African Film and Literature: Adapting Violence to the Screen by Lindiwe Dovey

By Lindiwe Dovey

Analyzing more than a few South African and West African motion pictures encouraged by means of African and non-African literature, Lindiwe Dovey identifies a selected development in modern African filmmaking-one within which filmmakers are utilizing the embodied audiovisual medium of movie to provide a critique of actual and mental violence. opposed to an in depth historical past of the medium's savage advent and exploitation via colonial powers in very diverse African contexts, Dovey examines the complicated ways that African filmmakers are maintaining, mediating, and critiquing their very own cultures whereas looking a united imaginative and prescient of the long run. greater than in basic terms representing socio-cultural realities in Africa, those movies have interaction with problems with colonialism and postcolonialism, "updating" either the historical past and the literature they adapt to deal with modern audiences in Africa and in other places. via this planned and radical re-historicization of texts and realities, Dovey argues that African filmmakers have constructed a mode of filmmaking that's altogether detailed from eu and American varieties of adaptation.

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In light of these claims, it seems important also to explore a paradigm of adaptation that devises a theory of critique while challenging the possibility of critique under certain sociocultural circumstances: Theodor Adorno’s concept of mimesis. Film Adaptation as Adornian Mimesis The idea of performance suggests an embodied investment in film by both authors and audience, but it does not address the question of where rationality fits into the picture. Theodor Adorno’s concept of mimesis is useful to this study in that it marries the concepts of embodied and rational modes of being and sees this marriage as a prerequisite of critique.

The essays on South African cinema in To Change Reels (Balseiro and Masilela 2003) reveal this cinema’s profound concern with history; Melissa Thackway designates an entire branch of Francophone West African films as “memory-history films” (2003); Tomaselli organizes his recent book on South African cinema around Ntongela Masilela’s concept of the “consciousness of precedent” (2006); and Mbye Cham (2004) and Josef Gugler (2004) think through the importance of historical representation in the context of African and Western viewing of African films.

In Adorno’s schema, cinema within a totalizing social order is able to exploit the power of mimicry, turning citizens into automatons capable of the excesses of violence witnessed in the last century. According to Adorno, the spectacular mass displays of Nazi Germany and the mass media of the American culture industry constitute technologies of the visual that have been harnessed in the service of violent manipulation and control. While Adorno’s own totalizing claims contradict his dialectical argument, and result in a reduction of the differences inherent in the “West,” it is possible to argue—again, without wanting to essentialize “Africa”—that the very different relationship to screen media (and art of all kinds) in many African contexts enables rather than undermines critique through film.

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