"Cinema: African women filmmakers speak" by Stéphanie Dongmo and Anglade Amedée
Osvalde Lewat (Cameroon), Isabelle Boni-Claverie (Côte d'Ivoire), Fanta Regina Nacro (Burkina Faso), Rahmatou Keita (Niger), Monique Phoba Mbeka (Congo-DRC), Farida Benlyazid (Morocco), Nadia El Fani (Tunisia), Rama Thiaw (Senegal).
Eight african women filmmakers talk about their cinema during moments at the Colloque on the 40 years of cinema by Francophone African women filmmakers, held 23-24 November in Paris at the Quai Branly Museum and the (BnF), the National Library of France. A film by Stéphanie Dongmo and Anglade Amedée.
Translation and transcription of 5:30 minute film from French to English by Beti Ellerson
Nadia El Fani: That is the eternal question: Is there a women's cinema?
Rama Thiaw: I don't think so.
Osvalde Lewat: Is there a women's cinema? I don't think so...
Fanta Nacro: (Laughter) What a question!
Farida Benlyazid: I don't think so.
Fanta Nacro: In Africa it's just about making a film period.
Rahmatou Keita: When one is African and a woman, to be a filmmaker is to be a filmmaker.
Isabelle Boni-Claverie: It is the same thing as with a man.
Rahmatou Keita: I am a filmmaker like any other African filmmaker or any other filmmaker in the world. In Africa there is one particularity, there is not a film industry.
Nadia El Fani: At first sight when one looks at a film made by a woman one thinks of a woman's film, but no, women make films and men make films and of course we don't make them in the same way.
Rama Thiaw: Of course there are certain things, culturally we are not raised in the same way. But in the end there is no cinema specific to gender. In the same way that there is no African cinema, but rather cinema, period.
Monique Mbeka Phoba: We both have the same issues as it relates to producing a film, looking for funding.
Are there any specific difficulties in making a film for women?
Osvalde Lewat: Perhaps men appear to be more legitimate and are able to do more things. Whereas with women depending on the subject, there can be cases where it is a handicap and in others an asset. I would say that there have been situations where doors have been closed because I am a woman and in other cases I was able to benefit from it, because there are not many women I was able to open other doors. I would not say that it is a disadvantage nor an advantage.
Monique Mbeka Phoba: It is up to us to liberate ourselves from internal limitations. Rather than talk about external difficulties, I look at the situation based on the internal limitations that we impose on ourselves. For instance, thinking because you are a mother you do not have the time, the possibility or energy to do other things that would allow you to earn a living, other than take care of the family. Those are the internal limitations. After all, there are means to be able to make films and still be responsible towards one's family, but there is also a responsibility to the community, because the films that we make are important.
Isabelle Boni-Claverie: As a woman I have not encountered difficulties as a filmmaker. I would locate the difficulty within the identity of being black or African. That in Africa the history of cinema is not as long, film production is more complicated there, or being black in France, the themes of our films may appear to appeal to a minority and there is less support and therefore we must work harder. Perhaps in this context there are additional difficulties, but in terms of being a woman, I don't think so.
Nadia El Fani: We live in societies where there is gender inequality. And that is why I am a feminist, as long as there is inequality between men and women I will be a feminist. Because today we still need to fight for women's rights, because it will not happen on its own.
Rama Thiaw: No, not at all, I have an investment as a human being. Where is my place within humanity, and what will I tell my children, whether a boy or girl? That is what I am interested in. I do not situate myself as a feminist, it is a non-issue, I situate myself as a humanist.
As a woman do you feel that you have a particular role to play?
Farida Benlyazid: Yes, as a woman I feel that I am working for the rights of women. Perhaps it does not happen right away, but it is gives food for thought, a pause for reflection, that's what is the most important!
Fanta Nacro: I came to cinema to tell stories, not to take up the cause for women, even though in some of my films I represent women as I imagine them and I do defend their rights. But that is not the main objective for taking up the camera, to defend the rights of women.
Osvalde Lewat: I do not feel that I play a certain role as a woman, I have felt for a long time very committed to tell certain stories because I come from this continent. I have a perspective of the world having made films in different parts of the world, the Americas, Asia and Africa. I feel an imperative to tell stories that touch me and that may interest and touch others, and that could evolve a subject or change a situation.