Ottawa film scholar teams up with Martin Scorsese to restore lost African classics
Some Africans never see some of the continent's most famous films, Aboubakar Sanogo says
An African film scholar in Ottawa is working to locate, restore and disseminate films from his home continent — with the help of legendary American director Martin Scorsese.
Lifelong cinephile Aboubakar Sanogo says it's an unfortunate reality that people can spend their entire lives in Africa without seeing some of the continent's most famous films.
"Once the festival life [of a film] ends, the life ends, almost," said Sanogo, an assistant professor of film studies at Carleton University.
"It's part of the historic problems of African cinema which is the question of film distribution."
With film's biggest distributors clustered in Hollywood, Sanogo said it's often easier for Americans to see African films than for people who actually grow up there to see them.
'A dream come true'
Earlier this year, Sanogo met with Scorsese to work on a plan to change that.
"It was really a dream come true for me," he said. "We need more of Martin Scorsese in the world, frankly."
"The film starts with hope and ends with complete disillusionment," Sanogo said.
While Sanogo became a fan of director Med Hondo's later films while growing up in Burkina Faso, he says Soleil, Ô was "a mystery."
After the film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970, it became virtually impossible to locate a copy.
It wasn't until Sanogo received one from Hondo himself that he was able to see what he describes as a cinematic "revelation."
Thanks to this new project, a restored version of Soleil, Ô was revealed to a new generation of film lovers at this year's Cannes festival.
'Giving an idea of Africa to the world'
The importance of this project can't be understated for the people reflected within them, according to Sanogo.
Far from merely a cinematic escape, Sanogo said connecting with their lost stories could help Africans explore their cultural identity.
"We don't see enough of how Africans have come to terms with these fundamental questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we headed? What are our dreams, our aspirations and our fears?
"The world without Africa is not the world," he said. "We don't want to be forgotten."