African Post-Independence Cinemas With and Against Development: A Comparative Case Study

Perneczky, Nikolaus. 2021. African Post-Independence Cinemas With and Against Development: A Comparative Case Study. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is a reappraisal of West African filmmaking as an exemplary arena of African
development after the independences. Combining historiographic reconstruction (histories
of film production, distribution, and exhibition), film analysis, and critical theory, it
highlights how West African filmmakers variously resisted “development” both as a set
of modernising policies—whether promulgated by the developmental state or the institutions
of development aid—and a wider framework of rationality. Though in essence a historiographic
study, this thesis holds critical insights for today: Tracing and comparing the
careers of Ola Balogun (Nigeria), Med Hondo (Mauritania/France), and Moustapha Alassane
(Niger), it renders their respective practices as so many instances of anti-systemic

The first of the three main chapters (4–6) centres on Balogun’s model of cinematic
indigenisation, which aimed to reactivate lost or suppressed potentials of development
inherent in African media environments through an equitable exchange with the Western
technology of cinema. Attempting to build a national popular cinema befitting a
(re)unified Nigeria, Balogun instead improvised a minor moving image practice whose
transregional mode of production and distribution signally escaped the writ of the nation,
pointing us to post-statist futures. The second chapter (5) considers Hondo’s migrant
practice as part of the wider struggle over Africa’s forms of circulation. Following Hondo’s
transnational activities as film producer and distributor, I offer a reading of African
cinema as tied into an unequally shared history of “world-cinema,” arguing that Hondo’s
proudly “dependent” practice continually charted new routes of escape. The third of the
main chapters (6) considers the emergence of Nigerien cinema from the institutional matrix
of French anthropology and development aid (coopération), which both made possible
and limited the possibilities of filmmaking in the former French colony. Reconstructing
Alassane’s struggle for self-determined development across the fields of animation
and ethnography, I argue that, rather than attain autonomy, his practice at every turn elaborated
new relations of interdependence. In conclusion (7), I contend that alongside alternative
developmental trajectories, African post-independence cinemas also proposed a
more fundamental critique of development as the “Western culture-systemic telos” (Sylvia
Wynter) of global capitalist modernity.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


African cinema; development; indigenisation; migrant cinema; transnational film studies

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


31 May 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

21 Jul 2021 13:52

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:19


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