Films tell stories –stories about love, romance, betrayal, humour, even politics. Daring filmmakers got the extra step; they dig deeper, uncover layers of lies and corruption; they present the stark raving truth about societal malaise. And they do not apologise for it.
Cameroonian Jean Pierre Bekolo is one such filmmaker. His 2013 film, ‘Le President’ was so controversial that it has been banned in his native country; and no, it’s not filled with nudity or porn; it is filled with hard truth.
Ascleiden.nl described it thus, “Efforts to stop Le Président from screening in Yaoundé has drawn international attention …even the Institut Français in Yaoundé has refused to screen the film. Cameroonian authorities didn’t approve of its seemingly daring plot, which sees the film’s fictional president disappear a few days before elections. The mysterious disappearance of the president opens the war of successions between the different actors. The film shows young people becoming restless, intellectuals debating national issues, prisoners making political plans. People are asking difficult questions…
Le Pre̒sident is an allegory about the men who run Africa, who would like to see themselves as wild beasts-panther, crocodile, lion- if not as Gods of Africa, and about ordinary people who have to live with the consequences.”
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, has been in power for more than thirty years.
Born 8 June 1966, in Yaoundé Cameroon, Jean Pierre Bekolo is a celebrated African film director, who studied Physics at the University of Yaoundé, and the Institut national de l’audiovisuel –National Audiovisual Institute under the late Christian Metz, renowned Critic and French film theorist.
He received international attention at the age of 25 for his 1992 film, Quartier Mozart; a winner at the Film Festivals of Cannes and Locarno and a British Film Award nominee. His other films includeAristotle’s Plot (1996) which was featured at the Sundance Film Festival and Les Saignantes (2005) which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. .
He was also the creator of the video installation Une Africaine dans l’Espace at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris in 2009.
His film, Aristotle’s Plot, started out as the African entry in the British Film Institute’s series of films commemorating the centenary of cinema. “Part meditation on the trials of African filmmaking, part action movie send-up, part parody of Aristotle’s rules, part satire on Africa’s preoccupation with itself, this film shows Bekolo to be an “increasingly fearless trickster,”Writes Edwige N’guetta on imdb.com.
Jean Pierre’s films have also appeared at film festivals in England, Ireland, France, India, Israel, Burkina Faso, Canada and throughout the United States.
He is not shy or stingy about sharing his knowledge and expertise either and has taught filmmaking at the Duke University, the University of North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Strangely, not in any African universities thus far; is it true then that a Prophet is not recognised in his own town?
Do you agree? Are Africans suffering from a lack of recognizing the talent and prowess of fellow Africans?