Heralding its celebration of excellence in African cinema, the Dubai International Film Festival will honour veteran filmmaker Souleymane Cissé with the Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
For the first time, DIFF is taking its flagship laurel to the heart of Africa with the recognition for Cissé, the Malian director and Cannes jury prize winner who has created compelling personal tales that reflect the spirit and diversity of the continent.
Abdulhamid Juma, Chairman of Dubai International Film Festival, said: “Over the years, Africa has produced powerful films that portray the social, political and economic realities of the continent. Souleymane Cissé has been at the forefront of the renaissance of African cinema.”
He added: “The Lifetime Achievement honour for Cissé is a recognition for the commendable and inspiring work undertaken by the director as well as for African cinema, which is breaking all barriers to emerge strongly. The award is also a testament to DIFF’s commitment to championing African films and talent, as is our Muhr AsiaAfrica competition.”
Cissé will be in Dubai this December to receive his award and lead a retrospective of two of his most celebrated films: the 1995 classic Waati (Time), the story of a young girl with an uncanny ability with animals who flees apartheid South Africa and makes her way around the continent before returning; and 2009’s Min Ye (Tell Me Who You Are), a family story of tension, boredom and marital imbalance set in Mali.
DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said the two films allow a view of Africa through the eyes of its own people. “Cissé has significantly influenced not only the African film aesthetic and has also carved a space for African film in international circles,” he said. “We are proud to welcome him and these powerful films to Dubai.”
Born in Mali in 1940 and raised in a Muslim family, Cissé’s philosophy for movies is that ‘every nation has the right to be represented by the cinema.’ Passionate about films since childhood, his films combine individual stories with the rich socio-cultural subtext of life in Africa.
Cissé began his career as an assistant for a documentary on the arrest of Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo. He subsequently graduated with a scholarship from the Moscow School of Cinema and Television.
His body of work includes his first medium-length film Cinq jours d’uve vie (Five Days in a Life; 1972) which premiered at the Carthage Film Festival; Baara (Work; 1979) which won the Stallion of Yennenga prize at FESPACO; Yeelen (Light), winner of the 1987 jury prize at Cannes Film Festival; and Waati (Time), which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
He also braved authoritarianism, when his film Den Muso (The Girl), was banned by the Malian Minister of Culture in 1974, and Cissé was arrested and jailed. Undettered by the experience, he produced Finyé (Wind) in 1982, which narrates the story of dissatisfied youth rising up against the establishment, which won Cissé his second Stallion of Yennenga at 1983’s FESPACO.
Cissé is the President of UCECAO, the Union of Creators and Entrepreneurs of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts of Western Africa, which aims at encouraging emerging filmmakers from the region.
In previous years, DIFF has presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to a number of distinguished Arab, Asian and Western film personalities including Egyptian director Daoud Abdul Sayed, French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, India’s Amitabh Bachchan and American director Oliver Stone.