Q&A with producer Stéphane Vieyra (son of Paulin Soumanou Vieyra)

Born in Porto-Novo, Benin, and raised in Senegal, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra (1925-1987) was a filmmaker and a historian, and one of the most important figures in all of African cinema. The founder of the “Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes” in 1969, Vieyra was a mentor to the great figures of the seventh art, such as Ousmane Sembène, Djibril Diop Mambéty, and Ababacar Samb-Makharam. The following program features three of his greatest documentary shorts, including Afrique sur Seine, one of the first released Francophone African films; Lamb, about traditional wrestling in Senegal; and his film about Sembène, L’Envers du Décor.

Afrique sur Seine
Paulin Soumanou Vieyra and Mamadou Sarr, Senegal, 1955, 21m
French with English subtitles
In this short documentary, Vieyra and his collaborator Mamadou Sarr explore the lives of Africans living in Paris, poetically evoking the ambiguities and questions about identity that plague students educated in colonialist spaces, removed from their comfort zone. In voiceover, the film wonders if Africa is only in Africa or also on the banks of the Seine?

Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, Senegal, 1963, 18m
Wolof and French with English subtitles
This documentary captures the sport of traditional wrestling, called “lamb” in Wolof, popular in Senegal. Vieyra presents the rigorous rules of the sport and training practices by the sea. Lamb was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, a first for a film from sub-Saharan Africa.

L’Envers du Décor
Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, Senegal, 1981, 25m
French with English subtitles
Vieyra captures Ousmane Sembène, one of the greatest African filmmakers, during the filming of Ceddo, which would be censored under the Senghor regime and until 1983 by the Senegalese authorities.