certain kind of debate among both writers and critics about the identity and location of the African writer. While such debates about identity will always be topical for African literature, given the current and historical location of many “African” writers outside Africa, I will argue that the main shortcoming of the critical approaches often used today for analyzing African cultural production is not a failure to ask what exactly constitutes “African” as opposed to, say, “Asian” or “Western” cultural production. More important, the critical approaches that we have embraced do not fully account for the relevance of our scholarship on expressive and representational practices to broader trends within African societies at this point in time. They fail to ask what else and what more artistic activity signifies when it occurs under the particular conditions that typify contemporary Africa, and why imaginative activity matters for societies facing apparently more pressing challenges, other than as a form of social commentary that we as scholars are called upon to elucidate.

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9 Thresholds of New African Dramaturgies in France Today

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Mária Minich Brewer

Not all voices can be heard at the same time in the same story/history.

Kossi Efoui, Solo d’un revenant

THIS COLLECTION OF essays, Rethinking African Cultural Productions, offers an occasion to question theater’s physical and symbolic borders, frontiers, separations, and border crossings. Working as it does across multiple thresholds and dimensions simultaneously, whether of time, space, language, or the body, the art of the theater engages its public in critical considerations of and across borders. A new generation of African diasporic playwrights of the 1990s have thoroughly reinvented the social and symbolic possibilities for new theatrical languages. In this essay, I propose to map out some of the theatrical thresholds implicit in such a project of reinventing a new theatricality. This critical work on thresholds, I argue, needs to focus explicitly on the symbolic, social, and material dimensions of writing for performance.

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