Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: nvaubel (
About: Re: What African film has been best distributed?

Fri, 31 May 1996 17:16:35 -0400

Originally from: nvaubel <>
Originally dated: Fri, 31 May 1996 17:16:35 -0400

I don't have time now for an adequate reply, but I would definitely vote
against awarding "Jit" any sort of prize. I would welcome other people's
responses to the film. I saw it in Minneapolis a few years back and
thoroughly disliked it. Yes, it did get favorable American audience
response and is more "accessible" than some other less flashy, fast-paced
films like "Yaaba" or "Saaraba" or earlier Sembene films, but what sort
of message does it deliver to people with little or no knowledge about
African cultures? Its response reminded me of that to "The Gods Must be
Crazy". It reinforces a number of stereotypes about African marriages,
gives a quite glib and problematic presentation of "the Ancestors", and
has a dismissive and somewhat demeaning presentation of women (including
the comical "ancestor" figure.)
I am in no way proposing censorship or a confining prescription
of what "African films" should be like. "Jit" is of value in presenting
a more modern, hip, urban setting and story--a kind of Zimbabwean Horatio
Alger scenario. I might use it in a class on African film to represent a
certain trend, but I would definitely not showcase it as one of the best,
or "representative" examples of modern African film. I would rather see
something like "Quartier Mozart" which also is a more modern, hip,
somewhat fantastical story and utilizes faster paced editing which would
be more accessible to Western audiences, but which also addresses complex
social issues (gender, class, sexuality, etc.) in a more engaged and
meaningful way.

Also, I have spoken with several Zimbabwean academics who did NOT like
"Jit" at all, though I don't know much about the popular response in

I welcome feedback to these thoughts. By way of introduction, I am a
graduate student in Comparative Literature (focus on southern African
literature, mostly anglophone) at Indiana University, and a recent
forager in to film studies. I teach our Introduction to Film Studies
class at IU and am interested in people's suggestions for films and clips
to include in our class (I have only limited input into our film list.
We did watch Trinh Minh Ha's "Reassamblage" last semester. It was useful
in terms of introducing the concept of "the gaze" and the politics of
ethnographic film traditions, but I wished we had followed up with an
African feature film. With enough endorsement from other film teachers,
perhaps I could persuade my colleagues to include something.

Natasha Vaubel
Indiana University

On Fri, 31 May 1996, Steve Smith wrote:

> Originally from: (Steve Smith)
> Originally dated: Fri, 31 May 1996 11:33:57 -0400
> I'd like to hear people's opinions on this subject. I realize that it is
> hard to define "African film" and "best distributed" but....
> I would put forth "Jit" -- a Zimbabwean film -- it didn't do so well in
> Zimbabwe, but it is available in my local Blockbuster in Maryland, USA,
> I hear about it playing in theaters around the USA... "Jit" may be the
> distributed in the USA. Its American distributor, Northern Lights (?)
> doesn't sell it as African product as much a light "yellow submarine" type
> film. It is their only African film.
> "Love Brewed in an African Pot" is the one film I hear about often as the
> widest distributed in Africa. It played well in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
> Media for Development Trust's films, "Neria" and "More Time" have done
> "Neria" was the box office leader for a while in Zimbabwe, taking over
> "Terminator II," but then, "Basic Instinct" took the record later. "More
> Time" did the best of any African film in Kenya, I believe, second to
> Brewed..."
> I'd love to hear from others what they think of these thoughts. Please
> us
> know others that have done as well or better...
> Steve Smith

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