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Africa’s Cannes moment explained by Malian film director

Malian director Souleymane Cisse poses on the sidelines of the 76th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southeastern France, on May 16, 2023.   -  
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This year’s Carrosse d’Or award at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, went to Mali’s Souleymane Cissé, the veteran director credited with reinventing film as an African art form.

For Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cissé, the Carrosse d'Or awarded by the Directors' Fortnight is an incentive "to make new films" in the hope of overturning the "censorship" which, according to him, affects African cinemaThe 83-year-old Malian director Souleymane Cissé said that "censorship" and "contempt" were preventing African films from being shown around the world, even though Africa had so far won only one Palme award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

"This Western censorship is very serious. It amounts to contempt. And I say this to the distributors, there are films that could be seen in cinemas. They don't do it, simply because they don't want to put Africa's image on the same level as others. And that's a shame." said Cissé.

The two African films competing for the Palme d'Or are directed by women, joining a sizable and young representation from the continent that ha s fueled speculation of African cinema finally experiencing its "Cannes moment."

Cissé's masterwork was firmly grounded in reality and sent a strong political message that was reflective of his earlier, social-realist works, such as his debut feature, "Den Muso" (The Young Girl), which was released in 1975 and was inspired by his training in the Soviet Union in the 1960s.

"If we were lucky enough to be seen elsewhere, that's not what happened at the Cannes Film Festival and nobody imagined it at that time, in 1987. That's what's interesting. It was an opening. We thought it would continue, but unfortunately it didn't..." he  explained.

He is one of the fathers of African cinema and on Wednesday, Souleymane Cissé received a Carrosse d'Or. The award was presented during the Directors' Fortnight, a parallel selection of the Cannes Film Festival.

This year’s festival also sees Cannes break its undistinguished record for female directors vying for the Palme d’Or, with seven women among the 21 filmmakers in the race.

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