Review by Choice Review
These two books offer very different approaches to the study of African cinema, yet they also complement each other. Like others before her, Thackway attempts to come to terms with the art, literature, music, religion, and intellectual thought within a vast and culturally diverse area. Some, like philosopher V.Y. Mudimbi in The Invention of Africa (1988), have succeeded; others, like Frank Ukadike in Black African Cinema (CH, Jan'95), can overwhelm. Thackway follows in Ukadike's footsteps. Limiting herself to the films from "Francophone Africa," a term she discredits then uses throughout the text, she leaves the reader with more generalization and reductionism than the subject deserves. The most interesting sections of the book deal with the colonial confrontation (Thackway provides a long analysis of Jean Marie Teno's audacious Afrique, je te plumerai) and especially the wealth of films shot by Africans in Europe; least successful are the overviews of European images of Africa and of the ways in which Western cinema is reduced to certain contemporary Hollywood stereotypes. Though at times interesting, long footnotes create a sometimes-distracting alternate text. This same stylistic decision haunts Gugler's book, which offers the obligatory chapter on images of Africa in Western film, along with a brief overview of African political and social history and some curious and unnecessary statistics on income and literacy rates in various African countries. The essence of the book lies in its six core chapters, each of which attempts to bring together several films under a particular theme. This approach allows for a deeper discussion of each film than Thackway provides, along with a provocative selection of films. Among the films discussed under the heading "The Struggle for Majority Rule in South Africa" one finds both The Gods Must Be Crazy and Mapantsula; under "Recovering the African Past" both Out of Africa and Keita. These choices, and others, may seem strange bedfellows, but they allow for lively analyses missing in Thackway's text. This makes Gugler's book a more likely candidate for selection, though both are welcome, giving the paucity of literature on African cinema. ^BSumming Up: Both titles: recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. C. Pike University of Minnesota
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Choice Review