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Elizabeth Heath

One of the founding figures in African filmmaking, Paulin Vieyra was responsible for dismantling barriers blocking the birth of film in Africa. Not only famous for these achievements, Vieyra was also influential as a film critic and film historian and did much to promote African cinema abroad.

Vieyra was born in Porto Novo, Benin, where he spent his early childhood. His father, a high-ranking civil servant in the French colonial administration, sent him to school in France at the age of ten. An excellent student, Vieyra was admitted to the University of Paris. When a bout of tuberculosis sent him into the hospital, Vieyra met film school students there who encouraged him to enroll in film school. He was admitted to l’Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques in Paris and in 1955 became the first African to graduate from the school.

After graduation Vieyra organized the film group Le Groupe Africain ...

Article

Samba Gadjigo

Beninese filmmaker and film critic, was born the oldest of eight children in Porto Novo, Benin (former Dahomey), on 30 January 1925. Vieyra’s great-grandfather, a Muslim Yoruba, was a member of a Bida royal family in Nigeria that was sent to Brazil as slaves. Following the 1835 Muslim slave rebellion in Bahia and emancipation in Brazil, Vieyra’s great-grandfather settled in the former Portuguese slave port of Porto Novo (New Port), which was said to be a tributary of the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo. He brought with him a mulatto wife, the daughter of his former Jewish Portuguese master and a black slave, and the Portuguese last name Vieyra.

Vieyra’s father was a Yoruba railroad administrator. His mother, originally from Sierra Leone, was a merchant. In 1935 they sent Paulin then ten to France to attend boarding school During the war his school was closed Moving from family to ...