Lucia Saks

Born in South Africa, I studied design at UCT and the London College of Printing in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States in the early 1980s. I have worked as a designer and media consultant for industry and government in California and South Africa.

From 2002 - 2009, I was a faculty member of the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. From the mid 1990s until 2002, I was Senior Lecturer and Director of the Programme in Media and Communication Studies at UKZN, formerly the University of Natal, Durban. I serve on the editorial boards of two journals: Black Camera (Indiana University) and Screening Noir (University of California, Santa Barbara).

Educated at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts and at the Annenberg School for Communication, I hold a PhD from that institution. I have published widely on South African cinema and media in journals and anthologies. My book, Cinema in a Democratic South Africa: The Race for Representation, was recently published by Indiana University Press in their series New Directions in National Cinemas.

I am currently researching the state and fate of the Instituto Nacional de Cinema's archive (INC) in Mozambique, which was set up by the Frelimo government shortly after independence. This was a moment when cinema was invited, indeed called on to participate in the project of decolonisation as an agent of radical social change. The archive housed an eclectic variety of local and foreign films ranging from the Kuxakanema (Birth of the Image) newsreels produced on a weekly basis from 1981 onwards and disseminated across the country to rural populations via mobile cinema units, to high-production-value, full-length documentaries, experimental films, colonial productions, Soviet propaganda films, and so on. In 1991, a fire at INC headquarters practically destroyed the building and the archive housed within. The films stocks that remain lie rotting in rusting cans in the ruins and what is buried with them is as Roz Gray puts it, 'evidence of a different kind of globalisation, one woven out of connection and hopes lived and dreamed through the cinema'.

For me this archive emblematically reveals something distinctive about the African moving image: it is a record of modern Africa, of an Africa tumultuous in struggle, cleft between colonial servitude and liberation theology/Marxism, an Africa of entangled cultures, populations rural and urban, hybridised and modulating. Cinema is moreover the record of thought, of the modern African intellectual and late colonial subject, of the throes and reframing of twentieth century African thinking about the continent.

To lose this record would be to lose touch with modern Africa's own intellectual projects, its history of thinking. Furthermore, this precious record has been understudied and under-acknowledged in public life. The financial constraints on African nations along with the system of distribution that marginalises African productions globally have meant African film, both fiction and documentary, has had neither proper dissemination nor intellectual/critical/scholarly scrutiny. Scholars must sometimes travel to northern universities to witness and study the cinema legacies of their own countries. All of the reasons above motivate and propel my research.