The Film Study Center logo - to home page   Film Study Center at Harvard University
FellowshipsFellows About the Film Study Center at Harvard UniversityWork by Previous FellowsEventsNews Support the Film Study Center

McMillan-Stewart Fellows

2017-18: Alain Gomis

The films of Alain Gomis define a richly cinematic mode of narrative portraiture. Each of his four features centers around willful characters overwhelmed by difficult circumstances which force them to question their place within a world that seems indifferent and even hostile to their plight. Born in France into a Senegalese and Guinea-Bissauan family, Alain Gomis has divided his films between Africa and France, offering a unique vista over the sharp differences and deep bonds that continue to define the relationship between francophone Africa and its diaspora.

2016-17: A Tribute to Moustapha Alassane

It is no exaggeration to declare Moustapha Alassane (1942-2015) a truly foundational figure in African cinema. As a young boy growing up in the small town of Ayorou in Niger, he dreamed of moving images and invented his own form of shadow puppets. By the late 1950s, he was an illustrator associated with the Niamey Museum, where he met Jean Rouch, who recognized the young man’s talent and urged him to turn toward cinema.

Like so many newly independent nations in Africa in the third quarter of the twentieth century, Niger took pride in its nascent national cinema, although the level of state support was weak there compared to Senegal or Guinea-Bissau, for example. Two years after Niger became independent in 1960, Alassane made the first Nigerien film, Aoure, a narrative short, while beginning to experiment with animation. After travels to France and Canada, Alassane returned to Niger to make his most ambitious film yet, The Return of an Adventurer. Deeply influential in western Africa and indeed across the continent, it announced the arrival of a new kind of African filmmaking: one that was aware of cinema elsewhere but maintained its aesthetic independence.

Alassane went on to make two feature films, F.V.V.A. and Toula, that each, in very different ways, sought to acknowledge the emergence of a modern Niger and its difficult negotiation of traditional ways in a world dominated by consumer capitalism. In these films and in his animated shorts, Alassane continued a subtle and sly critique of the political and economic powers that be in contemporary Africa, but, as the initial wave of enthusiasm and resources supporting Nigerien cinema waned, so did his output.

Alassane became a distributor and an exhibitor by the end of the 1970s, eventually establishing his own animation studio in Niger, where he experimented with animation software and stop-motion filmmaking until the end of his life.

The jury for the McMillan-Stewart Fellowship had decided to award him the 2016 fellowship just before his death was announced. Now that the Institut Français has assembled a near-complete retrospective of his films, the HFA, Harvard’s Film Study Center and the McMillan-Stewart Foundation can present this tribute to Alassane as part of the fellowship’s mission to promote awareness and research about his work. We hope to be able to add copies of his work to the McMillan-Stewart collection at the Archive and to support future preservation and restoration of Alassane’s legacy.

– David Pendleton, Harvard Film Archive

2015-16: Hassen Ferhani

Born in Algiers in 1986, Ferhani became active in the cinema while still a teenager by working with the cine-club of the Algerian arts organization Association Chrysalide. His short films Les Baies d’Alger (2006) and Tarzan, Don Quixote and Us (2013) were exhibited internationally. His debut feature film, Roundabout in My Head, has won acclaim at festivals in Marseille, Carthage and Turin.





2014-15: Mati Diop

Mati Diop is a French filmmaker and actress working in both France and Senegal. Her formally adventurous films explore exile and identity, memory and loss using fiction and documentary tools. Additionally Mati’s uncle is the celebrated Senegalese director Djbril Diop Mambéty, director of the landmark film Touki bouki (1973).

The films of Mati Diop conjure faraway places. Characters both fictional and quasi-documentary long for locales beyond their reach, or sometimes, as if in a trance, they drift magnetically toward them. No matter where the films take place, there is always the specter of somewhere else, and, perhaps with it, the possibility of a different life. These evocations of distant locations—a friend’s tropical Yucatan adventures relayed by text message in Snow Canon, memories of home mournfully recalled in Big in Vietnam, and the idea of an opportunity-rich Europe worth risking one’s life for in Atlantiques and A Thousand Suns (Mille soleils)—suffuse the concrete worlds her characters inhabit so that her films often seem to be in multiple places at once.


2012-13: Tariq Teguia

Tariq Teguia was born in Algeria in 1966 and studied visual arts and philosophy in Paris. He began his career teaching contemporary art history and working as a photographer before making a series of short films in the late 1990s. These first works attracted enough attention that Teguia's feature debut, Rome Rather Than You premiered in film festivals around the world. His follow-up, Inland, won prizes at both Venice and Jeonju. Teguia's attention to the relation between characters and the space they inhabit, as well as his penchant for lacunal narrative, betrays the influence of Antonioni and perhaps Jia Zhangke as well. Like them, Teguia has a gift for calm, muted images that nevertheless brim with tension – an appropriately cinematic style for depicting life in present-day Algeria. The country has so far been largely bypassed by the Arab Spring, with the wounds of the civil war of the 1990s still unhealed and with a disempowered and dispirited population overlooked by an unresponsive government and divided over the place of Islam in Algerian society.





























2011-12: Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche

Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche was born in Algeria in 1966 and moved to France in 1968, where he grew up in Montfermeil, on the outskirts of Paris. After studying sociology, in 1999 he founded his own production company, Sarrazinc Productions. In 2002, he made his first feature film, Wesh Wesh, qu'est-ce qui passe? (2002), which won many prizes including the Louis Delluc Award and Berlin’s Wolfgang Staudte Award. With Bled Number One, he won the Young Audiences Prize at Cannes 2006 and a Special Mention Award at the 24th Torino Film Festival. Dernier marquis premiered at Cannes in 2008. Smugglers' Songs (Les chants de Mandrin) is his fourth feature film.


Rabah Ameur Zaimeche

2009-10: Abdellatif Kechiche

Director, actor, and screenwriter Abdellatif Kechiche was born in Tunis, Tunisia. After his family emigrated to France, he grew up in Nice. He made his directorial debut in 2000 with La Faute à Voltaire (Blame it on Voltaire), aka Poetical Refugee, which he also wrote, which was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Best First Film. He also directed L'Esquive, which won a César Awards for Best Film and Best Director. He has presented recently his last film, La Graine et le Mulet, at the 64th Venice Film Festival, for which he was awarded the Special Jury Prize, the FIPRESCI Prize, and the Louis Delluc Prize. In 2008, he received the César Awards for Best French Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay for this film. Also in 2008, he received the Médaille Charlemagne pour les Médias Européens, an award for achievements in integration, together with Fatih Akin. Black Venus premieres in 2010.


Abdellatif Kechiche

2008-09: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

Born in Chad in 1961, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun left the country during the civil war of the 1980s and relocated to France, by way of Cameroon. There he worked as a journalist before studying at the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma in Paris. He is now more than a dozen years into his career as a filmmaker, shooting primarily in Chad. This career has so far produced three feature films and a number of shorts that have made Haroun one of the leading lights in African cinema. He excels at spinning narratives that begin with easily recognizable situations – usually the loss of a parent – and expand to encompass allegorical and political reflection on the state of Chadian society. Often calm on the surface, Haroun's filmmaking belies this calm with simmering strains of anger and melancholy. While occasionally compared to the work of Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, perhaps because of their deceptively quiet surfaces, Haroun's films recognizably belong to an African tradition of filmmaking stretching from Ousmane Sembene to Abderrahmane Sissako that considers the place of cinema in a postcolonial Africa and, by extension, in a postcolonial world.


Mahamat Saleh Haroun

2007: Fanta Régina Nacro

Fanta Régina Nacro studied at the African Institute for Cinematic Studies (INAFEC), the national film school of Burkina Faso, and the Sorbonne in Paris, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Film and Audiovisual Studies. She is the first Burkinabe woman to direct a dramatic film, the short Un certain matin (1991), and has made many shorts which address the AIDS epidemic in Africa, including Vivre Positivement (1993). Her short films Puk Nini (1996) and Un certain matin have been hailed as representing the “African New Wave.” Her last short for the Mama Africa series, A Close-Up on Bintou (2002), won more than twenty prizes in international festivals, and her first feature The Night of Truth (2004) was featured in the touring program of the Global Film Initiative and received screenwriting honors at the San Sebastian Film Festival. 


Fanta Regina Nacro

2006: Merzak Allouache

Born in Algiers, Merzak Allouache grew up during the Algerian struggle for independence. He studied filmmaking at Paris's celebrated IDHEC, and quickly moved on to directing feature films, documentaries, and television programs. Omar Gatlato (1976), his first feature film, set in the neighborhood of Bab el-Oued in Algiers, was such a success that it changed the course of Algerian cinema. The popularity of Omar Gatlato with Algerian audiences demonstrated to the Algerian film industry that its public had an appetite for complex films that dealt with the realities of Algerian contemporary society, opening the door to other films of the same ilk. In 1994 Merzak returned to this same neighborhood to film Bab el-Oued City. The film captured the beginnings of the civil war that was then spreading across Algeria. Bab el-Oued City garnered the International Critics' Prize at Cannes in 1994, as well as the grand prize at the Arab Film Festival in Paris. During a career that has spanned thirty years, Merzak Allouache's films continue to examine the complex history that ties France to its former North African colonies, giving us characters full of intelligence and dignity, caught between their French and Algerian identities.


2004: Moufida Tlatli

Moufida Tlatli was born in Tunisia in 1947 and trained in Paris in the late 1960s. She was the Middle East's top film editor for two decades before directing her striking debut feature, The Silences of the Palace. The film was selected for the Directors Fortnight at Cannes in 1994, where it received Special Mention for the Camera d'Or award and went on to win the International Critics' Award at Toronto and to earn Tlatli the Best Director citation at the All African Film Awards in 1995. Tlatli has continued both her feature filmmaking and her advocacy for the continued importance of an emerging feminist perspective within the Arab world.

Moufida Tlatli with Genevieve McMillan

2002: Gaston Kabore

Born in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) and raised in the capital city of Ougadougou, Kaboré maintained a lifelong interest in his family's rural heritage while pursuing studies that eventually led him to the Sorbonne in Paris. There he divided his time between pursuit of an advanced degree in history and his burgeoning interest in the cinema, fed in part by his interest in the representation of Africa abroad and by an encounter with the work of Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene (a Fellowship recipient in 2001).

Kaboré returned to Burkina Faso in 1976 after completing film school in France and was named director of the Centre National du Cinéma. He also became a teacher at the Institut African d'Etudes Cinématographiques, where his screenwriting and filmmaking courses were augmented by his own early productions. His first feature, Wend Kuuni (1982), was the first full-length film to be made in Burkina Faso, and it launched a career that would by turns mix extraordinary artistic achievement - rewarded by major awards at international festivals and a French César - with significant service to the field, especially as president of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers. Kaboré's films are most often noted for his reclamation of the poetry and clarity of traditional African storytelling and for his singularly lyrical cinematic language. Yet the director has long insisted that his films - like those of other leading African directors - represent a "cinema of urgency," engaged by the attempt to "profoundly explain today's reality."

Gaston Kabore with Genevieve McMillan

2001: Ousmane Sembene

The foremost figure in the evolution of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene was the fourth recipient of the McMillan-Stewart Fellowship for Distinguished Filmmaking. Hailing from the former French colony of Senegal, Sembene established himself as one of Africa's leading novelists before turning to cinema as means of reaching a wider audience. His work often centers on identity problems encountered by Africans caught between Africa and Europe, tradition and modernization. The concentrated realism of his early classics evolved into a rich, wide-ranging mixture of black comedy, political allegory, sophisticated satire, traditional African forms, and biting social criticism. In 1987, after nearly a ten-year hiatus from filmmaking, Sembene returned in peak form with Camp do Thiaroye, a powerful tragedy of colonialism, and Guelwaar, a trenchant comedy of contemporary Senegal.

Sembene with former HFA curator Bruce Jenkins

Ousmane Sembene with Genevieve McMillan

2001: Souleymane Cisse

One of Africa's leading directors, Cissé has crafted a body of films that combine visual elegance with Marxist ideology and allegorical storytelling. Born in 1940, Cissé began his film career as a projectionist and photographer in Mali. After studying cinema in the Soviet Union for seven years, he returned to Mali, where he cut his teeth making newsreels and documentaries. His first fiction film, Cinq Jours d'une vie (Five Days in a Life, 1972), launched his career and gained critical attention for the burgeoning African film movement. Three years later, Cissé directed the first feature film in his native language of Bambara, The Girl, only to have the film banned by authorities. His masterpiece, hailed by Film Comment as "the best African film ever made," would come a decade and a half later with Yeelen (Brightness, 1987). Drawing on traditional indigenous lifestyles and Malian folklore, Cissé attempts to explore conflicts in Mali society, particularly the conflicts that emerge between the desire for change and the need to preserve tradition.

Souleymane Cisse

2000: Med Hondo

One of Africa's most acclaimed directors, Abid Mohamed Medonn Hondo was born in Mauritania in 1936. At the age of twenty-five, he left his native Mauritania and went to Marseilles, France, where he worked an assortment of jobs. He later moved to Paris and worked as a cook in one of the city's grand restaurants.

During his off hours, Hondo took drama courses. In 1966, with African actors, he founded a theatrical company called "Shango," and featured African playwrights. Hondo began production of his first feature film, Soleil O in 1969.

Praised at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival both for its thematic content and the originality of it formal presentation Soleil O takes its title from a West African lament about people transported from Africa to be sold as slaves in the Carribean.

Although labeled a "militant" filmmaker, across his career Med Hondo has developed rich and powerful forms of storytelling, drawn from the West African oral tradition of the griots. These are films that frocibly seek to dismantle what the director has called "the narrative and psychological mechanisms of traditional [Hollywood] dramaturgy," in hopes of raising consciousness. From West Indies, a vast musical fresco covering nearly four-hundred years in the history of the French West Indians, from their enslavement to their present-day displacement in France, to Sarraounia, the valiant story of a West African queen who opposed French colonial troops at the end of the nineteenth century, Hondo has offered up to the viewer impassioned examinations of colonial history and its consequences.

Med Hondo with former HFA curator John Gianvito

1999: Abderrahmane Sissako

Born in Mauritania, trained at the Moscow Film Institute, and working in France, Sissako has always put Africa at the center of his work, elaborating his narratives around the lights and the colors of his continent, even though the real subject of his films is exile. His famous 1993 work, October, is about being African in Russia. Sissako's perspective on his childhood, from bustling Paris: "I belong to a culture in which I learned at 15 that I was born on October 13. That is to say that dates for us don't have the same value and that the perception of time is different." His influences? "Aime Césaire has been a support for me most of my life. He is the author that I read and reread. But another very important author to me was Frantz Fanon. The introduction of Black Skin, White Masks is very close to this new film, La vie sur terre ."

In Sabriya (1997), Sissako creates a wonderful drama about the impact of the modern world on traditional Arabic society. La vie sur terre (1998) is a gorgeously conceived poem contemplating life at the end of the centrury in the first and third world - by a filmmaker with a foot planted in each of them.

Abderrahmane Sissako with Genevieve McMillan

1998: Idrissa Ouedraogo

Ouedraogo is one of Africa's most acclaimed directors and was named the first recipient of the McMillan-Stewart Fellowship for Distinguished Filmmaking. His unmannered, non-simplistic style has been compared to the styles of Jean Renoir and Satyajit Ray. Born in 1954 in the village of Banfora in Upper Volta - now Burkina Faso - Ouedraogo studied film in Ouagadougou, Kiev, and Paris. He directed his first feature film Yam Daabo (The Choice) which brought him acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival. His second feature Yaaba (Grandmother) won the International Critics Award at Cannes and third feature Tilai (The Law) received the Special Jury Prize. Some of his later works Samba Traore and Afrique, mon Afrique have also had critical success among Western critics and European audiences.

Idrissa Ouedraogo with Genevieve McMillan




Join us on Facebook

Join our email newsletter