Journal Article

Abderrahmane Sissako and the poetics of engaged expatriation

Akin Adesokan

in Screen

Published on behalf of University of Glasgow

Volume 51, issue 2, pages 143-160
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0036-9543
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1460-2474 | DOI:
Abderrahmane Sissako and the poetics of engaged expatriation

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This essay attempts a preliminary conceptualization of the cinema of Abderrahmane Sissako through his formal treatment of expatriation, intellectualism and genre. The essay recognizes that Bamako, Abderrahmane Sissako's recent film about the impact of the economic programs of the World Bank on poor countries, may have encouraged a perception of the filmmaker as a new thorn in the side of corporate capital. However, the sociopolitical as well as aesthetic questions which have become definitive of the filmmaker's work, were extensively laid out in two films from the late 1990s -Rostov-Luanda (1997) and Life on Earth (1999). By discussing the two films at length, the essay argues that the categories of expatriation, intellectualism and genre and their intricate relationship to institutional and social issues are constitutive of form in the cinema of Sissako. It argues further that although Sissako's status as an expatriate artist affords him the privilege that comes with commissions, the same position rhetorically draws him to places or subjects which simultaneously compel and confound artistic representation. The result is an aesthetic process in which the making of a work of art is transformed into an implicitly conceptual undertaking. The essay concludes by highlighting the impact of production context on this process as a highly fraught one, allowing for such political engagement as is evident Sissako's work but producing an intellectual category unthinkable outside of institutions.

Journal Article.  9616 words. 

Subjects: Film ; Television

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