Walker Art Center

65° FLight RainVia weather.com

Censorship in Colonial France: Returning the Gaze

Part of A Riff on the Rif: In the Spirit of the Cinematheque Tangier

This program of three films—Statues Also Die, Afrique 50, and Sand and Blood—is introduced by Joëlle Vitiello, Macalester College.

Statues Also Die (Les Statues Meurent Aussi)

Directed by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais

“As a poetic meditation on how we perceive, exploit, and sometimes destroy other cultures, this is essential viewing.” —Chicago Reader

Beginning with the quote, “When men die, they enter history. When statues die, they enter art. This botany of death is what we call culture,” this essay film pairs striking montages of statues and spectators with a meditation on art history and ways that African cultures and spaces have been consumed by white civilization. The film won the 1954 Prix Jean Vigo at the Cannes Film Festival for its deconstruction of how colonialism affects the perception of art, yet was banned by the French government until 1995 for said criticisms. 1953, France, in French with English subtitles, 30 minutes. 35mm print courtesy the Institut Français.

Afrique 50

Directed by René Vautier

“Vautier is an inspiring example of the militant filmmaker, an artist intent on marrying the praxis of shooting and political action.” —Little White Lies

Director René Vautier was sent to West Africa to cover the educational outreach of the French League of Schooling. What was meant to be a tribute to the benefits of colonization turned into a scathing exposé of the French rule when the then-21-year-old filmmaker witnessed horrible living conditions and violent acts committed by the army in the name of his home country. Afrique 50 is considered to be the first French anti-colonialist film, and was banned by the government until the 1990s. Vautier was also incarcerated for several months because of the film. 1950, France, in French with English subtitles, 17 minutes.

Sand and Blood (De Sable et de Sang)

Directed by Michel Le Thomas
Some 60 years after he made Afrique 50, Vautier is interviewed about his experiences in West Africa, missed connections between cultures, and the films that a young Mauritanian sent to him over the years until his tragic attempt at emigration to Europe. 2012, France, in French with English subtitles, 27 minutes.


Album: Cinematheque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada is made possible by generous support from the Bentson Foundation.