A film about African women is a rarity, even more, one made by an African woman. In Femmes Aux Yeux Ouverts, award-winning Togolese filmmaker, Anne-Laure Folly presents portraits of contemporary African women from four West African nations: Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Benin. The film shows how African women are speaking out and organizing around five key issues: marital rights, reproductive health, female genital mutilation, women’s role in the economy and political rights.
Femmes Aux Yeux Ouverts introduces us to many unforgettable African women. we meet a woman who has taken refuge in a convent from a forced marriage. We join a community health worker demonstrating condom use in a marketplace. An activist describes why it is more effective to attack female “circumcision” as a health issue rather than as a women’s rights issue. Women entrepreneurs, who control trade in major cities explain how they have formed their own mutual aid societies. A Malian woman, who lost her daughter in the 1991 pro-democracy demonstrations, describes how women continue to play a key role in the Malian revolution.
Anne-Laure Folly, from Togo, is one of Africa’s few female filmmakers, yet one of its finest. After winning the Silver Medal at the Monte Carlo Television Festival in 1994 for her documentary Femmes aux Yeux Ouverts, she established herself as a documentarist with a vision for representing African issues from across the continent: her first film revealed women from Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal speaking about the joys and difficulties of their lives; her latest film – Sarah Maldoror ou La Nostalgie de l’Utopie (1998) – is a tribute to another ‘African’ female filmmaker, Sarah Maldoror, who attended the Second Cambridge African film festival in 2003 to show her classic film Sambizanga (1972). We are delighted to be screening two of Folly’s films, Les Oubliees and Deposez les Lames. —african.cam.ac.uk