The Rise of an African Actress in France

The Rise of an African Actress in France

At 41, Aïssa Maïga is one of the familiar faces on the big screen. Since she was a teenager, she has gracefully navigated her way through the French film industry.

Some have often wondered what it takes to succeed in the film industry, not just in France but anywhere else in the world. Using Aïssa Maïga as a prime example, we imagine it would take class, eloquence, humility and charm. Then again, could it merely be timing? Some have argued that it is everything in the entertainment industry. While that may be true, one cannot overlook the fact that talent also plays a huge role, plenty of which Maïga has. Today she continues to receive praise, having established herself in the French film industry, a difficult task by a woman, especially an African one.

Perhaps Maïga would have found herself a different career if her father had not moved with the family to France when she was only four years old. This led to a series events that jump-started her acting career. Sadly, he died brutally and left her an orphan at 8 years old. Maïga was then raised by her uncle and aunt in Paris.

L’écume des jours, 2013, Gad Elmaleh, Aïssa Maïga and Philippe Torreton. Photo credit: Imdb

From an early age, Maïga was passionate about comedy. When she was 14, she featured in the musical The Longest Night at the Folies Bergères, under the tutelage of one of her former teachers. Comfortable in the path she had chosen, she took acting lessons at the Conservatoire de Saint-Denis, and won her first role in a short film, The Kingdom of the Passage.

In 1997, she earned her first role on the big screen in Saraka Bo, under Denis Amar’s direction. She subsequently played a few roles on the small screen in TV series like The Cordier, Judge and Cop and Commissioner Moulin. In 2005, Maïga featured in The One Remains. That same year, she plays Roman Duris’ girlfriend in the comedy The Russian Dolls, a continuation of L’Auberge Espagnole. Outside her comfort zone in Michael Haneke’s thriller Caché, she returned under the guidance of her compatriot Abderrahmane Sissako in Bamako (2006); her performance as a bar singer with marital problems is poorly received by critics, though she was nominated for the Cesar Award for Best Actress. In 2007, she was again cast alongside Romain Duris in Raphael Fejtö’s second film The Age of Man … Now or Never.

Les Poupees Russes, Romain Duris, Aissa Maiga, 2005. Photo credit: IFC Films

While making her debut behind the camera with the feature film Il Faut Quitter Bamako, Maïga appears in Les Insoumis (2008) by Claude-Michel Rome. Not long after, she is cast in Ensemble C’est Trop, a comedy by Léa Fazer but struggles in crime fiction with Diamond 13, The Lawyer and Minors 27. Once again, Maïga returns to her comfort zone – comedy in Marsupilami (2012), Today (2013) and The Foam of Days (2013). The following year, she plays Max Boubil’s college love in Prêt à tout.

Maïga has cultivated versatility by the diversity of her roles across local and international films – comedies, shows and plays. In 2016, she plays Anne, an African mother in Julien Rambaldi’s Welcome to Marly-Gomont. The film chronicles the immigration of African intellectuals through the family story of rapper Kamini.

Other credits include the 2017 movie It Already Has Your Eyes, a comedy with Lucien Jean-Baptiste, where they both play a Black couple adopting a white baby, as well as Corniche Kennedy Dominique Cabrera.

It is a great time to witness an African woman, gaining international recognition on the merits of her work. Kudos to Aïssa Maïga and other women who continue to bring global attention to the continent within their respective industries.

Oyindamola Olaniyan holds a in Botany from Lagos State University. Broadly experienced in this area, her core expertise includes social media management, content development and brand identity.

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