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Mwenda wa Micheni
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Mwenda wa Micheni is Writer at Africiné Magazine

Editorial - Africiné Magazine, issue n°2 - Wednesday 27 February 2019, Fespaco 2019
Perfectly lost in translation !

To appreciate a film is to immerse oneself into it in order to imbibe its flavors. At the ongoing pan African film festival, Fespaco, that may not always be possible due to some language barriers sometunnelvisioned
filmmakers have erected.

Three films I was to watch at the Cine Burkina threw me off, leaving me to squeeze meaning from bare images and actions clothed in an unfamiliar language. They were: Icyasha (Rwanda), Positif (Congo Brazaville) and Rêve Brisé (Burkina Faso) that seemed to revolve around a love triangle that ends with a miserable death and an orphaned child.
Without any kind of warning on the programme, expectation was that subtitles would help access the complete picture, regardless of the original language.

The Rwandan film Icyasha, which is mostly in Kinyarwanda with a dash of Kiswahili, may have proved challenging to subtitle twice, into English and French. But the rest lost an opportunity to fully engage the English speaking viewers, which is not totally new in African cinema.

Another movie The Mercy of the Jungle by Rwanda's Joel Karekezi also confounded many non-French speakers. Instead of English subtitles, it opted for French subtitles despite being largely French! Luckily, the action and mix of sounds easily portrayed the filmmaker's dream and storyline effectively.

Debate of market reach for the continent's filmmakers has raged for decades. In the eighties and nineties, some producers brandished the costs argument insisting they didn't have the cash to achieve it (inclusive subtitling). That way, only a few Africans have accessed most of the African classics and comprehended them.

The Anglophone/Francophone/Lusophone wall has also left the continent's audience compartmentalised obviously to the disadvantage of the film producers.
In terms of audiences, there are cinema lovers from English speaking Africa who would want to travel to Ouagadougou to watch movies and enjoy the beautiful festivities but won't do so because they think only French movies screen, without subtitles.

"Subtitling will also help African filmmakers broaden their market across Africa," says Charles Ayetan, a Togolese film critic. He also opines that all movies screening at the Fespaco must have English or French subtitles as a minimum entry requirement.

by Micheni Mwenda (Kenya)

Africiné, The Magazine of the African Federation of Film Critic (AFFC / FACC) -

Africiné Magazine issue no.2 - Wednesday 27 February 2019, page 1 - FESPACO 2019 /// 26th edition

This magazine is published by the Fédération Africaine de la Critique Cinématographique (FACC). The publication was made possible thanks to the support of La Francophonie, Africalia Belgium, the Goethe-Institut and Ascric-B. It is produced by a collective of 42 African journalists from 23 countries.

Director of Publication : Khalil Demmoun

Editorial committee
Sid-Lamine Salouka
Abraham Bayili
Ahmed Shawky
Robert Mukondiwa
Fatou Kiné Sene
Pélagie N'Gonana
Charles Ayetan
Yacouba Sangaré
Espéra Donouvossi

Layout: Korotimi Sérémé
Impression : IGIP / +226 70 15 15 80
E-mail :

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   liens films

Icyasha (Etiquette) 2018
Clémentine Dusabejambo

Miséricorde de la jungle (La) | Mercy of the Jungle (The) 2018
Joël Karekezi

   liens artistes

Ayetan Charles


23/02/2019 > 02/03/2019
festival |Burkina Faso |
FESPACO 2019 (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou)
26e édition. Cinquantenaire.

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