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Mati Diop’s “Dahomey” and Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Black Tea” to Open and Close Film Africa 2024: London’s Biggest Celebration of African Cinema

The Royal African Society is thrilled to announce the return of Film Africa, one of the most anticipated and celebrated showcases of African cinema in Europe, for its 2024 edition. The festival will run from 25 October to 3 November, offering an exhilarating array of films, virtual events, director Q&As, panel discussions, professional workshops, master classes, school screenings, and family activities.

Opening Night: Mati Diop’s “Dahomey”

The festival will open with the award-winning documentary “Dahomey,” directed by Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop, who won the Golden Bear at the 2024 Berlinale. Set against the backdrop of the historic Kingdom of Dahomey, now the Republic of Benin, “Dahomey” presents a dramatized account of the return of 26 royal treasures from a museum in France to their rightful home. Through meticulous storytelling and powerful imagery, Diop delves into the complexities of cultural repatriation, capturing the profound reactions of the Beninese people as they reconnect with their heritage. The film not only explores the historical significance of these artifacts but also highlights the enduring impact of colonialism and the ongoing journey toward cultural restitution.

Closing Night: Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Black Tea”

Closing the festival is “Black Tea,” another Berlinale finalist, directed by award-winning Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako. Starring Nina Mélo and Chang Han, this poignant romantic drama follows the journey of a young Ivorian woman who embarks on a transformative odyssey to China. In her quest, she finds unexpected love and confronts the complexities of cultural assimilation. “Black Tea” unveils a narrative of aspirational migration across the rarely addressed axis of Asia and Africa, exploring themes of identity, belonging, and the cross-cultural exchanges that shape our globalized world.

 Festival Highlights

In addition to the opening and closing films, Film Africa 2024 will showcase an eclectic lineup of features, documentaries, and shorts from across the continent. The festival is committed to recognizing and supporting new filmmaking talent through the Baobab Award for Best Short Film and the Audience Award for Best Feature Film. These awards celebrate the creativity and innovation of emerging African filmmakers, providing them with a platform to reach wider audiences.

 Analysis of “Dahomey” and “Black Tea

Both “Dahomey” and “Black Tea” offer rich, complex narratives that reflect the evolving landscape of African cinema.

Dahomey: Directed by Mati Diop, the film explores the deep historical and cultural ties that bind the people of Benin to their heritage. The return of the royal treasures symbolizes a broader movement towards reclaiming African history and identity from the shadows of colonialism. Diop’s nuanced storytelling and vivid imagery create a compelling narrative that is both educational and emotionally resonant, prompting audiences to consider the broader implications of cultural repatriation.

Black Tea: Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, presents a different facet of African narratives, focusing on personal transformation and cross-cultural experiences. The protagonist’s journey to China and the ensuing romantic and cultural encounters highlight the interconnectedness of contemporary global migration. Sissako’s direction captures the subtleties of cultural assimilation and the search for identity, offering a fresh perspective on the African diaspora.

Film Africa 2024 promises to be a landmark event, celebrating the diversity and richness of African cinema. With powerful opening and closing films by acclaimed directors Mati Diop and Abderrahmane Sissako, the festival not only showcases exceptional filmmaking but also fosters important conversations about heritage, identity, and the global African experience. The Royal African Society’s commitment to promoting African cinema continues to shine through this vibrant and dynamic festival.

Researched by : Jide Adesina

Photograph: Everett/REX Shutterstock/Everett/REX_Shutterstock

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