Decolonisation in Motion

An illustrated face of the side profile of a black woman with a pick headscarf and a large pink earring

Poster detail Black Girl (dir. Ousmane Sembene)


Decolonisation in Motion

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 10 October – 14 November 2023

  At the Weston Library

  Tickets are free, booking required for each screening

About the film season

Bringing to the Bodleian classics of Third World cinema as well as little-known films rarely available to view in the UK, Decolonisation in Motion explores how African decolonisation was imagined and represented at its high point in the 1960s.

What hierarchies did the end of colonial rule undo, and which ones remained? How were transnational solidarities forged, and what were their limitations? Who got to tell the story of decolonisation? Who did they tell it to? What kinds of aesthetic innovations were seen as embodying political transformations?

Organised by University College, Oxford, each screening includes an expert introduction by historians and film specialists, as well as a space for discussion and Q&A.

Decolonisation in Motion: Shooting our Way to Independence

 Tuesday 10 October 2023, 5.30pm

 Book for Shooting our Way to Independence

In this opening event of the Decolonisation in Motion film season, we explore how and why filmmaking became a weapon of African anti-colonial movements from the late 1950s onwards as well as a tool of nation-building in newly independent states.

The talk will be interwoven with a series of rarely seen film shorts, including Pierre Clément’s Sakiet-Sidi-Youssef (1958), René Vautier’s Algeria in Flames (1958) and Paulin Soumanou Vieyra’s A Nation is Born (1961).

With Walid Benkhaled (Bodleian Library), documentary maker and specialist in post-colonial cinema, and Natalya Vince (University College, Oxford), historian of decolonisation in the Francophone world.

Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers (1966, 120 mins)

 Tuesday 17 October 2023, 5.30pm

 Book for The Battle of Algiers screening

The Battle of Algiers is seen to be such a realistic depiction of the urban guerrilla warfare between the French army and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) between 1956 and 1957 that it continues to be presented with the disclaimer that no archive footage was used in its making. But this is no straightforward snapshot, and this film by Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo (1919–2006) raises important questions about how nationalist histories are written, the relationship between history and memory and the representation of women.

The presentation and discussion of the film will be with Walid Benkhaled (Bodleian Library) and Natalya Vince (University College), who have extensively researched the production of the film. Natalya Vince has also interviewed a number of women who participated in the ‘real’ ‘Battle of Algiers’ for her book Our Fighting Sisters: Nation, Memory and Gender in Algeria, 1954–2012 (2015), winner of the 2016 Women’s History Network Book Prize.

Ousmane Sembene, Black Girl (1966, 55 mins)

 Wednesday 25 October 2023, 5.30pm

 Book for Black Girl screening

The directorial debut of acclaimed Senegalese author and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene (1923–2007) is about a young Senegalese woman, Diouna (Mbissine Thérèse Diop), who moves from Dakar to work for a white French couple.

Released six years after Senegalese independence and long before French films about ‘the immigrant experience’ became a genre, Black Girl explores what it means to be ‘post-colonial’ through the lens of a West African director whose life story was entangled with anti-colonial struggles and the challenges of post-colonial state-building.

The presentation and discussion of the film will be with Lyn Kouadio and Mobeen Hussain, both Beacon Junior Research Fellows in Postcolonial and Race Studies at University College. Mobeen Hussain's research focuses on race, gender, medicine, and the colonial legacies of consumption, material cultures, and economic exploitation in the British empire and Lyn Kouadio's work interrogates the politics of transitional justice in African post-conflict contexts.

Sarah Maldoror, Sambizanga (1972, 97 mins)

 Wednesday 1 November 2023, 5.30pm

 Book for Sambizanga screening

Sambizanga is the work of Franco-Guadeloupean filmmaker Sarah Maldoror (1929–2020) and is about the Angolese independence struggle – which was still ongoing when the film was released. It follows a young woman trying to find out information about her husband, who had been arrested by the Portuguese authorities, in an incident which would prompt a nationalist uprising.

Like The Battle of Algiers, Sambizanga features many non-professional actors – in this case members of the Angolan Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and anti-colonialists from Congo, where the film was shot.

The presentation and discussion of the film will be with Ruth Shoo, historian and cultural studies scholar working on the intellectual and social history of pan-Africanism (Faculty of History, Oxford) and Dan Hodgkinson (Department of International Development, Oxford), historian of West and Southern Africa who, amongst other projects, recently interviewed Maldoror's daughter for a special issue which he is co-editing on African revolutionary filmmaking.

Moufida Tlatli, The Silences of the Palace (1994, 127 mins)

 Tuesday 7 November 2023, 5.30pm

 Book for The Silences of the Palace screening

This historical drama, which Tunisian director Moufida Tlatli has described as inspired by the life of her mother, explores the lives of two generations of women living in a palace under the French protectorate.

Released 38 years after Tunisian independence, in a country whose post-colonial leaders presented themselves as women’s rights reformers whilst limiting women’s autonomous organisation, the film explores the class dimensions of women’s social and sexual oppression and their forms of resistance.

Season finale: Algiers Pan-African Festival (William Klein, 1969, 102 mins)

 Tuesday 14 November 2023, 5.30pm

 Book for Algiers Pan-African Festival screening

For our season finale, we will be screening William Klein's Algiers Pan-African Festival (1969). In July 1969, while western audiences were glued to their TV screens watching the first landings on the moon, thousands of artists and politicians from across the African continent and diaspora were looking in a very different direction. They had gathered in Algiers for the first Pan African Cultural Festival, speaking and performing to audiences of hundreds of thousands. Charting the festivities and euphoria as well as intense debates about the future of African politics and culture, it features – amongst many others – Nina Simone, Archie Shepp and Miriam Makeba.

The discussion panel will include contributions from Walid Benkhaled (Bodleian Library, expert on Algerian cinema), Peter Brooke (African Studies Centre, scholar of mass media, politics and culture in Africa), Lyn Kouadio (University College, Beacon JRF in Postcolonial and Race Studies) and Ruth Shoo (University of Oxford, historian and cultural studies scholar working on the intellectual and social history of pan-Africanism).

 Booking information

Each individual screening needs to be booked separately.


Each screening will be held in person in the Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre at the Weston Library.

Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG

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 Wheelchair access

The Weston Library is wheelchair accessible.

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