The Indiana University Black Film Center/Archive has acquired the papers of Paulin Vieyra, the first French-speaking sub-Saharan African to direct a film. Vieyra was born in 1925 in Benin and grew up in Senegal and was educated in Paris. In 1955, he directed the film Afrique sur Seine.
Vieyra served as a pioneering critic, historian, and producer during the decolonization era of the 1960s, and he was a mentor to Ousmane Sembène, who has been referred to as the father of African cinema. Paulin Vieyra was a founding member of several film institutions, including the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers and the Pan-African Film and TV Festival of Ouagadougou, known as FESPACO.
The collection, carefully stored in the Vieyra’s family home for the past several decades, totals more than 50 cubic feet and consists of manuscripts, screenplays, correspondence, organizational documents, promotional materials, photographs, films, audio recordings, memorabilia, and equipment detailing Vieyra’s life and work. Vieyra died in 1987.
“IU has long been a center for African study through scholarship, teaching, conferences, and screenings dating back to the 1961 founding of the African Studies Program,” said Terri Francis, director of the Black Film Center/Archive and associate professor at Indiana University. “The acquisition of the Vieyra collection speaks to this long-standing history and to ongoing history; the documents we collect now will support and hopefully inspire future film histories.”