Flora Gomes -- The Two Faces of War: National Liberation in Guinea-Bissau
"The Two Faces of War: National Liberation in Guinea-Bissau," with Flora Gomes
, distinguished film maker.Gomes
is currently engaged in research and writing for his
next major film project, a feature narrative about the great African liberation theorist and political leader, Amilcar Cabral.
has international stature as a distinguished filmmaker whose works are aesthetically innovative and historically significant texts of African and global culture.It is notoriously difficult for major African filmmakers to produce a sustained output of high quality, because of the historical legacy of profound funding and infrastructural deficiencies on the continent.Yet Gomes
makes a point of residing in his
native country of Guinea-Bissau, and despite the severe material constraints this poses to film-making, has completed a number of shorts, starting in 1977, as well as five full-length feature films, beginning with "Mortu Nega" in 1988.Filmed using local languages and shot above all in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, as well as France and Portugal, his
features have won awards at prestigious international film festivals and are invariably discussed in textbooks on African cinema and post-colonial film.His
work often deals with questions of history and memory, particularly regarding the national liberation struggle, as well as notions of modernization and the conceptualization of identity.Gomes's films go beyond many conventional binomials.For example, his
female characters depict a sophisticated African feminism , by turns militant and gentle, tragic and comic, seldom seen in representations of black women.His
more recent work, especially "Po di sangui," broaches the timely subject of environmental degradation , by using a complex layering of symbols, landscape and nature, drawn from indigenous African systems of knowledge and belief.Both the aesthetic quality and powerful narratives of these later works touch audiences everywhere.Gomes
has just wrapped up a documentary on the war of liberation in Guinea-Bissau (and by extension, in Angola and Mozambique), training his
lens on both the Portuguese colonial soldiers and the African freedom fighters. Gomes was born in 1949 in Cadique, Guinea Bissau (West Africa).He
studied film in 1972 at the Cuban Institute of Arts
, and cinematography with the great filmmaker Paulin S. Vieyra in Senegal.In 1979 he
served as an intern with Chris Marker and Anita Fernandez in Guinea-Bissau.Gomes
later co-directed three short films: "La reconstruction" (The Reconstruction), "Anos no oça luta" and "Regresso do Cabral" (The return of Cabral), these last two with Sana na N'hada.
The first feature film that Gomes
directed, "Mortu nega," was selected for showing during the Critics' Week at the Venice Film Festival in 1988.
In 1994, Gomes
was distinguished with the Order of Merit for Culture by the Tunisian government, along with Claudia Cardinale.
At Cannes, Gomes
was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French government.
In 2002, Gomes
was recognized in Portugal by the Guinean community for his
services in making Guinean culture known around the world.In 2004, he was a member of the jury at the Amien Film Festival.
In 2003, "Nha fala" won the Grand Prize for a feature film at FESPACO, from the ECOWAS parallel jury.In 2004, a retrospective of Gomes's work was shown at the first Brown University African Film Festival, in Providence.
In 2005, Gomes
was chosen as president of the same jury (ECOWAS) at FESPACO
.In that year, he
was recognized by the University of Lisbon
, during a meeting of Portuguese-speaking countries, receiving a medal celebrating "the universality of his
work".In 2005 Gomes
returned to the USA, where he
was a panelist and also one of the featured film-makers at the second Brown University Africana Film Festival.
In recent years, Gomes
has frequently shown his
films to American university student audiences at universities such as Yale, Michigan University
(Ann Arbor), and the University of Minneapolis
.In spring 2006, Gomes was a visiting artist/professor at the Department of Africana Studies, Brown University (Providence, RI).