Alessandro Jedlowski

Kung fu films made in Hong Kong and Taiwan are one of the most influential film references for audiences around Africa, but, despite their influence, their distribution and reception around the continent has been only rarely studied. Exploring a range of different materials (interviews, archival materials, newspapers, etc.) collected during a research project about screen media production and circulation in Abidjan, in this presentation I will analyse the long-term impact of kung fu films on street gang culture in Abidjan and on contemporary film production in the country. Kung fu films began to circulate in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1970s. They were screened in most of the numerous popular neighbourhoods’ theatre halls along Indian films and American B-movies. Their emphasis on fighting, the discipline of the body and the revolt to forms of authority perceived as oppressive made them very popular among young viewers, who took explicit inspiration from them and began practicing martial arts, a development that run parallel to the institutionalization of martial arts practice in sport clubs around the country. The street gang movement which emerged from these influences, known as the “Ziguehi” (which according to some informants translates as “the modern warriors”) became one of the most influential in recent Ivorian history: it did not only influence a number of cultural trends emerged throughout the 1980s and 1990s, such as the GnamaGnama dance style and the coupé decalé music, but inspired also the new wave of Ivorian film and television directors who are making an attempt at creating a local commercial video film industry. Bio: Alessandro Jedlowski is a media anthropologist. His recent research focuses mostly on African screen media industries (with a particular focus on Nigeria, Ethiopia and Côte d’Ivoire), on diasporic film production, and on South-South networks of mobility and cultural interaction. He currently co-chair the “African Diasporas” program of the African Studies research centre “Les Afriques dans le monde” (LAM) at the Bordeaux School of Political Sciences (Sciences Po Bordeaux). Among his most recent publications, he co-edited the special issues “African media industries and global capitalism” (Politique Africaine, 2019), and “Latin American telenovelas and African screen media : From reception to production” (Journal of African Cultural Studies, 2019), as well as the books Cine-Ethiopia: The History and Politics of Film in the Horn of Africa (Michigan State University Press, 2018) and Mobility between Africa, Asia and Latin America: Economic Networks and Cultural Interactions (Zed Books, 2017).