The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

08 October 2010

A Conversation with Véronique Doumbe

Photo credit: Sergei Franklin
Véronique, you were born and raised in France as well as Africa, and actually trained as a lawyer. What were your experiences growing up? Do you connect your training in law with filmmaking?

I was born in France. My father is from Cameroon and my mother is from Martinique. I grew up in France, then Cameroon and Ivory Coast.

I gravitated towards Law because my stepmother was a prominent lawyer in Cameroon. I attended several trials just to listen to her. I was fascinated. I have an undergraduate degree in Law called Licence en Droit, a “Bachelor’s of Law”. I never practiced Law. I studied it.

You have been in the United States for some time. How did you decide to come to the United States and what have been your experiences with U.S. culture?

I arrived in the US in the 1981, tired of France and its stifling atmosphere. I knew I did not want to become a lawyer but I did not know what else to do. In Europe, and France in particular, you choose one path (very early) and you stick to it whether you're happy with it or not. I have discovered a new culture where instead of WHY people have asked me WHY NOT? That was so liberating.

But my first shock coming to the U.S. was the breaking of the Air Traffic controllers' strike under President Reagan. Coming to the U.S. meant coming to democracy. This was my first rude awakening.

You have an eclectic collection of film themes. Where do you get your inspiration? How do you choose your subject matter?

It actually takes me a while to find something that grabs me. It is about people I know. Issues that I am or someone close to me are dealing with.

Caribbean cinema has a complex identity as it is expressed by both Diasporans as well as the inhabitants of the islands. What are your experiences with Caribbean culture?

I grew up mostly among Africans (except for my family from Martinique) so I identify as an African. But growing up I was longing to know my other side, which I discovered at age 26. When I finally visited Martinique for the first time, I couldn't leave. I went to visit for a week but I stayed 3 months. The pull was very strong. I remembered all the Creole my grandpa spoke while I was a little girl. I have visited Martinique regularly until a few years when my grandma passed away. I don't have much experience with Caribbean culture other than the one with my immediate family and few friends.

Do you have contacts and projects in Cameroon? What is the state of Cameroonian cinema?

I do have contacts in Cameroon. My family lives there. I am going back home for the first time in 19 years. I have been invited to preside over the jury of the 2nd edition of the Mis Me Binga, (International Women's Film Festival) in March 2011. I am also helping set up a chapter of Women in Film in Cameroon.

There are no more theatres in Cameroon (it's a problem throughout Africa). There are a lot of eager budding filmmakers. There is a crying need for training and more exposure. But as I read some of the stories, there is tremendous content. African filmmakers have incredible stories to tell. Content is not the issue. Lack of access to funding and exposure are major problems.

Your production company is Ndolo Films, what are its activities?

Ndolo Films, LLC. is the production company under which I produce my films or the films I am hired to direct (TV pilot, music video) or consult.

Future projects, dreams?

I am working with a scriptwriter in Ivory Coast on a story that will allow me finally to shoot in Africa soon.

My biggest dream is to open a film institute in Cameroon.

Interview with Véronique Doumbé by Beti Ellerson, October 2010

Clips of films by Veronique Doumbe on Vimeo