African Caribbean Cinema: Culture and the Creative Industries

Submitting Institution

University of Winchester

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Imruh Bakari's film projects such as African Tales (2005/2008) and Big City Stories (2011) have had impact in the areas of civil society and cultural life, specifically in illuminating social and cultural assumptions (of audiences of audio-visual culture in Africa and the UK) about contemporary Tanzania and Black London.

The impact of Bakari's research focusing on African and Caribbean cinemas, and related subjects in cultural studies, also extends into areas of policy making, education, and training surrounding film production and distribution in Africa and Europe. This is evident through public engagement (with film industry professionals, younger audiences, and the wider public) and archiving, and through engagement with policy initiatives for the creative industries sector in Tanzania.

Underpinning research

Bakari joined the University of Winchester in 1994, was appointed Senior Lecturer in 2000 and Senior Fellow in Knowledge Exchange in 2012. His research into cinema and development, in both African and UK contexts, has contributed to a revaluation of the production and distribution policies around film in Africa (Tanzania in particular). At the same time, his theoretical investigation and contextual understanding of the filmic representation of African lives (including diasporic communities), has been translated into film projects which challenge Eurocentric notions of African cinema.

Bakari's research into the experience of film-making across Africa, and collation of historical documents and contemporary testimonies [ref. 3.1], has raised critical awareness of the visibility of African cinema (a 2007 interview with Bakari is cited by Jane Bryce in Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-First Century, 2010). This insight — of the need for such historical research into practice — shaped Bakari's research into the issues surrounding the representation of African cultures on film [ref. 3.3].

From 1999-2004 Bakari held the position of Festival Director for the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) which was established as the centrepiece of a wider annual festival of the arts and cultures of Africa and its Indian Ocean proximities: the Festival of the Dhow Countries. With cinema as the focus, part of Bakari's research into the creative industries involved the development, script editing and production of African Tales (2005/2008) as a showcase for new directors and writers. This series of short films was awarded the ZIFF Special Juror's Choice prize in 2009. African Tales received funding from seven different sources including Göteborg International Film Festival Fund; the British Council (Tanzania); Tanzania Culture Trust Fund, and Fonds Images Afrique. The Tales, or vignettes of contemporary Tanzanian life, illustrate different ways in which `headline' problems are lived out in everyday situations, as well as providing a benchmark for film industry training and professionalism. The project exemplifies Bakari's research into the function of the creative industries: in his article for Screen [ref. 3.4] he concludes that `the function of...African filmmakers may be contemplated in terms of their relevance to the process of much desired social transformation of the continent.' This conclusion has underpinned research work within the wider context of the creative industries, such as the study Creative Industries: A Tanzanian Future (2009), commissioned by UNESCO, the European Commission Tanzania and the British Council Tanzania [ref. 3.7].

The role of film in helping to achieve social cohesion (this time in the context of London) is also addressed by Big City Stories (2011). In 2011 Bakari received £17,000 from the Digital Film Archive Fund to co-curate (with June Givanni) the Black London Film Heritage Project. £2,202 of additional funding came from Film London. As the first product of the project, Big City Stories is an 80 minute compilation film which uses archive material (early footage and film by Black filmmakers in England) to expose audiences to the untold Black histories of London, focusing on the African Caribbean experience from 1911-1990s. Promoting the diverse and cosmopolitan history of areas such as Brixton and Notting Hill, Big City Stories encourages audiences to connect with lesser-known aspects of London's history and includes inter-titles to provide viewers with contextual information. Big City Stories builds upon Bakari's chapter in Black British Culture and Society [ref. 3.2], which `engages some of the thematic and political challenges of the 1980s' (7). Suggesting the need for new approaches regarding the discussion of Black British cinema, defined in the 1980s as `within the parameters of the institutionalized discourse on race relations', Bakari deconstructs the dominant concept of `diaspora' and outlines significant traditions of independence. Big City Stories applies his theory, challenging existing perceptions and histories whilst helping to counter inappropriate or forgotten narratives. It also provides a basis for future research and engagement with debates about cultural identities across a changing Europe.

References to the research

1. Bakari, I. and Cham, B. (eds) (1996) African Experiences of Cinema. London: British Film Institute.


2. Bakari, I. (2000) `A Journey From The Cold: Rethinking Black Film Making in Britain' in Kwesi Owusu (ed.) Black British Culture and Society, Routledge. pp. 246-256.


3. Bakari, I. (2001) `African Cinema and the Emergent Africa' in Givanni, J. (ed.) Symbolic Narratives/African Cinema: Audiences, Theory and the Moving Image. London: British Film Institute. pp. 3-24.

4. Bakari, I. (2007) `Colonialism and Modern Lives in African Cinema.' Screen Vol. 48 No. 4. pp. 501-505.


5. Göteburg International Film Festival. (2008) `Film Fund: African Tales.' Göteburg International Film Festival [Online]

6. Zanzibar International Film Festival. `List of award winners from 2009.' Zanzibar International Film Festival.

7. Bakari, I. (2009) Creative Industries: A Tanzanian Future. Dar es Salaam: British Council.

8. `The Big City Stories of Black London'. Film London.

Details of the impact

The impact in areas of civil society and cultural life is evident in Bakari's input to: education and training; cultural policy; archiving, and through engagement with a variety of audiences.

Under Bakari's directorship ZIFF addressed the problems of networks and co-operation as a strategy for film-making and cultural development. African Tales as a project offered a model for professional film training, with related educational workshops having an impact on the production and distribution of films in Africa, and on the audio-visual culture and social life of the region. There has also been impact on European perception of the diversity of film culture [ref. 5.1].

Furthermore, Bakari's research on the creative industries in Tanzania has had an impact on cultural policy in relation to sustainable development in Africa. It was used as the basis of Erick Kajiru's paper for the UNESCO National Commission, `The potential of the Culture Sector to contribute to National Economy and Development in Tanzania' (2010) [ref. 5.2], whilst Bakari's Culture and Creative Industries in Tanzania: A Plan for Strategic Action (2012) [ref. 5.3] was commissioned by UNESCO in conjunction with the Tanzania Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sport. The Plan for Strategic Action has been accepted by UNESCO as a blueprint for its ongoing work with the Tanzania government in the culture sector. These studies formed the basis for Bakari's subsequent intervention at the 2nd African Creative Economy Conference (2012) organised by the Arterial Network, a formally-constituted African network of creative industry companies, artists, institutions and non-government organisations advocating the cultural dimension of development [ref. 5.4].

As Bakari argues in his 2007 article `Colonialism and Modern Lives in African Cinema', projects such as African Tales and Big City Stories can aid the process of social transformation as they unite communities and encourage dialogue about cultural identities through the medium of film. Bakari increased public access to London's screen heritage through screenings and linked training and educational projects [ref. 5.5]. In the case of Big City Stories the initiative was specifically designed to identify curatorial talent amongst the Black community, and included a mentoring/trainee component directed by the curators. Launched at the Ritzy Picture House on 26 March 2011 as part of the cinema's 150th anniversary celebrations, Big City Stories has subsequently been screened at the British Film Institute (12 April 2011) and the Bargehouse (23-25 September 2011) on London's South Bank, to a combined audience of 435 people. In October 2011 Big City Stories was selected as one of only two films to be shown as part of The Gate Cinema's Schools Education Screenings to celebrate Black History Month's theme of Dreams and Aspirations [ref. 5.6]. A total of 500 year five and six (Key Stage 2) pupils from London attended the screenings, which were supplemented with teaching resource packs and pre-screening discussions led by cine-literary educators and storytellers. Additional screenings as part of Black History Month included those at Bruce Castle Museum, Haringey (24 October 2011) and St Mungo's homeless shelter, Hammersmith (28 October 2011), to a combined audience of 65. Big City Stories has also been shown at a number of prestigious international film festivals, including the Brighton Legacy Film Festival (30 October 2011) [ref. 5.7] and the Hastings Festival (22 October 2011) to a combined audience of 80. The cinema chain Picture House programmed the title for two of its weekly Reminiscence Screenings and on 9 May 2011, 59 people saw Big City Stories at Greenwich Picturehouse, with 42 in attendance at Brixton Picturehouse on 17 May 2011. Photographic documentation of the events' wide audience constituency can be found at the project's website:

Comments on Big City Stories' Facebook page mention feelings of pride and an increased sense of community from having witnessed the film compilation [ref. 5.8]. This is further supported by the project's evaluation report which states that interest in regional and local heritage and awareness of other cultures and lifestyles had been enhanced as a result of attending a Big City Stories screening. The report also explains that a knock-on effect of the screenings has been the increase in interest in the use of museums, libraries and archival material and that for 65% of attendees this was their first experience of participating in such an event. 100% of respondents indicated an interest in seeking out a similar event in the future and also stated that they would recommend such an event to others. Of those questioned 78% said that attending the screening had enhanced their knowledge of the topic [ref. 5.9].

Featured in The South London Press (8 April 2011), Big City Stories also attracted international attention from Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner (22 May 2011) and television channel VOX Africa (7 April 2011) — the first pan-African TV channel - due to its important role in re-appropriating and celebrating lost Black histories. Airwave coverage was provided by London-based licensed radio stations Voice of Africa (30 November 2011) and Colourful Radio (23 April 2011) [refs 10-13].

An important aspect of the Big City Stories project is providing a legacy for future research in the field, thus encouraging the wider programming of similar films using this under-resourced area of London's film heritage. Big City Stories is currently held at the London Screen Archives and Birkbeck College Archives and has been made available for non-commercial use by community groups, film societies and for educational projects, reaching as wide an audience as possible. Big City Stories provided the basis for Bakari's invited contributions to the Africa in the Picture film festival (Amsterdam, 2012) and the Runnymede Trust's Generation 3.0 initiative (2012) to `end racism within a generation.' The annual Africa in the Picture film festival increases the social and cultural visibility of African stories, whilst the Generation 3.0 project provides a public forum for debates about British identity and changing attitudes towards race equality [ref. 5.14].

Bakari's research on the representation of African Caribbean people in cinema has thus had impact in the areas of civil society and cultural life (in Tanzania and London in particular), evidenced through his involvement in professional film training, curation and educational workshops; screenings and public discussions, and input to policy showing how creative industries can aid social cohesion by encouraging public debate and being part of a productive creative economy.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Convents, G. (2013) African Tales short films: `Recent Developments in East Africa.' Afrika Film Festival, Belgium, 15-30 March.
  2. Kajiru, E. (2010) `The potential of the Culture Sector to contribute to National Economy and Development in Tanzania.' UNESCO National Commission.
  3. Bakari, I. (2012) Culture and Creative Industries in Tanzania: A Plan for Strategic Action. UNESCO, Dar es Salaam.
  4. Bakari, I. (2012) Mainstreaming Creative Cultural Industries as critical in African National Economic Planning. Arterial Network African Creative Economy Conference, 14-16 November, Dakar, Senegal.

  5. Hoyle, G. `Big City Stories / About Us.' Black London Film Heritage
  6. City Screen Ltd. `Schools Education Screenings at The Gate.' Gate Notting Hill
  7. Legacy Film Festival. `Big City Stories.' Legacy Film Festival
  8. Black London Film Heritage. (2011). `Event: Launch of Big City Stories.' Facebook. 10 March.

Comments from the Facebook Event's wall:

a) I was very proud to be at its first screening. I hope that their work will educate the WORLD about "BLACK LONDONERS" [27 March 2011]

b) The launch went very well and the DVD looked great on the big screen at the Ritzy...The high point was seeing the compilation in front of a Brixton audience - lots of laughter and murmurs of agreement! Editor at VET Hoxton [30 March 2011]. VET is a digital media and post-production training provider:

  1. Bakari, I. and Givanni, J. (2011) Black London's Film Heritage Project Evaluation and Monitoring Report, London: Film London [Hard copy available]
  2. Conway, L. (2011) `Film Clips Chart 20th Century Black History.' South London Press. 8 April, p. 18.
  3. Reckford, L. (2011) `Jamaican filmmaker works on London project.' The Gleaner. 22 May.
  4. Vox Africa PLC (2011) `Shoot the Messenger.' 7 April.
  5. Laryea, R. (2011) `Life with Rosemary Laryea.' Colourful Radio. 23 March.
  6. Bakari, I. (2012) Race, Racism and Resistance on Film, Runnymede Trust Lecture and Debate Series, Keyworth Centre London South Bank University, 3 December. This was part of the Generation 3:0 Project.