History of Cinema in CAMEROON

Historical overview

The former French Cameroon and part of British Cameroon merged in 1961 to form the present country. Cameroon has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Despite movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of an ethnic oligarchy.

History of cinema from 1896-2000

The history of Cameroonian cinema starts in Paris with a documentary by Jean-Paul Ngassa covering the situation of Cameroonian students in France, "Aventure en France" (1962). This same topic inspires Thérèse Sita Bella, the director of Tom-Tom in Paris (1963). On return to his country, Ngassa starts working for the State service producing propaganda films about this newborn nation (1970). In 1975 on the national and international screens, the first full-length films with Pousse Pushes by Daniel Kamwa and Muna Moto by Jean Pierre Dikongue Pipa whose other films include Courte maladie and Badiaga.

The most prolific early filmmaker (produced between 1791 and 1985) and actor in Cameroon is Alphonse Béni who features in Cameroon Connection the extraordinary adventures of Inspector Bako. In 1983, Arthur Si Bita made his feature film, Les Coopérants, a modern fable. Daniel Kamwa, who breezily passes from the role of director to that of actor, generally chooses the tones of comedy. His films include, as mentioned, Pousse-Pousse (1975) and Le Cercle des Pouvoirs (1997), a cinematic accusation of Cameroonian society number one burden: corruption.

So a handful of filmmakers in Cameroon with good international reputations gained acclaim, but there is little in the way of a formal film production infrastructure. Local skills are available in the country and in the rest of the region. Having both English and French as official languages, filmmakers and technicians from the country have special advantages on the regions larger products. They are surrounded by countries which are either Anglophone or Francophone, hence the Cameroonians are well presented in camera productions all over the region. On screens, however, Cameroonian films are hardly shown at all to the local audience. Foremost because the audience strongly favours Hollywood and French action productions, but another influence also inhibits showing local movies on local screens. Programming in Cameroonian theaters is controlled by European distributors. Cameroonian theater owners have nothing to do with film selection; they simply screen the films supplied to them year-round by the distributor. Theater owners keep a certain percentage of box-office earnings and send the rest back to the distributor. Programming African films-which are not part of the distributors' package-involves reducing the screenings of pre-programmed films, cutting into distributors' profits and introducing an African filmmaker into the financial equation. Cameroonian theater owners are reluctant to create tension with European distributors on whom they depend so completely.

Nevertheless several film directors like Jean-Pierre Dikongue (Pipa après Muna Moto, 1975, Grand prix Fespaco 1976) obtient plusieurs succès auprès du grand public avec Histoires drôles, drôles de gens (1983) et Courte maladie (1987). Daniel Kamwa (Boubou cravate, 1972; Pousse-Pousse, 1975; Notre fille, 1980; le Cercle des pouvoirs, 1997), Jean-Marie Teno (De Ouaga à Douala en passant par Paris, 1987; Clando, 1996, Chef!, 1999), Jean-Pierre Bekolo (Un Blanc pauvre ?, 1991; Douala, quartier Mozart, 1992; le Complot d'Aristote, 1997) et Bassek ba Kobhio (Sango Malo le maître du canton, 1991; le Grand Blanc de Lambaréné, 1994), Eloi Bela Ndzana's Djamboula (1999), Francois Woukoache's La Fumee dans le Yeux and Olivier Bile's Otheo, l'Africain (1998) have earned themselves a place in the diverse African cinema. The most widely acclaimed female director is without a doubt Josepine Bertand. She directed several shorts and "Fanta" (2002) her first full feature movie. These movies are all produced in cooperation with foreign companies, most notably the French Government, sponsoring several films. The African Cinema Festival 2000 in Milan featured a special focus on Cameroonian cinema.

Cinema links from CAMEROON

Cameroon Online Cameroonian news portal, offers a cinema section, including screenings in Yahounde
French Embassy in Cameroon Extensive site, offers general information about Cameroon, holds a cinema page.

Daniel Kamwa

Bassek Ba Kobhio

Jean-Marie Teno

Le Cercle des Pouvoirs

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