Aboubakar Sanogo (North America Regional Secretary, FEPACI), Martin Scorsese (Founder and Chair of The Film Foundation), Irina Bokova (Director-General, UNESCO) (Dave Alloca/ Starpix photo courtesy of The Film Foundation)

Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of The Film Foundation, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Aboubakar Sanogo, the North American Regional Secretary of the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) joined together Wednesday, June 7 to sign a letter of agreement formalizing their partnership on the African Film Heritage Project, a new initiative to preserve African cinema.

“I’m proud to be partnering with FEPACI and UNESCO on this critically important project,” said Scorsese, “and I’m excited to have already restored the first film of the program. I believe that cinema is the perfect way to open up one’s mind and curiosity and share different cultures with people around the world. Working together, we can help ensure that Africa’s richly diverse cinematic heritage will be preserved, restored, and made available.”

In the context of UNESCO’s International Coalition of Artists for the General History of Africa, and working in association with their partner and FIAF member archive Cineteca di Bologna, the project will locate and restore an initial selection of 50 African films, identified by FEPACI’s advisory board of African archivists, scholars and filmmakers. Initially launched in February at the Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), the alliance has completed its first restoration: SOLEIL O (1969), directed by Med Hondo, considered to be one of the founding fathers of African cinema. The restoration premiered recently at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.

Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, highlighted the importance of the project for Africa but also for cinema lovers all over the world.

“This project will contribute to enhancing Africa’s cultural heritage and improving the global understanding of the continent’s past and its rich cultural diversity,” said Irina Bokova, underscoring that these are the objectives of the General History of Africa, which the International Coalition of Artists for the General History of Africa aims to promote. “Fast-evolving technology has offered safeguarding cinema history new possibilities and new challenges.”

Mahen Bonetti (Founder and Executive Director, African Film Festival Inc.), Aboubakar Sanogo, North America regional secretary, FEPACI; Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of The Film Foundation; Irina Bokova, director-general, UNESCO; Yemane Demissie, associate professor, New York University (Dave Alloca/ Starpix photo, Courtesy of The Film Foundation)

Signing on behalf of Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Secretary General of FEPACI, an organization that remains, since its establishment in 1970, the voice of all African filmmakers, across the continent and the diaspora, Aboubakar Sanogo, North American Regional Secretary stated:

“We at FEPACI come to you standing on the shoulders of the founders of our continent’s independence and, in cinema, the founders that have laid the groundwork and who are responsible for the creation of FEPACI. Our task consists in pursuing their work by creating the best possible climate and institutions for the prosperity and success of African cinema. This partnership will work to bring African cinema into the field of visibility and audibility in order to reclaim and reconquer the continent’s dignity and place in the world. The films that will be restored will show her beauty, her complexity, her doubts, her uncertainties, and of course, her hopes, aspirations and attitudes toward life on Earth and beyond.”

An extensive survey to locate the best existing film elements for each of the 50 films will be conducted in African Cinémathèques and archives around the world. Following restoration, these films will be distributed worldwide at festivals, museums, universities and other venues and made available via