Sarah Maldoror

Originally published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ,  2000.

Interview held at the 15th edition of FESPACO in February 1997 Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.  Translated from French.

While you are from the African Diaspora, you hold an important place in African cinema.  Several of your films have focused on themes of struggle in Africa, such as the internationally acclaimed film Sambizanga.  What is African cinema to you?

First, for me, African cinema does not exist.  African cinema will exist when it is seen first in Africa.  When Africans go to see African films, it can be said that an African cinema exists.  For the moment, we are making films for others.  That is the drama of African cinema.

You came to cinema during the decade of African independence.  Much of your political awareness, which is reflected in your work, was sharpened during that period.  What was it like during that time—the spirit of that era, the interests of African filmmakers at that time?

I came to cinema during the years of African independence.   Before independence there was not an African cinema, and even now that there are African films, what do you really call an African cinema?   Before there is a cinema that can be called African, there must first be a national cinema.  And for there to be a national cinema, there must be cinema houses, there must be a sufficient number of African films.  African films must be seen by Africans.  They must go see their own films with their faults or whatever.  There must first be an African public!

Read the entire interview