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.

24 February 2011

Dyana Gaye: Un transport en commun/St. Louis Blues

FESPACO 2011 WATCH: Official Competition: Short Fiction Film

Dyana Gaye studied film at the Université Paris 8 de St. Denis. Laureate of the Louis Lumière-Villa Médicis Hors les murs Scholarship, she made her first film Une femme pour Souleymane, receiving the attention of several festivals, followed by Deweneti which was distributed widely and among the many honors, was nominated for the 2008 Césars Award. She presented the musical comedy Transport en commun at the World Festival of Black Arts, 10-31 December 2010. 

Interview with Dyana Gaye by Fatou K. Sene for Wal Fadjri translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson

Wal Fadjri: Why a musical comedy film?

Dyana Gaye: This is the genre that gave me the desire to make films. The musical comedy film genre is very distinctive, very ancient. I took the opportunity to initiate this type of film in Senegal, to bring together different ideas.

Where did you get your inspiration to do a musical comedy?

From the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, of the 1930s. I grew up on classic Hollywood musicals—the film, The Band Wagon by Vincente Minnelli, and so on. I also like the films of my generation, the 1980 productions such as the Blues Brothers. When I started watching movies, these are what attracted me right away, musicals also, because I studied dance and music. The musical comedy is a way for me to combine all of my ideas, whether it’s dance or music, cinema allows me to bring it all together.

The performers in the film were they musicians or actors?

All the voices in the film are those of the actors. I give a pat on the back to all of them, who for the most part are not professional actors, singers or dancers. It was a genuine learning experience. It was a very difficult project given the means we had to work with, but it was the willpower and energy of each person that made it happen. The musical comedy is rather demanding. We shot the film in the middle of the Grand Magal of Touba. The shoot was harsh and complicated but with lots of fond memories.

It is not a common genre in Africa, how were you able to join all the songs together?

We rehearsed for three weeks before the shoot. The music was already recorded in Paris with a large string orchestra, cosmic orchestra and a jazz big band. I brought the recordings to Senegal and the actors mimicked the music.

What was your inspiration for the script?

At the beginning, I did not think necessarily of a musical. Rather, what I was interested in telling was a story about a trip in the bush taxi that I often took to go to Saint Louis or to Ziguinchor. When I traveled in a bush taxi I often took notes in my tiny journal about the people that I met, about the situations that I encountered. From these notes I wrote the script, though I realized that in these cars people sitting next to each other, could not necessarily look at one another. I had to recreate these scenes by adding sound and voice. One thing led to another, eventually becoming a musical meeting space. 

When did you start thinking about the idea for the film?

Some time ago during the trips I made since I was very young. I started going to Senegal at the age of five years old with my parents. I have always traveled in bush taxis. It is the accumulation of these different memories that is the basis for the story. It is also a reflection on the possible encounters while using public transportation, not only in Senegal. I have a journal of my trips by metro and bus in Paris. I am very interested in the situations where people who do not know each other nor speak to each other, have something in common—the same route. Sometimes you speak to the person next to you; sometimes you go the entire trip in silence. The idea was to bring about a situation where the passengers come together, allowing them to talk about themselves at a certain moment and that is why I chose singing.

Did you deliberately choose to reveal slices of the lives of your characters?

This is the humdrum of life. That’s how it is when you take public transportation; each comes with her life, his past, the direction she is taking, his future. It is with the contact of others that our lives evolve, that we move ahead. For me it also symbolizes the journey. I wanted the film to look towards the future, which is why there are a lot of young people, except for the driver and the hair salon owner. It is to show that all of these people have aspirations. It is also a way of celebrating the Senegalese youth who have a very fighting spirit. I wanted to underscore that in the film, that they are taking charge of their own destiny. These are emancipative voyages, rites of passage. For instance, the character Malick will emigrate to Italy, etc. These are slices of life and also a way to see and hear the everyday experiences of the Senegalese no matter their age or circumstance.

What are your present projects?

I am working on a feature film that deals with the problem of immigration, because I am interested in these rather delicate topics. This particular one is from a woman’s perspective. Those who come back to their country or who leave it, what are they taking with them, what are they bringing back? I will pose these questions about identity, about memory.

Image credit ©SNES

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