Actress Aïssa Maïga to lead forum Against Racism and Sexism at ongoing Cannes Film Festival

Senegalese-French actress Aïssa Maïga is not new to the fight for equality and inclusion of black women in the French film industry. This has been evident in her poignant portrayals of the Franco-African experience in the European film industry for the last 20 years.

Now, the award-winning Senegalese-French actress will lead a forum alongside 15 African actresses to discuss negative portrayals of black women in France’s film industry. The discussion intends to unpack the negative, stereotypical roles of black women in French cinema and lack, thereof, of black women present in the industry.

Maïga herself has starred in over 70 French films and TV shows, and was the first black actress nominated for a Best Actress César for her role as Melé in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Bamako in 2006. She also received a Globes de Cristal award for her role in Prêt à tout.

Actress Aïssa Maïga, editor-in-chief at RFI on World Women’s Rights Day © Boris Foucteau

The first of its kind, the forum will take place on Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival where they will discuss challenges they face as artists in their fight to create an inclusive future for French film.

The stories of the 15 fellow African women and women of the diaspora joining the forum are also featured in Maïga’s upcoming book, “Noire N’est Pas Mon Métier” (My Profession Is Not Black). The book includes women like Mata Gabin (Bye Bye Blondie), Eye Haïdara (C’est la vie!), and Sabine Pakora (Samba). In a press release for the book, Maïga, who is also a global brand ambassador for Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation, and an ambassador for L’Oreal says, “More than 300 French films are produced every year. Black actresses are rarely, if ever, shown.”

On 16 April in France, a new documentary named My Profession Is Not Black, based on the book, made its premiere at the ongoing 2018 Cannes Film Festival. The documentary shows what 16 actresses, including its director Aïssa Maïga, have faced as women of color working in France’s film industry, from sexism to racism.

Aïssa Maïga, Eye Haïdara, Nadège Beausson-Diagne and other actresses from My Profession is not Black, make a statement in Balmain pieces from designer Olivier Rousteing’s Fall 2018 collection during the Cannes Film Festival. Photo Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Said Maïga: “Most of the time when you do see black women in film, they are nannies wearing boubous (traditional African robes) or single mothers with problems and, of course, prostitutes,” she says as reported in The Glow Up.

The actress is set to star in Andy Okoroafor’s 20 Pound Dream, which will be shot on location in Nigeria and Hong Kong.