Tropical Dream Palaces

Cinema in Colonial West Africa

Odile Goerg

A highly original investigation of who went to the movies in colonial Africa, what they watched, and why.

Bibliographic Details
Tropical Dream Palaces Hardback
August 2019£45.00
9781787382053 208pp
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Many studies focus on film in Africa. Few, however, study cinema as a leisure activity: one that has influenced several generations and opened up spaces to dream, discuss or contest. Movie theatres offered a break from the daily routine, as places of escape and of education. Cinema was also potentially subversive, offering an alternative to colonial discourse.

Tropical Dream Palaces seeks to trace this history in a West African context: of broadening horizons on the one hand, and of censorship and control on the other. It fills a historiographic void, following cinema’s arrival in the region in the early twentieth century up until the Independence era, and also looking further afield to Central Africa and its different models.

Goerg addresses questions of film distribution in colonial times; of screening venues, their implantation, spread and different categories; while also focusing on audiences, their gender or age; the acquisition of a film culture; and the impact of screening foreign images. Her book draws on extremely varied sources to paint a broad picture of this cinematographic landscape: archives, the accounts of African and European spectators or administrators, novels, autobiographies, the local press, interviews and iconography.


Odile Goerg is Full Professor of Modern African History at CESSMA, Université Paris Diderot. She specialises in socio-economic history in the urban setting. Her present research focuses on leisure and culture, especially cinema, a topic on which she has published numerous articles.