Beyond the “Black Atlantic”: (En)Gendering Blackness and Building Bridges at African Diaspora Film Festivals

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Virginie MESANA, University of Ottawa, Canada
In the context of current discussions of ethno-racial representations in the North American public sphere, the “African diaspora”, as a globalized notion of Blackness, has served to establish transnational connections and harness a powerful collective identity for various marginalized minority groups and individuals. The “Black Lives Matter” social justice movement has embodied such affirmation to recognize the contributions of “Black people”. But discourses about who is included in (and excluded from) this community has yet to be examined, beyond the recognition of a shared Black culture created through processes of globalization. Film narratives directed by African diasporic filmmakers, and selected at festivals gathering the African diaspora community, offer a unique platform to look at representations of minority/majority social relations in the North American context. Drawing on critical analyses of Paul Gilroy’s “Black Atlantic”, I will provide an analysis of film festivals as alternative public spheres where gender and race are being (re)imagined. My objective is to better understand the co-construction of social relations of power such as gender and class within the African Diaspora, beyond the dominant narrative of a collective experience of postcolonial memories. I will thus illustrate processes of staging and performing the “African Diaspora” at two international film festivals showcasing the cultural production and contributions of this community – The Montreal International Black Film Festival (created in 2005) and the New York African Diaspora International Film Festival (created in 1993). This paper will conclude with preliminary findings based on data collected in the first phase of my research, with a discourse analysis of the role and place of women filmmakers in all written documentation produced by the festivals since their foundation.