The Panafrican Festival of Algiers (Le Festival Panafrican D'Alger) 1969

  • Country Algeria
  • Production Year 1969
  • Language French with English subtitles
  • Duration 112 minutes
  • Source ARTE France

This hitherto little known documentary by the photographer, painter and graphic artist William Klein plunges us into the very heart of the 1st Panafrican Cultural Festival held in Algeria in 1969 - a festival that has forever marked the history books in Africa and beyond.

Composed of archival footage of the African struggle for independence and interviews with figures in the liberation movement, the film is also a precious occasion to immerse yourself in the crowds that surrounded the African delegations and in the exuberance and euphory that marked this cultural spectacle, despite any bitter aftertaste with which this hopeful vision is now tinged, over 40 years later.

Screenings Book your ticket today

Arts Picturehouse

03:00 pm Sunday 19th September 2010

Arts Picturehouse

04:30 pm Tuesday 21st September 2010

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Festival Daily wrote

LE FESTIVAL PANAFRICAN D’ALGER is a forgotten masterpiece. This is cultural anthropology to combat the verdant objectification of Africans in countless ethnographic documentaries made by the colonisers.

The film declares uncompromisingly that “African culture will be revolutionary, or it will not be”. Undoubtedly the strident Marxist politics of the film – which fully advocate armed African proletarian struggle against exploitative colonial oppressors – have dated. And yet this political ageing has transformed the film itself into an important cultural relic. Now, in 2010, the optimism of the film has been exposed as partly fallacious by the 40 years since the Panafrican Cultural Festival. The Algerians welcome delegates from across Africa and, crucially, host freedom fighters from occupied countries – the South African ANC, the PAIGC from Guinea and Cape Verde and the South Rhodesian ZAPU. The film vaunts their struggles. But we know that not all these movements have continued peacefully since ’69 – the Zimbabwe African People’s Union ultimately became the party that Robert Mugabe led to independence. Our knowledge of this, which stems entirely from the creation of history after the events of the film, ideologically dismantles it before our eyes.

And yet this line of thought forces the considered viewer to rehistoricise Klein’s film. With its original context in mind, it is clear that Klein is reappraising African culture valiantly. He majestically fuses footage of the festival with appropriated bande dessinée (such as Hergé’s notorious Tintin in the Congo) and historically important archive footage into montage similar to Adam Curtis’ documentaries. The 1966 footage of the assassination of Henrik Verwoerd (the principle architect of apartheid) and of the suppressive atrocities committed by the European colonial powers in Africa stand out from among this found footage. They are disturbing and intriguing. They contrast starkly with the Algerian Festival’s jubilant message of Nationalist solidarity in Africa. They succinctly summarise the appeal of Klein’s film which comes primarily from its contradictions.

Chris Stefanowicz

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