CLC's international film series to focus on African films for first time

  • Actor Bakary Koné in a scene from the 2020 film "Night of the Kings," one of four films about Africa that will be screened this spring for the international film series at the College of Lake County in Grayslake.

    Actor Bakary Koné in a scene from the 2020 film "Night of the Kings," one of four films about Africa that will be screened this spring for the international film series at the College of Lake County in Grayslake. Image courtesy NEON films

  • College of Lake County will host four African films for its international film program at the college's Grayslake campus.

      College of Lake County will host four African films for its international film program at the college's Grayslake campus. John Starks | Staff Photographer, 2021

 
 
Updated 1/20/2022 7:32 AM

The College of Lake County will screen four films from Africa this spring as part of its international film series.

Since 2009, the series has featured just two African films, something film studies professor Chris Cooling aims to change going forward.

 

Cooling was selected to go on a Fulbright trip through the U.S. Department of Education to West Africa to study film this summer.

Despite having a doctorate in film from the University of Southern California, Cooling admits he is still very much a student of African film and has much to learn about it.

He said he is hopeful the screenings attract a diverse crowd and generate good discussion from which everyone can learn.

"Usually I'm showing films from regions I do know a lot about like Western Europe and Japan," Cooling said. "I'd really like to get people to come out who might not otherwise to educate me, to help develop a dialogue."

The goal of the Fulbright trip, in which 14 community college and two high school educators will visit Ghana and Togo, is to use what they learn in their curriculum. The trip was planned by a faculty member of Oakton Community College in Des Plaines and is being funded by a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad grant.

Cooling thinks one of the reasons he was selected to go on the trip is he already had planned to develop curriculum about African film.

"I'm excited but also humble and nervous," Cooling said. "This is a big learning process for me and I want people to come out and teach me."

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The first film to be screened is "Gris-gris," a 2013 film from the Central African nation of Chad. Cooling said the film is about an aspiring dancer who gets caught up in crime and has a difficult love story with a complicated woman. He said the story is both universal and specific and struck him as a good starting point for the series.

Next up is "Touki Bouki," a 1973 Senegalese film that won the International Critics Award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Cooling said it is his favorite of the roughly 70 African films he's seen. The film follows two young lovers as their country navigates the legacies of French colonialism and rediscovers earlier traditions.

The third film is "White Material," a 2009 film by noted French filmmaker Claire Denis, a white woman who spent her childhood in colonial French Africa. Cooling said the film is a strong critique of France's colonial presence in West Africa and that colonialism is a topic that is unavoidable in the African story.

The series ends with "Night of the Kings," a 2020 movie from the Ivory Coast. Cooling said he tries always to end with a masterpiece that sums up the series.

The film is about a prison where new inmates are made to entertain their peers with stories until sunrise or be executed. Cooling said the film speaks to the way Africans historically have engaged with their own cultures through storytelling.

All films will be shown at 7 p.m. at the college's Grayslake campus for free. "Gris-gris" will be shown Feb. 4, "Touki Bouki" on March 4, "White Material" on April 1 and "Nights of the Kings" on May 6.

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