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Moustapha Alassane, Pioneer of the Golden Age of Nigerien Cinema

Bon Voyage Sim / Le Retour d’un aventurier (The Return of an Adventurer) / Les Cowboys sont noirs (The Cowboys Are Black)

Co-presented with Scribe Video Center

Bon Voyage Sim 
Dir. Moustapha Alassane, Niger, 1966, 16mm, 5 min., French, Hausa w/English subtitles
Monsieur Sim, the president of the Republic of Toads, receives a scoundrel’s welcome from his citizenry after returning from a luxury holiday abroad (disguised as a diplomatic mission).

Followed by: 
Le Retour d’un aventurier (The Return of an Adventurer)
Dir. Moustapha Alassane, Niger, 1966, 16mm, 34 min., French, Hausa w/English subtitles
With Ibrahim Yacouba, Zalika Souley, Abdou Nani, Djingarey Maiga. One of Alassane’s most celebrated films, this homage to the American Western follows a band of wannabe outlaws who ransack a Nigerien village.

Followed by:
Les Cowboys sont noirs (The Cowboys Are Black) 
Dir. Serge Moati, France, 1966, 16mm, 15 min. French, Hausa w/English subtitles
Scenes from the production of Alassane’s The Return of an Adventurer, the first African Western. On weekdays, the cowboys are taxi drivers and mechanics; on weekends, they’re hipster cowboys enacting fantasies of tearing up the town.


Moustapha Alassane, Pioneer of the Golden Age of Nigerien Cinema
This first North American retrospective of Moustapha Alassane (1942–2015), a pioneer of populist cinema in newly independent Niger in the 1960s and 1970s, is presented in association with La Cinémathèque Afrique de l’Institut français. A fabulist who sheathed the sharp sting of his political satire within playful stories of water genies, pugilistic frogs, cowboys, and brave fishermen, Alassane parodied colonialist attitudes toward black Africans, the corrupt despotism of local officials, and the shallow materialism of Niger’s youth in a series of animated, fictional, and ethnographic films that remain beloved and influential today. The lure of cinema, with its magical play of shadow and light, inspired Alassane to give up his career as a mechanic and turn toward making art for the masses. His earliest animated films were simple projections of cardboard cutouts, but his work quickly matured, leading to friendships and collaborations with Zalika Souley, one of Africa’s preeminent actresses, the French documentarian Jean Rouch and the Canadian animator Norman McLaren. Alassane’s films are vital and imaginative records of Nigerien traditions and rituals. Organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, with Amélie Garin-Davet, French Embassy in New York. Special thanks to Mathieu Fournet and Véronique Joo’Aisenberg. All images and written descriptions courtesy of MoMA.