- David Murphy
African film refers to a corpus of work whose geographical and historical range remains ambiguous. African film criticism emerged in the late 1980s–early 1990s as a distinct body of research within the Anglophone academy. Landmark early texts, such as Manthia Diawara’s African Cinema: Politics and Culture (1992) and Frank Ukadike’s Black African Cinema (1994) defined the parameters of the field, which largely remained in place until quite recently: African cinema came to refer to work from sub-Saharan Africa, primarily from the former French colonies, and a template for the appreciation of these movies was established, focusing either on their ‘political’ qualities as ideologically motivated works of ‘Third Cinema’ or on their ability to develop a distinctively African aesthetic. North Africa’s rich film heritage was excluded due to the perceived socio-cultural differences between ‘black’ and ‘Arab’ Africa, and the diverse body of film-making from South Africa was understandably approached with caution as the continent’s sleeping cinematic giant was only just emerging from the nightmare of apartheid. This left Francophone Africa as the main player in the field of film-making, for the former French colonial masters had begun to invest in film production, initially in West Africa, almost immediately after independence. As a result of this self-conscious filtering of the available material, it soon became a received critical idea that (black) African cinema had been born in Senegal when ...