Topic outline

  • Syllabus

    Marlboro College

    Fall 2103

    African Cinemas: Close-up on Colonialism



    Course description and objectives

    This course is designed to facilitate learning and critical analysis of how Africans revisit and treat their colonial past. In that regard, the course surveys different issues in order to acquaint students with Africa’s colonial past and the bearing of that legacy on its present and future. Those surveyed issues include violence, Africans’ portrayal by Westerners, the impact of colonialism on local communities (identity, education, language, social organization) and the present-day relationships between African countries and France. From the 1930s Hollywood movies like Tarzan and King Solomon’s Mines to African productions such as The Gods Must be Crazy or Identity Pieces, films are selected across historical and geographical boundaries to bring depth to the corpus.

    In addition to screenings and discussions, coursework also includes analysis of texts.



    Selected films include: The Gods Must be Crazy (Les dieux sont tombes sur la tête), King Solomon's MinesThe Great White Man of Lambarene (Le grand Blanc de Lambarene), Camp de Thiaroye, Lumumba, Keita, l’heritage du griot, Pieces d'identite (ID), Tasuma, the Fighter, Battle of Algiers, and Black Girl (La Noire de).


    Course Requirements 

    Attendance & Participation

    Because you will be graded on your in-class participation, you are expected to attend every class. You must to come to class fully prepared to discuss the films and any supplemental reading materials in a thoughtful way. Participation in class includes exchanging ideas on issues/concepts that are covered in the films.

    You are responsible for all missed work, whether your absence is excused or not. After two (2) absences, any unexcused absences will result in a zero participation grade for the missed day AND a ten-point reduction from the total final grade of the semester. 


    Critical Reviews

    In addition to in-class film screenings and discussion, students will write and submit critical reviews of reading assignments. More detailed information will be given at the time of the assignments.



    There will be individual oral presentations (10-15 minutes) to introduce the assigned film and its director. You are also expected to present a brief cultural and historical context in which the film was produced.  



    Two papers will be required for this course: a mid-term paper (4-5 pages) and one longer research paper (8-10 pages). The short paper is a personal reflection on the films discussed. The research paper may deal with one issue/concept as featured in a given film or compare the treatment of colonialism in two films. The topic of your research paper must be approved by the instructor. The research paper must be documented with at least four sources (No Wikipedia).



    Attendance & Participation




    Critical reviews


    Mid-term paper


    Final Paper



    ** The professor reserves the right to make changes to the syllabus as necessary ** 


    • Sept. 3

      Intro class

      • Sept. 9

        Discussion on the reading assignment:  article by Richard Harvey Brown + definition of the concepts "colonial" and "postcolonial" 

      • Sept. 11

        Background on French colonial rule in Africa + African cinemas' reaction to colonial and postcolonial systems

        • Sept. 16

          Treasure hunt: Intro (discussion) + film screening

          • Sept.18

            Colonial Film Unit

            • Sept. 23

              Colonial Film (Unit)

            • Sept. 25

              The Gods Must be Crazy (Les dieux sont tombes sur la tête )

              • Sept. 30

                The Gods Must be Crazy (Les dieux sont tombes sur la tête )

              • Oct. 2

                The Great White Man of Lambarene (Le grand Blanc de Lambarene)

                • Oct. 7

                  The Great White Man of Lambarene (Le grand Blanc de Lambarene)

                • Oct. 9

                  The Great White Man of Lambarene (Le grand Blanc de Lambarene)

                  • Oct. 14

                    Screening and discussion: Camp de Thiaroye

                    • Oct. 16

                      Screening and discussion: Camp de Thiaroye

                      • Oct. 23

                        Discussion: Camp de Thiaroye and article

                        • Oct. 28


                          • Oct. 30

                            Intro to engaged African cinema

                          • African women under colonial rule

                            Read the attached article and answer the following questions:

                            1. Who is Aline Sitoe Diatta?

                            2. What is her life trajectory?

                            3. Why is she considered a key historical figure against French colonialism?

                            4. Why her story and legacy were not known until the 1980's in Senegal?

                            5. What do we learn, through the sory of Aline Sitoe, about African women under colonial rule?

                            • Nov. 6

                              African women under colonial rule

                            • Nov. 11

                               Pieces d'identite (ID)

                              • Nov. 13

                                 Pieces d'identite (ID)

                                • Nov. 18

                                  Screening and discussion: Tasuma, the Fighter

                                  • Nov. 20

                                    Screening and discussion: Tasuma, the Fighter

                                    • Nov. 25

                                      Decolonization and freedom fighters

                                      • Dec. 2

                                        Battle of Algiers

                                        • Dec. 4

                                          Battle of Algiers

                                          • Dec. 9

                                            Black Girl (La Noire de)

                                            • Dec. 11

                                              Black Girl (La Noire de)

                                              • Dec. 16

                                                Final paper due