2018, Sun, Jan 21

Gabrielle Chomentowski: Traveling to Study Cinema: The African Students in the USSR in the 1960s–1970s

Didi Ould Nana, a Mauritanian student in the Cinematography Department. | Courtesy VGIK-Archive, vgik.info

Didi Ould Nana, a Mauritanian student in the Cinematography Department. | Courtesy VGIK-Archive, vgik.info

Chomentowski’s paper explores the little-known journeys undertaken by several African students who, in the aftermath of African independence and up until the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), traveled to Russia in order to be trained in the craft of filmmaking. Nearly all of these apprentice filmmakers went on to influence the development of cinema in their home countries, as well as on the African continent as a whole. More broadly, the history of the relationship between the USSR and some African countries, and the human, technical, and aesthetic cross-fertilization that took place between them, draws frameworks beyond national histories of cinema and toward a more global history of cinema.

Gabrielle Chomentowski is a political scientist and historian working on Soviet cinema and Soviet policy. She is currently working on the artistic, ideological, and political flows between the Soviet Union, Africa, and the Middle East from the 1950s to the 1980s. She is author of several articles and of the book Filmer l’Orient. Politique des nationalités et cinéma en Union soviétique 1917–1938 (2016). Chomentowski teaches media history at the Sorbonne.