Abderrahmane Sissako (b. 1961, Kiffa, Mauritania) was raised in his father’s homeland of Mali; in 1980 he rejoined his mother in Nouakchott, Mauritania. A scholarship to study Russian literature enabled him to attend the Institute of the University of Moscow and later to enroll in Moscow’s Institute for Cinema (VGIK), where he studied from 1983 to 1989. His desire to become a filmmaker stemmed from early childhood experiences—his separation from his half brother and Malian childhood friends, and the loss of his original Bambara language. His first short film, Le Jeu (1990), presented as a graduation assignment and poorly received by a school jury, eventually went on to receive great acclaim. Sissako settled in France and continued to pursue filmmaking, working in a complex philosophical style that combines personal essay, autobiography, allegory, and drama to explore identity, displacement, and the cultural and economic effects of colonialism in contemporary Africa. This program is presented in collaboration with the 2009 Robert Flaherty Seminar, entitled Witnesses, Monuments, Ruins, which explores the act of bearing witness—bringing memory, experience, and history into the present. All films are directed by Abderrahmane Sissako unless otherwise noted.
Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, with Irina Leimbacher, independent curator, and Mary Kerr, Executive Director, The Robert Flaherty Seminars.