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Images of Africa. Interdisciplinary approaches


Admission requirements

BA degree.


Power and Nations in African films and documentaries.
In this course students acquire a critical understanding of continuity and distance between the celebration of African nations on the eve of independence and more recent filmic perspectives on power relationship in postcolonial nations. The introduction offers an overview of past and present reconfigurations of Africa – beyond the North/South-Sahara divide – through films and documentaries. The course’s interdisciplinary approach to the imagining of Africa is strengthened by the contribution of lecturers from literary and film studies, anthropology and history. Aspects of post-production and distribution of African films are also discussed. The course starts by discussing anticolonial fights and discourses, such as in The battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo) et La noire de … (Sembene Ousmane). Then lecturers and students discuss images of Africa and questions of power in the 1980’s and 1990’s (elite corruption, neo-exoticism) and in the present times (migrant experience, terrorism, but also love stories and new mobility).

The first two meetings are theoretically and methodologically focused. Meetings on a specific film include lecture, discussion (required and part of the grade), and watching film fragments when needed. The exam consists in presentation and take-home exam including the written text of the student presentation. Students are required to watch the films before the lectures.

Course objectives

  • Acquire knowledge and develop critical thinking on filmic constructions of Africa; – Acquire knowledge of African cinematography and film styles, themes, structures, and intertextuality; – Acquire knowledge and understanding of major debates on and interdisciplinary approaches to African films; – Understand African film production in its socio-historical context – Develop communication skills in oral and written expression.



Mode of instruction

Lectures and activating teaching methods in workshop.

Course Load

Total: 140 hours

  • Class: 24 hours

  • Preparing presentations: 16 hours.

  • Literature/film reading: 96 hours

  • Take-home exam: 4 hours

Assessment method

Presentations, participation in the class, and take-home exam


Blackboard will be used for this course:

  • Information on course content

  • Submission of written work

Reading list

Example of readings:
Harrow, K.W. Women with open eyes, women of stone and hammers: Western feminism and African feminist filmmaking practice, African Cinema, K.W. Harrow Ed., Africa World Press, Eritrea, 1999: 225-240.

La montagne de Baya, Africulture 01-01-1998 and Cinema France 1997

MacRae, S. H. (1995). Yeelen: A political fable of the Komo blacksmith/sorcerers. Research in African Literatures, 26(3), 57-66.

Merolla, D. Filming African Creation Myths, in “Creation Myths and the Visual Arts”, D. Merolla and M. Schipper (Eds.), Special Section, Religion and the Arts, vol. 13-4, 2009, pp. 521-533.

Moore, C., US distribution of African Films, Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-first century, M.Şaul and R.A.Austin Eds, Ohio UP, Athens, 2010: 225-230.

Thackway, M. Africa shoots back, Indiana UP, Bloomington, Currey, Oxford, D Philip, Cape Town, 2003: 7-15.

Ukadike, N.W. “The Other Voices of Documentary: Allah Tantou and Afrique, je te plumerai”, Focus on African Films, Francoise Pfaff (Ed.), Indiana University Press, 2004: 159-173.

Verstraten, P. Film Narratology, U of Toronto P, Toronto, Buffalo, London, 2009: 12-30.

Van Beek, W.E.A. Haunting Griaule: experiences from the restudy of the Dogon. History in Africa, 31, 2004: 43-68.

Zachs, S. The theoretical construction of African Cinema, African Cinema, K.W. Harrow Ed., Africa World Press, Eritrea, 1999: 3-19.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

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Mw. Dr. D. Merolla