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Article

Elizabeth Heath

Mousstapha Alassane, one of Niger's first filmmakers, excels in animation, a genre of film typically ignored in Africa. His work aims to preserve and revalue his African cultural heritage and to provide biting social commentary on Niger's postcolonial bourgeoisie.

Alassane was born in N’Jougou, Benin. He moved with his family to Niger in 1953. While in primary school, he began to develop the film style he would later polish as an adult. Alassane entertained his relatives and friends with shadow shows and makeshift cartoons drawn on translucent wrappings and shown through a projector he built. Throughout his teenage years, he refined his animation technique and at the age of twenty, he produced two short animated films—Le Piroguier (The Canoe-Paddler) and La Pileuse de mil Woman Pounding Millet While working at the Institut Fondamental d Afrique Noire Alassane had the opportunity to show these films to French ...

Article

Sada Niang

Nigerois filmmaker, was born in Ndougou (Niger). A mechanic by trade, he revealed himself to be an inventive young man at an early age. When no film theater existed in his village, indeed at a time when most of his fellow villagers had never seen a film, Alassane drew characters on cardboard, cut them out, and offered his fellow villagers their first cinematic experience by animating a rudimentary set of puppets.

In 1960 Alassane met Jean René Debrix and with his support obtained employment at the Institut d Afrique Noire Ifan in Niamey Later on two major figures exerted profound influence on the art and filmmaking career of Moustapha Alassane Jean Rouch a French engineer turned Africanist and advocate of direct anthropology and Norman McLaren a Scottish Canadian who made his first film at age twenty and later became the animation guru at the studios of National Film Board ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

Ambitious, talented Debbie Allen has broken ground for black women in a variety of roles, primarily behind the scenes of the entertainment industry—directing, producing, writing, and choreographing television shows, films, and musical theater.

Debbie Allen was born into a remarkable family in Houston, Texas. Her father, Andrew Allen, was a dentist, and her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, is a poet who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her sister, Phylicia Rashad, is a well-known actor, and one of her brothers is Andrew “Tex” Allen, a jazz musician.

Allen decided early that she wanted to be a dancer She began her training when she was three and by the time she was eight she had decided to go into musical theater When she tried to enroll in the school of the Houston Foundation for Ballet she was rejected for reasons her mother considered discriminatory As a ...

Article

Maxwell Akansina Aziabah

Ghanaian filmmaker, writer, producer, and director, was born in Agona Swedru in the Central Region of Ghana. His father, J. R. Ansah, was a professional photographer, a painter, dramatist, and musician, and his mother was a trader. Kwaw Ansah, after his Anglican elementary education in Agona Swedru, moved to Accra, where he completed his ordinary-level certificate examinations. While studying for his ordinary-level certificate, he worked as a fashion designer for the United Africa Company. He later entered London Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) in 1963 to study theater design. Having decided to pursue a career in film production, he then enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and graduated two years later, in 1965 with a diploma in dramatic arts That same year he was admitted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy It was while there that he understudied film production in R ...

Article

Kendy Vérilus

was born Celesti Corbanese in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 3 December 1942, the son of Germaine Delva and Paul Corbanese. He completed his elementary and secondary school education at the Petit Séminaire Collège Saint-Martial, an acclaimed all-boys Catholic school in the capital city. Throughout his childhood, he frequented screenings of art films that played at the Tribune, an esplanade and theater complex formerly located on the Champ de Mars, an important public square in downtown Port-au-Prince. Upon finishing his études classiques, he left for Europe—a popular option available to the middle and upper classes at the time—to pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics, and in 1970 he earned a Ph.D. at La Sapienza Facoltà, Università di Roma. While in Europe, he joined a film club and regularly attended art-house film screenings in both Rome and Paris.

On completing his studies and finding himself unable to return to his homeland ...

Article

Robert N. Anderson

was born on 10 November 1954 in the town of Nanuque, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. It was there that, as an adolescent, he discovered world cinema in the city’s movie theaters and frequented his uncle’s theater company. He later moved to the state capital of Belo Horizonte, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in sociology of education, all the while maintaining his connection with the local film club scene. He moved to São Paulo in 1984, where he later became a doctor of philosophy in communication science at the School of Communication and Art of the University of São Paulo (ECA/USP).

Araújo began his filmmaking career with the mid-length docudrama Memórias de classe (Class Memories, 1989 exploring the role of Afro Brazilians in São Paulo s labor movement This debut effort won the Ford ANPOCS Film Festival award for best screenplay The ...

Article

Houda Ben Ghacham

Tunisian film critic and director, was born in Tunis on 11 March 1944. His father, Taoufik Boughedir, was a journalist, novelist, playwright, and an influential figure in cultural life. Boughedir attended a French secondary school in Tunis and lived in the family home in Halfaouine, an area of old Tunis that was later to provide the name for the director’s first film. He went on to study French literature in Rouen and Paris and wrote two doctoral theses on African and Arabic cinema.

Boughedir first made a name for himself as a film critic, writing for, among others, the journal Jeune Afrique, which was published in Paris and distributed in francophone Africa. In his writing for this, he was an inexhaustible supporter of the cause of African cinema. He was involved in organizing the oldest pan-African film festival, Les Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage, in Tunis which he ...

Article

Born in Brooklyn, New York, St. Clair Bourne is the son of St. Clair Bourne Sr., who was an editor of the Amsterdam News and a reporter for the People's Voice in the 1930s. Although the younger Bourne began his education at Georgetown University in 1961, he was expelled for student activism. In 1967 he received a B.A. degree from Syracuse University after working with the Peace Corps. He began a degree in filmmaking at Columbia University in 1968, but was again asked to leave because of his political activities.

From 1968 until 1970 Bourne was a producer, writer, and director for the public-television series Black Journal. He established his own company, Chamba Productions, and produced African American documentary films such as Something to Build On (1971) and Let the Church Say Amen! (1973). In 1974 he received the Bronze ...

Article

Leslie Sanders

was born 7 January 1953 in Guayaguayare, Trinidad and Tobago. Information on her parents is unavailable. She attended Naparima Girls’ High School in San Fernando, graduating in 1970. The same year, she immigrated to Canada for further schooling, graduating from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in 1975, and from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education with an M.A. in 1976. She lives in Toronto and, since 2004, has been a research professor in the Department of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph. Brand is the author of ten books of poetry; four novels; a collection of short stories; four substantial works of nonfiction, including the resonant and influential meditation on being in diaspora, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (2001 other uncollected essays and four documentary films She has won many awards for her work ...

Article

Dylon L. Robbins

was born Jorge da Silva on 21 September 1937 in Rio de Janeiro. His father, Sebastião Alves de Brito, was an itinerant laborer without long-term or regular employment. His mother, Rita Maria da Silva, worked to raise Bulbul and his sister after separating from his father. In interviews, Bulbul recalled his childhood as characterized by his living in a single dwelling with several other families in the Rio neighborhood of Botafogo. It is during this time that he came to be called Zózimo. Because of disciplinary problems in school, Bulbul was sent to a youth reform school where he felt a greater sense of community with what he described as its almost exclusively black student body.

After leaving the reform school Bulbul enlisted in the army Upon his discharge he took university courses in accounting before enrolling at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes National School of Fine Arts from ...

Article

Zózimo Bulbul was born in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1970s he appeared in several films including Compasso de Espera (1973), Sagarana (1973), Pureza Proibida (1974), and Deusa Negra (1979). In 1974 Bulbul directed Soul in the Eye a powerful ...

Article

Robyn McGee

His father, the late Trevor George Smith, was a businessman and his mother, Geraldine Green, a homemaker. Both were immigrants from Jamaica. Smith has one brother, Paul, and four children.

Around 1989 Smith was given the moniker “Busta Rhymes” by fellow rapper Chuck D of the seminal hip-hop group Public Enemy. The original George “Buster” Rhymes was an NFL running back known for his charismatic, freewheeling style.

Busta Rhymes attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical School in Brooklyn with other iconic rappers, Sean Carter, aka Jay Z; Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G; Earl Simmons, aka D.M.X.; and Sean Combs later known as Puff Daddy and P Diddy As teenagers Rhymes and Jay Z famously held a speed rapping battle in the high school cafeteria which was won by Jay Z After living in Liverpool England for a short time Rhymes returned to New York ...

Article

Angolan anthropologist, writer, and filmmaker, was born in Santarém, Portugal, on 22 April 1941. His family immigrated to Angola in 1953, to the city of Moçamedes, where he spent part of his adolescence. He then returned to Portugal, where in 1960 he finished a course in agronomy. During these Portuguese years, he kept himself at a distance from the group of young nationalist students from the colonies, who tended to congregate around the Casa dos Estudantes do Império in Lisbon, to discuss and denounce the iniquity of the Portuguese colonial system.

Carvalho returned to Angola in 1960. He was living in the province of Uìge when, in 1961, the anticolonial activity of the Movimento Popular para la Libertação de Angola (MPLA) began, which would lead to Angola eventually achieving independence in 1975 In those years Ruy Duarte de Carvalho worked as a coffee grower and ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Born in Bamako, Mali, Souleymane Cissé became a film devotee as a young child, when his brothers took him to the city’s open-air cinemas. By the time he graduated from secondary school, he had already organized a student film group and mastered the skills of a projectionist. In 1962, after seeing a film about Patrice Lumumba, former leader of the Republic of the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Cissé decided to become a filmmaker and won a scholarship to the State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow in 1963.

After graduation in 1969, Cissé returned to Mali, where he was hired to make newsreels and documentaries for the Ministry of Information. Three years later he completed his first fiction film, Cinq jours d’une vie (1972). This, like all of his subsequent feature films—Den muso (The Girl, 1975), Baara ...

Article

Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper

was born Léonie Coicou in Pétionville, Haiti, on 10 April 1891, to poet and writer Massillon Coicou and Lisebonne Joseph. While her father served as a diplomat, she studied in France. There, she began her acting career with the Théâtre de Cluny in Paris, playing the role of “Petit Sim” in her father’s play Liberté in 1904. Four years after Coicou’s return to Port-au-Prince, on the night of 14 March 1908, her father and his two brothers, avid supporters of Anténor Firmin, were accused of plotting the overthrow of then US-backed President Nord Alexis and assassinated along with more than a dozen friends. That same year, in response to a defamatory article written about her deceased father, Coicou, then only eighteen years old, entered public life by defending his legacy in the influential Haitian newspaper of the epoch, L’impartial. She married Justin Madiou on 25 April ...

Article

Steven R. Carter

Born Kathleen Conwell in Jersey City, she was the daughter of Frank and Loretta Conwell. Her father, who had worked as a mortician, became the principal of a high school now named after him and the first black New Jersey state legislator. In 1963, after receiving her BA in philosophy and religion from Skidmore College, Collins worked on black southern voter registration for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1966 she earned an MA in French literature and cinema through the Middle-bury program at Paris's Sorbonne. Joining the editorial and production staff at a New York City Public Broadcasting Service station, Collins worked as a film editor and began writing stories. In 1974, soon after ending her marriage to Douglas Collins, she became a professor of film history and screenwriting at the City College of New York. Adapting Henry H. Roth's fiction for the screen in The ...

Article

Rebeca L. Hey-Colón

was born on 20 August 1936 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Her mother, Josefa Quiles, was a seamstress, and her father, Teodoro Colón, a dry goods merchant. Both were originally from Barrio Obrero, a working-class neighborhood in Santurce. They divorced when Colón was still young. Her mother then moved back to Barrio Obrero, to the Las Casas housing project, bringing her children with her.

Colón attended public schools in Santurce and was first exposed to theater at the Román Baldorioty de Castro School. She acted in school plays staged by students from the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR’s) burgeoning theater program, directed by Leopoldo Santiago Lavandero. She debuted in the play La azotea The Rooftop Impressed with her innate talent the play s director Marcos Colón introduced her to Santiago Lavandero Lavandero invited her to audit theater courses at the university as well as participate in their theatrical ventures Colón ...

Article

Takkara Keosha Brunson

was born in Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern region of Cuba. The daughter of Leocadia Almanza and Germán Cosme, she was orphaned at a young age and eventually adopted by a wealthy Santiago family, who moved her to the capital city of Havana. Cosme began her study of music and piano theory at the Municipal School of Music. She later studied elocution and declamation at the Academy of Declamation of the Municipal Conservatory.

Cosme realized her passion for reciting poetry at a young age. Initially, she followed in the tradition of prominent declamation performers from Europe and Latin America, who performed works by white poets. However, upon reading the poetry collections Motivos de son (1930) and Sóngoro Cosóngo (1931) by the famous Afro-Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén, she recognized her true calling as a performer. She began to recite Afro-Antillean poetry, as well as poesía negra ...

Article

Faith Mkwesha-Manyonga

Zimbabwean novelist, scriptwriter, consultant, and film director, was born in 1959 in Mutoko in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). At the age of two, she left for England with her parents, who were going for further studies, and started her primary education there. In 1965, when she was six, they returned to Rhodesia, where she completed her primary and secondary education at a mission school in Mutare. In 1977, she returned to England to study medicine at Cambridge University, but feeling lonely and alienated, she returned home after three years, without completing her studies, just before the declaration of national independence.

Back in a newly liberated Zimbabwe she worked for a marketing company as a copy editor and then studied psychology at the University of Zimbabwe She was actively involved in the University of Zimbabwe drama club writing and staging plays Dangarembga worked as a teacher after graduating but ...

Article

Peter Carr Jones

music, fashion, and movie industry entrepreneur. The former co-owner of Roc-A-Fella Records with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Damon Dash cross-promoted several products within a single brand, Roc-A-Fella. He ran the corporate side of Roc-A-Fella, especially the fashion and movie production divisions, until being bought out in 2004.

Dash was born in East Harlem, New York, to a lower-middle class, single-parent family. He earned scholarships to several prestigious private schools, though each expelled him. His mother died when Dash was only fifteen, but he continued his education until the twelfth grade, and got his GED in 1988. After this, he ran a small party promotion company, Dash Entertainment.

In 1994 he met Jay-Z and became his manager. When the established record companies passed on Jay-Z's original album, Reasonable Doubt, Dash, Jay-Z, and silent partner Burke formed Roc-A-Fella in 1996 Def Jam Records ...