Saturday, 18 April 2015


The award-winning Malian director Souleymane Cissé will present his movie O Ka at the 68th Cannes Film Festival taking place in Southern France from May 13 to 24, while Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako will head the jury of Cannes' short-film category.

Director Souleymane Cissé
(photo courtesy of F. Ciss
O Ka (Our House) will be shown in the “special-screenings” segment of the festival’s Official Selection of 42 films, announced in Paris on April 16. More films may be added before the event’s launch.

Cissé, who heads the Union of Creators and Entrepreneurs of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts of Western Africa (UCECAO), won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1987 for Yeelen, one his best known films. Many of his other works have received awards at other festivals, including the Locarno International Film Festival.

At the time of writing, Cissé is the only African director in this year’s official lineup; in 2014, two directors representing Africa were selected - Philippe Lacôte of Ivory Coast and Sissako, who was born in Mauritania and brought up in Mali.

Cissé travelled to Cannes last year to support Sissako, who presented the moving and beautifully shot Timbuktu in the official Competition category. The film was seen as a strong contender for the top Palme d’Or award, but won the prize of the independent Ecumenical Jury, before gaining honours in other festivals.

Speaking with SWAN after the screening of Timbuktu, Cissé said that African directors faced special challenges in producing movies, and he called for increased national and regional backing.

Actress Fatoumata Diawara, who appeared in Timbuktu.
“Besides the issue of conflict, financing is still a huge problem,” Cissé said. “Even low-budget films have to fight for funding, and up until now there hasn’t been any political will to help because in Africa one doesn’t believe that cinema is an art and an industry.”

Cannes’ artistic director Thierry Frémaux announced that 1,854 films were submitted to the festival this year from around the world (compared with some 1,500 in 2014), and the high number has sparked questions about the seeming under-representation of Africa and Latin America.

Frémaux said it wasn’t true that the same internationally known directors get selected every year, and he stressed that the Festival was trying to stay fresh with first-feature directors and ground-breaking work.

“There weren’t many renowned auteurs whose films were ready,” Frémaux told reporters. “But there were several up-and-coming directors who presented us with works of quality, so we decided to go with them this time for the competition.”

Abderrahmane Sissako
In addition to the short-film category, Sissako will head the Jury for Cannes’ Cinéfondation section, which screens works by film-school students (18 works have been selected from the 1,600 submitted this year).

“Sissako crosses cultures and continents,” said the Cannes organizers of the director who did his film training in the Soviet Union. “His work is suffused with humanism and social consciousness and explores the complex relations between North and South as well as the fate of a much-beleaguered Africa.”

For more about African cinema and Cannes, see: