ABSTRACT

This quotation illuminates succinctly the intense interest that recent African cinema holds for any ftlm theory concerned with the 'hieroglyphic' tradition, and potential, of cinema. The catch-all phrase 'hieroglyph' is useful in that it evokes three processes: a code of composition, the encapsulation of an idea in an image which is on the verge of writing; a mode of address that aSKS that an audience apply its ability to decipher the poetics of the 'screen script'; and, ftnally, the work of criticism as a means of articulating the poetics that an audience recognises, but leaves implicit. The critical perspective of this article cannot include the 'nuances of folk culture' or, indeed, other important aspects of African culture and history, but attempts to present Xala as a ftlm of theoretical importance and interest beyond its immediate cultural context. African cinema should not be seen as a 'developing' cinema, but as a cinema which, in spite of the enormous difficulties presented by the post-colonial context, is now making an original and signiftcant contribution to the aesthetics of contemporary cinema. Ironically , or appropriately, this is particularly so, as cinema in the West goes further into decline.