filmmaker bio

Jean-Pierre Bekolo is an avant-garde filmmaker and socio-cultural activist whose imaginative work overturns stereotypes of Africa and African cinema. His entertaining films operate on multiple layers, engaging viewers with thrilling stories, biting humour and dramatic aesthetics. He was born June 8th, 1966 in Yaounde, he studied physics at University of Yaounde and Television production (editing) at Institute National de l’Audiovisuel – INA in Paris where he also studied semiotics under Christian Metz.

1992 Jean-Pierre Bekolo is a noted African film director from Cameroon. He already garnered attention at the Cannes Film Festival with his debut film Quartier Mozart  made at the age of 25, with a style that is playful, comic, and sardonic became the representative of a new generation that has been working against the restrictive expectations of African cinema, mixing genres and linking pop with politics. Quartier Mozart won number of awards (Locarno, Montreal… and was nominated for the Surtherland Trophy in London along with Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.)

An advocate of artistic freedom, Bekolo is committed to realising Africa’s philosophies and cultures. Quartier Mozart shows the hybridity, complexity and humour in urban Yaounde in a playful, hip-hop reinvention of a traditional tale about gender, power, magic and politics.

1995  He directed Aristotle’s Plot , the African entry in the British Film Institute’s series of films commemorating the centenary of cinema that has included the participation of artists such as Scorsese, Bertolucci, Frears, Miller, Reitz, and Godard. Part action movie send-up, part parody of Aristotle’s rules, part satire on Africa’s preoccupation with itself, this first African film selected at Sundance shows Bekolo to be an “increasingly fearless trickster.”

Aristotle’s Plot parodies rules and definitions, action movies and ‘African’ cinema made for European audiences, while aesthetically reflecting on the nature of existence, its ambiguities  and absence of rigid categories.

1996 Bekolo’s work on the re-representation of Africa also includes insightful documentaries that seek to educate, such as Grandmother’s Grammar on groundbreaking Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety.

2005 His avant-garde political thriller Les Saignantes premiered at the Toronto film festival, was nominated in two categories at the French Césars (2009); it is considered to be the first African sci-fi movie. Les Saignantes won the Silver Stallion & Best Actress Awards at Fespaco (Pan African Film Festival Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso) in 2007.

This dystopian, sci-fi comic thriller with stunning surreal visuals, presents extreme corruption, feminism, social decay and intergenerational conflict for review.

2013 Banned in Cameroon in 2013, Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s controversial film Le President (2015 AMAA Awards Best screenplay and Jury Special Prize) Aiming to incite viewers to conceive an alternate reality, his  fake documentary The President is a hilarious, biting satire on African leaders who cling to power.

2015 Les Choses et Les Mots de Mudimbe  on the renowned Congolese philosopher, multi-linguist and uber-polymath. This 4 hours documentary was part of the official selection of the 2015 Berlinale. “An unusual film, as fascinating as its object/subject, opulent, sensitive, clever, and radical. Another station of delightful postcolonial, cosmopolitan filmmaking”.

Jean-Pierre Bekolo  won the 2015 Prince Claus Award. He is awarded for his creative resistance, irreverence and eclectic African reworking of dominant cinema conventions; for creating a unique body of innovative work that both entertains and transmits profound socio-political messages; for his highly original aesthetics; for challenging misrepresentations of African cultures; and for re-affirming  the power of film. He was in 2015 a fellow of the Artists Program at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Berlin.

Jean-Pierre Bekolo is the General Secretary of the Guilde of African Filmmakers, he is also on the board of FEPACI (Federation Panafricaine des cineastes) and a founding member of the World Cinema Alliance e.V. (along with Francesco Maseli assistant of Visconti)  He has been dividing his time between the USA, France, Germany, South Africa and Cameroon.