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Moustapha Alassane, Pioneer of the Golden Age of Nigerien Cinema

Samba le grand (Samba the Great) / Toula ou le genie des eaux (Toula, or the Water Genie)

Co-presented with Scribe Video Center

Samba le grand (Samba the Great)
Dir. Moustapha Alassane, Niger, 1977, 16mm, 14 min., French, Hausa w/English subtitles
A princess tests the fidelity of her would-be lover through a series of heroic trials.

Followed by:
Toula ou le genie des eaux (Toula, or the Water Genie)
Dir. Moustapha Alassane, Niger, 1973, 35mm, 76 min., French, Hausa w/English subtitles.
With Sotigui Kouyate, Damouré Zika, Solange Delanne. In this tale of the clash between technology and faith, based on a story by the Nigerien author and politician Boubou Hama, a water diviner requires the sacrifice of a young girl to appease the gods and bring an end to a devastating drought.


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.