Out of Africa

Abderrahmane Sissako @LE PACTE

“I’m lucky enough to make films because I want to,” said award-winning filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako during a master class he taught at UVA in April—his third visit to the University in eight years. Sissako, who grew up in Mali, sees making films as his mission: “It’s important to be a spokesperson for a continent.”

The class included a screening of his 1998 film La Vie Sur Terre (Life on Earth), which is set on the last day of the 20th century in Sokolo, Mali, his father’s village.

Sissako studied film in Moscow and now lives in France. His latest film, Timbuktu, about a herder and his family during an Islamist occupation, was nominated for a 2015 Academy Award and was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

When a UVA student asked him for advice on becoming a filmmaker, Sissako replied, “You have to have a profound belief in yourself. That goes for everything, not just film.”


Funny Man

With the theater of politics as charged as ever, it seems fitting that popular humor website Funny or Die would set up an office in Washington. “Anyone can see that politics is ripe for humor, ripe for comedy,” says Brad Jenkins (Col ’03), who will head up the new branch as managing director and executive producer.

He previously worked as associate director of public engagement at the White House, where he helped produce a video of Barack Obama sitting down with comedian Zach Galifianakis for his web series “Between Two Ferns” to talk about the Affordable Care Act.

In his new job, Jenkins will be doing “a little of everything,” he says, collaborating with a lot of people, "from members of Congress to advocates to comedians, to shine a light on stories not being told.”

Still, they have to maintain the loyalty of their fan base, which includes more than 9 million Twitter followers and 11 million Facebook fans. “The first rule is to be funny.”