The history behind the movie
In 1945, René Vautier is a young Breton of 21 years and former resistance fighter awarded the War Cross medal a year earlier. After his graduation from IDHEC (today, La Fémis), he leaves for the Ivory Coast to shoot images for the French Education League. The aim of the movie is to show French high school students how villagers live in French West Africa. The young director gets there without any prejudices regarding the French occupation in Africa… He shoots… But the authorities blame him for not respecting Pierre Laval’s 1934 decree which banned all shooting in French West Africa without the governor’s consent. Tracked down during the 10-day filming and officially expelled, he flees from Bamako and illegally films his 600-mile journey: marks of oppression, repression, burnt down villages and other Human Rights violations. After several months spent in Africa, he will manage, with the help of Africans, Breton fishermen, judges and customs officers, to bring the reels back home. A last ploy at the police station of Reuilly in Paris will enable him to save a quarter of his film stock and edit the movie Afrique 50.
The movie is completed in 1950 and immediately condemned by the Court of Bobo-Dioulasso and issues a decree to burn the film. It is the first movie in the history of French film to be openly against colonialism. Censured in France from 1950 to 1990, it earned its director 13 charges against him plus a one-year prison sentence. In 1955, the movie is awarded Best Young Director Documentary at the World Youth Festival in Warsaw and ranked among “the third best documentaries of the year”, a classification made by the Prix Lumière jury.
In 1996, after an official screening sponsored by the Cinémathèque française at the Pompidou Center in Paris, the Audiovisual Officer for the Minister of Foreign Affairs handed René Vautier a 16 mm copy of Afrique 50. Vautier also receives a letter from the Minister stating “this courageous and essential movie had been screened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in over 50 countries to show the world that there was already a strong anti-colonial feeling in France in 1950.”
Cast & Crew
Director : René Vautier
Screenwriter : René Vautier
Schedule & Presentation
Presentation by and discussion with director René Vautier
Wednesday, March 28 – 9:00 a.m at the Ukrop Auditorium (UR) ~ 1h35 ~ General Audience