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.

31 March 2012

2012: Festival International de Films de Femmes de Créteil | International Women's Film Festival of Créteil


Créé en 1979, le Festival International de Films de Femmes de Créteil (34ème edition, 30 mars – 8 avril 2012) accueille des réalisatrices du monde entier, avec près de 150 films qui défendent avec talent le regard des femmes sur leur société. Lieu témoin de débats historiques, le festival reste attentif aux engagements artistiques, politiques et sociaux des femmes dans le monde, à travers leur cinéma.  

Fidèle à ses engagements pour lutter contre toutes formes de discrimination, de race, de sexe, de culture, de classe sociale, il assume son double héritage envers le féminisme et l’action culturelle, en plaçant l’interrogation sur l’image et les modes de représentations au centre de ses réflexions.

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Created in 1979, the International Women's Film Festival of Créteil (34th edition, 30 March - 8 April 2012) welcomes women filmmakers throughout the world with almost 150 films that showcase women's perspectives of their society.  A historical lieu for debate and discussion, the Festival continues to be devoted to the artistic, political and social engagement of women throughout the world as expressed by their films.

Faithful to its commitment to fight against all forms of discrimination--race, gender, culture and class--the festival takes on its dual heritage of feminism and cultural engagement by placing at the center of its reflections, the question of the image and modes of representation.

30 March 2012

A Conversation with Siam Marley

Interview with French-based Siam Marley from Cote d’Ivoire by Beti Ellerson. With candour she talks about her passion for cinema, her dreams, and her desire to remain true to herself in an environment that is not always receptive.

Siam, tell us a little about yourself, from Ivory Coast to France, what were your experiences?

Good evening everyone, my name is Siam Marley. Contrary to what my name may say, I am Ivorian, but I have lived in France for the last ten years.

I followed an “academic” path at the film school EICAR, Ecole Internationale de Création Audiovisuelle et de Réalisation (International school for audiovisual creation and filmmaking). As "an apprentice" I made a few shorts, three if I'm not mistaken. I'm also "apprentice" director of photography, "apprentice" cameraperson, and "apprentice" scriptwriter! (Laughter) I have worked independently for some time, and I try to somehow make a little place for myself in this environment.
How did you come to cinema?

I've always wanted to make films! (Laughter) The classic response...but I confess that unlike others I did not grow up with a camera in my hand. No! What fascinated me was the production, scenery and the stories recounted in the film. When I was a kid, I thought that it was filmed in real time. I found it extraordinary. I was perplexed. I wanted to know how these films were made. Now understanding how a film is made, it is difficult to appreciate it! The story must be exciting, so I don’t have to spend my time dissecting the technical side, and besides, it has become second nature! (Laughter)

Cinematographer, camera operator, director, screenwriter, you're pretty versatile. By necessity?  Or is it in order to have the independence to express yourself as a filmmaker?
I want to emphasise that I'm an apprentice...at the embryonic stage in this field! Based on my own experiences, I realise the importance of being versatile...as in acting! I acquired this foundation during my studies at film school. And frankly speaking, it is crucial. I could have only done directing and production, since I really like it, but I also enjoy camera work and especially lighting. I chose to "specialise" as director of photography because for me it is a crucial position. It is where, literally, the technical part of the film is based. The director of photography is a maestro, an orchestra conductor...and in so being carries more than half of the success of a film. This is a weighty responsibility. And I love having responsibility. This kind of responsibility, anyway. (Laughter) I know I still have much to learn (which, in fact, I continue to do during each film shoot). And yet I never get tired of working (as director of photography and camera operator) on the projects of other directors. In addition, holding these positions teaches me a lot about directing because I have a front row seat to observe these directors with whom I work. So anyway, I'm winning on all fronts. And then to work on other projects allows me to get some fresh air and to take some distance from my own. (Laughter)

You made La Rue (The Street), the rap-style short film essay on the 2007 events in the housing projects outside of Paris. What inspired you to make this film? Some thoughts on the choice of your subject and the approach you used? 

Honestly, La Rue is a clip I made for the rapper Dewawa, doing the camera and lighting myself. He was the one with the message. And it was his sound! (Laughter) I did it for the experience. And well, I liked the beat. But it's true that I'm a fan of rap...perhaps not as much as some of the people in my entourage, but I do like rap.

You are associated with June Prods, what are its objectives?

June Prods is my “imaginary” structure. That is to say, it exists in name so I can sign my projects, even if I work for myself. But I am going to change the name soon. The idea is for it to later evolve into a production structure through which I produce actual film projects, whether my own or for others. I really hate having to chase after production companies. I find this to be a real obstacle course at the moment. And frankly, it annoys me, but I have no choice. It is the system that decides...and since I am not yet loaded, I have to play by the rules. (Laughter)
How was your first film production experience in Côte d’Ivoire?

My film production experience in Côte d’Ivoire really started in October 2010 when I did my “first short Ivorian film", that is to say, with Ivorian actors and shot in Côte d’Ivoire and it was a great experience!

Babi was a test film. I was in Abidjan to do a bit of an update on my life and look at my options after my studies in film school. And I made this film to test the waters. I wanted to attain the technical success that would assist me in attracting the interest of people or investors for future projects that I plan to do there. We shot the film in four days, I received a lot of support for this project: such as from Jeremy Strohm who generously worked with me on the film; Afrikareprezenta, which helped out with a few projectors, my older brother and his friend who lent me their apartments. I cannot mention everyone, but it was just great.

This experience made me want to return there to make a film! I am planning to shoot the film called "Cinq boîtes de lait" (Five cartons of milk)!
Ivorian cinema is trying to find its place. What contribution would you like to make?

Cinema Ivorian has still a long way to go...I obviously want to become the first Ivorian female director to win an Oscar (Laughter)! Honestly though, I just want to have the same chance as a French or American director (to name only these few here).

Though in Côte d’Ivoire there is virtually no support for film projects. I contacted a friend who works in one of several useless government ministries, and he told me "the state could give me a loan to fund my short film, at a rate (if I am not talking nonsense) of 12%. I almost had a stroke when I read that. I could not believe it...

In general, Ivorians have stopped going to the movie theatre. So whenever there is an "Ivorian film" which is released in the "only" (if I'm not exaggerating) theatre in the city, those who attend are mainly young people and those from the upscale neighbourhoods. The cultural divide is a reflection of the social divide. As many like to say: "we cannot even manage to eat, so how can we go to the movies...” It's sad, but true, day-to-day existence has taken over the dream.

But as far as I know in Côte d’Ivoire, there are more and more film shoots. Though unfortunately in my opinion, there are more film shoots for film clips rather than fiction films, but hopefully this will change soon! Moreover, there are not enough quality Ivorian films offered, nor movie theatres for the viewer to have the pleasure of watching films on the big screen.

It is for the "competent authorities" to develop infrastructures worthy of the name so that Ivorians may benefit from their culture, rather than excessively consuming the culture of others, which inevitably affects their attitudes and their way of seeing the world. There is so much to say about this...

But I do note that there is a genuine desire to create quality film projects (enough of these sitcoms, which do not reflect Ivorian cinema) on the part of young Ivorians who realise that they too have a vision of the world and that they can share it with the planet. We just need someone who believes in us and supports us. I heard someone say that the future of cinema is in Africa and I genuinely believe it. We will use the technology created by the West to tell our stories! We have everything to gain. Then please, give us a chance.
What are your experiences with the filmmakers and professionals in Côte d’Ivoire?

During the filming of Babi in 2010, I managed to bring together a small crew, and we did a great job. I hope to work with them whenever I have a shoot to do there. I also learned it takes a lot, and I mean a lot of rehearsals with the actors. (Laughter)

I met the director Arantess Bonalii who has a real vision for Ivorian cinema, he is one of the pioneers there, he helped me a lot for this short, evening lending me his apartment, among other things, so I could shoot there. I cannot thank him enough!

I also met a young director Armand Breh, a truly strong man, considering his journey. With virtually nothing, he directed his first short fiction film, A Moment of Silence (related to the war in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011). He initiated a campaign for funding on the Internet via Ulule, though no one has followed through on their promises, but he still made his film. If he had had the necessary resources, the film would have been different for sure, but the technical quality is definitely there, and I urge him to keep going. These people amaze me by their determination, they expect no help, continue to persevere, and rely only on God to lead them towards their dreams! I, who am so easily discouraged, have so much to learn from them.

I also regret the fact that Ivorian directors, whether of feature films or series, do not rely on the most competent technicians of the same nationality, or Africans living in Europe. When I apply for a position, these directors appear reluctant, afraid of what it will cost them, that is to say, the plane ticket and fees! Then they freak out, and continue focusing on the local technicians who do not have enough technical or artistic training. Of course I understand why, though I am not happy about it.

But what irritates me the most is when they bring in a technical crew from Europe to Africa. I feel like shouting: "Darn it, I am here, can’t you see that I am as competent as they are, and what is more I am African like you, so there is even more of a benefit." (Laughter)
What are the differences between working in Côte d’Ivoire and in France?

Each country faces different realities! I do not really know how people work in Côte d’Ivoire; I only made that one short film. But I noticed that there are not many skilled technicians, there is an effort to improve but there is still a ways to go!

Most of the people in the field (especially technicians) never work for free; they really do not care about your project unless they can make money. They could care less about the hardships you encounter trying to do your film. There is no artistic interaction! Most people do not do make films by passion...but for the money! That said, there are those who do have a passion for it.

And a lot of people call themselves "filmmakers". In the span of three years the number of directors in Abidjan has quadrupled. Most do not even know what it means to be a director, but because they have a DSLR, then they are one. It drives me mad! (Laughter)

There are no Ivorian actors, or else they do not live in Côte d’Ivoire. There, it is more theatrical...rather arduous and linear...even if they do it well. But I hope they continue! Life is tough there, so people do what they can.

In France, for now, I'm in the shallows! (Laughter) Seriously, people here are willing to give you a hand when they believe in your project; you can make a short film without "paying" anyone. There is more creative freedom. There are talented technicians, actors who tear your guts out, and artistic ideas that can make one jealous. I feel privileged to work here, despite the difficulties.

But despite the freedom I have working in France, I still prefer making films in Africa. That said, I do not put up barriers for myself. The films that I aspire to make will have no other label than that of my nationality!
How is the film culture in which you work in France? Classic French, international, African, female, young, a mixture?

I have been lucky since I became part of this culture, to have met people who encouraged me to persevere, to believe in my potential and especially in myself, such as my friends Maxwell Cadevall and Jeremy Strohm, among others. A young black woman as DP, there aren’t many, I'd like to meet other women like me in this position.

Jeremy "trained" me a bit in lighting, it was from being in contact with him that I realised that I wanted to be director of photography. He hates it when I say that! (Laughter)

And Maxwell gave me my chance as director of photography on his feature film Jeux de couples, a great experience! I can’t wait for the film to be released! (Laughter)

I have also come across people filled with prejudices towards me, my skin colour, my weight, and just for the way that I am! These narrow-minded people who think that they are the centre of the universe or that they are such awesome directors and technicians, it’s sickening!

I just try to fit in with the people with whom I work but I must confess that I encounter some difficulties because I do not behave in ways that people expect me to and it is difficult for me to pretend! I am honest in all my professional relationships. And there are those who like it and those who don’t! But I do not care! And everyone does not embrace my African side, unfortunately! (Laughter)

I try to adjust these aspects as I try to fit in but it destabilises me quite a bit! I take less and less offence at these things, I remain faithful to my principles and myself. I am who I am.

I admire all the talent around me, I compare myself to them, I listen and I learn from them. I hope to become a better person, a little more each day in their presence.

It is an environment of hypocrites, really. But thank God, there are wonderful people who give you the impression that you're worth it. It's not easy from day to day, but I'm hanging! (Laughter)

Your current projects...?

I have a lot of projects. As indeed it should be! Parallel to my work as technician for the projects of others, I am preparing one of my next shorts "Cinq boîtes de lait" based on a novel of the same name by a talented friend and writer, Yehni Djidji. It is a story that takes place during the events that disfigured Côte d’Ivoire in early 2011! With her work I hope through this film to pay tribute to all the innocent victims of this stupid war between these selfish people who only think about themselves and not the people. This unfortunately, has been the history of Africa for far too long. This must stop, and I hope that this film will be seen in Africa and beyond, so that people realise what they really mean to these leaders. And they will finally say: Stop. We're fed up!

I have faith that this time will come...

Interview and translation from French by Beti Ellerson, March 2012.


EN FRANÇAIS

La parole à Siam Marley

Entretien avec l’Ivoirienne Siam Marley par Beti Ellerson. Avec franchise, elle parle de sa passion pour le cinéma, ses rêves, et son désir de rester fidèle à elle-même dans un milieu qui n’est pas toujours réceptif.
Siam, parles nous un peu de toi-même. De la Côte d’Ivoire à la France, quelle était votre trajectoire ?

Bonsoir à tous, je suis Siam Marley. Contrairement à ce que dit mon nom, je suis Ivoirienne, mais je vis en France depuis une dizaine d’années.

J’ai suivi un parcours « académique » dans une école de cinéma, EICAR. J’ai réalisé « en tant qu’apprentie » quelques courts, 3, si je ne me trompe pas ». Je suis aussi « apprentie » directeur photo, « apprentie » cadreuse, et « apprentie » scénariste. (Rires) ! Je suis auto-entrepreneure depuis quelque temps, et j’essaie, tant bien que mal, de me faire une petite place dans ce milieu…

Comment es-tu arrivée au cinéma ?
J’ai toujours eu envie de faire du cinéma ! (Rires). La réponse classique… Mais j’avoue que contrairement à d’autres je n’ai pas grandi avec une caméra ou un appareil photo à la main. Non! Moi ce qui me fascinait c’était la mise en scène, les décors et les histoires racontées dans les films. Quand j’étais gamine, j’avais l’impression que c’était filmé en temps réel. Je trouvais ça juste incroyable. J’étais troublée, je voulais savoir comment il faisait des films. Maintenant que je sais comment un film se fait, ça m’empêche beaucoup de les apprécier! Il faut que l’histoire soit génialissime/captivante pour que je ne passe pas mon temps à décortiquer l’aspect technique (et encore), c’est devenu une seconde nature… (Rires) !

Chef opérateur, cadreuse, réalisatrice, scénariste, tu es polyvalente. Par nécessité ? Pour être indépendante dans ton expression comme cinéaste ?
Je tiens à préciser que je suis une apprentie…un embryon dans ce milieu! Je l’ai découvert à mes dépens, il est nécessaire d’être polyvalent… comme dans le jeu d’acteur ! J’ai eu ces bases pendant mon cursus à l’école de cinéma. Et honnêtement c’est nécessaire. Je pourrais ne faire que la réalisation et la mise en scène, vu que j’adore ça, mais j’aime aussi le cadre et surtout la lumière. J’ai choisi de me « spécialiser » en tant que chef opérateur parce que pour moi c’est un poste capital, c’est sur ce chef de poste que repose littéralement la partie technique du film. Un directeur photo est un maestro, un chef d’orchestre…et en cela il détient plus de la moitié de la réussite d’un film. C’est une lourde responsabilité. Et moi j’adore les responsabilités. En tout cas ce genre de responsabilité. (Rires). Je sais que j’ai encore énormément à apprendre (ce que je fais d’ailleurs à chaque tournage), mais je ne me lasse pas d’être technicienne (directeur photo et cadreuse) sur les projets d’autres réalisateurs. En plus, occuper ces postes m’apprend énormément sur la réalisation parce que je suis aux premières loges pour observer ces réalisateurs avec qui je travaille. Donc de toute façon, je suis gagnante sur tous les tableaux. Et puis bosser sur d’autres projets m’aide à m’aérer l’esprit et à prendre de la distance vis-à-vis des miens (Rires).

Tu as réalisé « La Rue », un court-métrage essaie style rap sur les événements de 2007 en banlieue parisienne. Qu’est-ce qui t’a donné envie de faire ce film ? Quelques réflexions sur le choix du thème et l’approche ?
Honnêtement, « La Rue » est un clip que j’ai réalisé, cadré et éclairé toute seule, pour le Rappeur Dewawa. C’est lui qui avait un message à passer ! c’est son son (Rires) ! Moi j’ai bossé dessus pour le côté expérience. Et puis, j’aime bien le beat. Mais c’est vrai que je suis fan de rap…peut-être pas autant que certaines personnes de mon entourage, mais j’aime beaucoup le rap.

Tu es associée à June Prods, de quoi s’agit-il ?
June Prods est ma structure « fictive », c’est-à-dire qu’elle existe de nom pour que je puisse signer mes projets, même si je suis auto-entrepreneure. Mais je vais bientôt changer le nom. L’idée c’est qu’elle devienne, plus tard, une structure de production grâce à laquelle je pourrai monter de vrais projets cinématographiques, que ce soient les miens ou ceux des autres. Je déteste profondément courir après les boîtes de productions, je découvre ce parcours du combattant en ce moment. Et honnêtement, ça m’emmerde littéralement, mais je n’ai pas le choix, c’est le système qui veut ça… et comme je ne suis pas encore pleine aux as, alors je suis le système. (Rires) !

Comment était ta première expérience cinématographique en Côte d’Ivoire ?
Mon expérience avec l’image en Côte d’Ivoire remonte, véritablement, à Octobre 2010 ! J’y ai réalisé mon « premier court-métrage ivoirien », c’est-à-dire avec des acteurs ivoiriens, tourné en Côte d’Ivoire…et c’était une super expérience!

« Babi » était un test. J’étais à Abidjan pour faire un peu le point sur ma vie et mes choix après mon cursus à l’école de cinéma. Et j’ai fait ce film pour tester le terrain, je voulais aboutir à un résultat technique qui m’aiderait à convaincre des personnes ou des investisseurs sur d’autres projets que je ferais là-bas. Nous avons tourné en 4 jours, j’ai reçu beaucoup de soutien pour ce projet : comme déjà celui de Jeremy Strohm qui est venu me rejoindre en Côte d’Ivoire pour bosser sur le film de façon désintéressée ; le soutien d’Afrikareprezenta qui m’a dépanné de quelques projecteurs ; de mon grand frère et de son ami qui m’ont prêté leurs appartements. Je ne peux citer tout le monde, mais c’était juste génial.

Cela m’a donné envie de repartir faire un film là-bas! C’est dans ce but-là que je prévoie d’y tourner « Cinq boîtes de lait »!

Le cinéma ivoirien essaye de s’imposer. Quelle contribution veux-tu faire ?
Le Cinéma Ivoirien a encore beaucoup de choses à prouver…J’ai bien évidemment envie de devenir la première réalisatrice ivoirienne à décrocher un Oscar. (Rires) ! Honnêtement, j’ai juste envie d’avoir la même chance qu’un réalisateur français ou qu’un réalisateur américain (pour ne citer que ces exemples-là).

Mais chez moi, il n’existe quasiment aucune aide pour soutenir les projets cinématographiques. J’ai contacté un ami qui travaille dans un des nombreux ministères inutiles du gouvernement, et il m’a dit que « l’Etat pouvait me faire un prêt pour financer mon court-métrage, que je devrais rembourser avec un taux (si je ne dis pas de bêtises) de 12% ». J’ai failli avoir une attaque quand j’ai lu ça. Je n’en revenais pas…

Les Ivoiriens ont perdu l’habitude d’aller au cinéma de façon générale… Alors dès qu’il y a un « film ivoirien » qui sort dans la « seule » (si je n’exagère pas) salle de cinéma de la ville, les jeunes surtout, des quartiers chics, se déplacent… La fracture culturelle est le reflet de la fracture sociale. Comme la plupart aime à le dire : « on n’arrive même pas à manger alors, aller au cinéma… ». C’est triste, mais c’est vrai…Le quotidien a pris le dessus sur le rêve.

Mais pour ce que j’en sais, en Côte d’ivoire, il y a de plus en plus de tournage. Malheureusement, à mon avis, plus de tournage de clips que de fictions mais j’espère que cela va changer rapidement ! Au pays, il n’y a pas assez de films ivoiriens de qualité qui sont proposés et il n’y a pas de salle de cinéma pour profiter du plaisir de regarder des films sur grand écran.C’est aux « autorités compétentes » de mettre en place des infrastructures dignes de ce nom pour que les Ivoiriens profitent de leur culture, plutôt que de consommer celles des autres à outrance… Ce qui forcément agit sur leurs façons de voir le monde et sur leurs attitudes. Il y a tellement à dire…

Mais je retiens qu’il y a un véritable désir de créer des projets cinématographiques de qualité (y en a marre des sitcoms, ils ne résument pas le cinéma ivoirien) de la part de jeunes ivoiriens qui se rendent compte qu’eux aussi ont une vision de ce monde et qu’ils peuvent la partager avec la planète. On a juste besoin que l’on croit en nous et qu’on nous aide. J’ai entendu quelqu’un dire que l’avenir du cinéma est en Afrique… et je le crois profondément. Nous allons utiliser la technologie créée par l’Occident pour raconter nos histoires ! On a tout à gagner, alors s’il vous plait, misez sur nous.

Quelles sont vos expériences avec les réalisateurs et professionnels Ivoiriens ?

Pendant le tournage de « Babi » en 2010, j’ai réussi à monter une petite équipe, et on a fait du très bon boulot… J’espère retravailler avec elle à chaque fois que j’aurai un tournage à faire là-bas… J’ai aussi appris qu’il faut beaucoup, mais alors beaucoup de répétitions avec les comédiens. (Rires).

J’ai rencontré le réalisateur Arantess de Bonalii qui a une vraie vision pour le cinéma ivoirien, c’est un des pionniers là-bas, il m’a beaucoup aidé pour ce court jusqu’à me prêter son appartement, entre autres choses, pour que j’y tourne. Je ne le remercierai jamais assez !

J’ai aussi rencontré un jeune réalisateur Armand Breh, une véritable force de la nature quand on connaît son parcours. Il a réalisé son premier court-métrage de fiction « Une minute de silence » (en rapport avec la guerre en Côte d’ivoire en 2011) avec pratiquement rien, aujourd’hui il est en montage. Et pourtant il a demandé de l’aide sur Internet via Ulule, mais personne n’est allé jusqu’au bout de ses promesses, mais il a quand même fait son film. Avec des moyens, ça aurait eu une autre gueule, c’est sûr, mais la qualité technique est au rendez-vous, et je l’encourage vivement à continuer sur sa lancée. Ces personnes-là m’épatent de par leurs déterminations, ils n’attendent rien comme aide, ils persévèrent , se débrouillent et ne comptent que sur Dieu pour qu’il les mène au bout de leurs rêves ! J’ai tant à apprendre d’eux… Moi qui me décourage si vite.

Je déplore aussi le fait que les réalisateurs ivoiriens, que ce soit sur les séries ou sur les longs-métrages, ne fassent pas appel à des techniciens plus compétents de la même nationalité qu’eux ou africains qui vivent en Europe, pour sublimer leurs images. Et quand je postule auprès de ces réalisateurs, ils ont peur de s’engager à cause de ce que je leur coûterais ; c’est-à-dire le billet d’avion et mon cachet ! Alors ils flippent et se contentent des techniciens locaux qui n’ont pas assez de formations techniques ou artistiques. Ce que je comprends, bien que je le déplore.

Mais ce qui m’énerve le plus, c’est quand ils font partir des techniciens européens en Afrique pour leurs films. Ça, franchement ça m’énerve ! J’ai juste envie de leur crier : « purée je suis là, vous ne voyez pas que je suis autant compétente qu’eux, et en plus je suis africaine comme vous, donc j’ai un avantage ». (Rires)

Quelles sont les différences de travailler en Côte d’Ivoire et en France ?
Chaque pays à ses réalités ! Je ne sais pas vraiment comment les gens travaillent en Côte d’ivoire, je n’y ai fait qu’un petit court-métrage.Mais j’ai remarqué qu’il n’y a pas beaucoup de techniciens compétents ; il y a des tentatives…des tentatives. Mais il y a encore du chemin à faire !

La plupart des gens du milieu (techniciens surtout) ne bossent jamais pour rien, ils s’en fichent de votre projet tant qu’ils se font de l’argent… ils n’en ont rien à faire des galères que vous avez pour monter le projet. Il n’y a aucun échange artistique ! La plupart des gens là-bas ne font pas ce métier par passion… mais pour de l’argent ! Cela dit, il en existe des passionnés.

Et surtout beaucoup de gens se disent « réalisateur », en l’espace de 3 ans, le nombre de réalisateurs à Abidjan a quadruplé… La plupart ne savent même pas ce que ça veut dire que d’être réalisateur, mais parce qu’ils possèdent un DSLR, alors ils le sont. Ça me rend folle… (Rires) !

Il n’existe pas d’acteurs ivoiriens, ou alors c’est qu’ils n’habitent pas en Côte d’Ivoire ! Là-bas, le jeu est théâtral…C’est fatigant et linéaire. même s’il y en a quelques-uns qui tirent leurs épingles du jeu, et je leur souhaite de continuer ! La vie est dure là-bas, alors les gens font ce qu’ils peuvent.

En France, pour l’instant, je suis dans les bas-fonds… (Rires) ! Sérieusement, ici les gens sont prêts à vous donner un coup de main quand ils croient en votre projet, on peut faire un court-métrage sans « payer » personne. Il y a plus de liberté de création. On trouve des techniciens talentueux, des comédiens qui vous arrachent les tripes, et des idées artistiques à en devenir jaloux. Je me sens privilégiée de travailler ici, malgré les difficultés.

Malgré la liberté que j’ai à bosser en France, je préfère quand même faire du cinéma en Afrique… Cela dit, je ne me mets aucune barrière… les films que j’ambitionne de faire n’auront d’autre étiquette que ma nationalité !

Comment est le milieu cinématographique dans lequel tu travailles en France. Français classique, international, africain, féminin, jeune, tous ?
J’ai eu la chance depuis que j’ai intégré ce milieu, de rencontrer des personnes qui m’ont encouragée à persévérer, à croire en mon potentiel et surtout en moi, comme mes amis Maxwell Cadevall et Jeremy Strohm, entre autres. Une jeune fille Black chef op, on n’en voit pas beaucoup, j’aimerais rencontrer d’autres jeunes filles comme moi à ce poste.

Jeremy m’a « formée » un peu à la lumière, c’est à son contact que j’ai compris que j’aimais être directeur photo. Il déteste quand je dis ça (Rires) !

Et Maxwell m’a donné ma chance en tant que directeur photo sur son long-métrage « Jeux de couples », une super expérience ! J’ai hâte que le film sorte. (Rires) !

Je suis aussi tombée sur des personnes remplies de préjugés envers moi, ma couleur de peau, mon poids et ma façon d’être ! Ces personnes bornées qui se prennent pour le centre de l’univers ou pour des réalisateurs et techniciens géniaux. Ça m’écœure !

J’essaie juste de m’adapter aux gens avec lesquels je travaille, mais j’avoue que je rencontre quelques difficultés du fait qu’il y a certains comportements auxquels je n’adhère pas du tout et que je ne sais pas faire semblant ! Je suis honnête avant toute collaboration professionnelle… Y en a qui aiment, d’autres pas ! Mais je m’en fiche ! Et puis mon côté africain ne passe pas auprès de tous, malheureusement  (Rires) !

J’essaie de le corriger en m’intégrant,mais ça me déstabilise beaucoup ! Je m’en formalise de moins en moins, je reste fidèle à moi-même et à mes principes. Je suis qui je suis.

J’admire tous les talents que je rencontre, je me compare à eux, je les écoute et j’apprends d’eux. J’espère devenir une meilleure personne un peu plus chaque jour à leurs contacts.

C’est un milieu d’hypocrites, vraiment. Mais Dieu merci, on rencontre des personnes formidables qui vous donnent l’impression que vous en valez la peine. Ce n’est pas facile au quotidien, mais je m’accroche… (Rires) !

Tes projets en cours… ?
J’ai beaucoup de projets. Il le faut d’ailleurs ! Mis à part le fait que je suis technicienne sur les projets des autres, je prépare un de mes prochains courts, « Cinq boîtes de lait », basé sur une nouvelle du même nom d’une talentueuse amie, écrivaine, Yehni Djidji. C’est une histoire qui se déroule pendant les événements qui ont défiguré la Côte d’Ivoire début 2011 !  On souhaite avec Yehni, rendre hommage, à travers de ce film, à toutes les victimes innocentes de cette stupide guerre entre égoïstes, qui ne pensent qu’à eux et non au peuple. C’est malheureusement l’histoire de l’Afrique depuis déjà trop longtemps. Cela doit cesser ; et j’espère que ce film sera vu en Afrique et en dehors, afin que les peuples prennent conscience de ce qu’ils sont pour ces dirigeants ; et qu’ils puissent dire : Stop, on en a marre !

J’ai foi que ce moment arrivera…

Entretien réalisé par Beti Ellerson, mars 2012.

27 March 2012

IFEMA - International Female Film Festival 2012 - Malmö, Sweden

Welcome to IFEMA 2012 from April 2nd to April 4th

Monday April 2, is the opening of Ifema, International female film festival, on cinema Spegeln in Malmö, Sweden.
The sixth edition of Ifema includes 12 films, both documentaries and feature films. 
The festival closes with "Shorts & Champagne", a composition of 6 films, with Swedish and international directors. 
The festival this year, shows films from five continents and has a special focus on Africa. The films describe how a typical day might look like. Or how a boy saves his father's soul. They are all made by women, of course. 
You can buy tickets for the festival from March 8 at Kulturcentralen.

FILMS

Feature-debutante Hawa Essuman, Kenya, has directed the award-winning movie "Soul Boy" in close collaboration with Tom Tykwer, who is the producer of the film. It takes place in East Africa's largest slum, Kibera, and despite the surroundings, it is a film full of hope and joy, about a young boy becoming a hero and a symbol of all those living in slums. 

"Soul Boy" won this year the prize for best feature film at Luxor African Film Festival Nile. 

The acclaimed Japanese director Naomi Kawase contributes with the film "Hanezu", a symbolic drama filled with Buddhist overtones, which, with a poetic imagery tells how karma is passed from generation to generation. "Hanezu" was in competition at Cannes 2011. 

The events in North Africa affects in a slightly different way, through a documentary by director Nadia El Fani, "Neither Allah, nor Master". She began filming in the middle of Ramadan. The story she wants to tell, is about the Tunisians, who are fighting and demonstrating for a Tunisia, where religion and state are separated. Three months later, the ”Arab spring” burst out in Tunisia. 

"The Mexican Suitcase" is a documentary by Trisha Ziff. The film depicts it in Spain, as good as taboo subject - the Civil War. It also tells of three brave photographers who documented what was happening around them. They understood that the photographs were dynamite, and hid them away, in Mexico. A few years ago, scientists discovered them in a closet in Mexico. The photographers were Gerda Taro, Robert Capa and David "Chima" Seymour. 

SEMINARS 

During the festival, three seminars will be held.

"Multiplatform stories: case study" with the French producer Sandrine Girbal. She will share strategies how you can work with content in multiple channels. 

The Argentine filmmaker and educator Ana Zanotti is holding a seminar where participation culture is in focus and how to use the film in such contexts - "Crossing boundaries through participation and film." 

From South Africa, Jyoti Mistry, filmmaker and professor, she touches the question: is there a female film language? - "The Conditions for filmmaking as women". 

26 March 2012

IBW (Images of Black Women) Film Festival 2012 - Press Release

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
Thursday 15th March
IBW FILM FESTIVAL 2012
‘Nearly a Decade of Film’
www.imagesofblackwomen.com
IBW (Images of Black Women) Film Festival taking place from 13 April to 15 April at The Tricycle Theatre, London is very excited to celebrate black female filmmakers and the diversity of the Diaspora Cinema. In its 8th year, the festival serves as advocate for “cinematic justice” for the black woman, too often absent, mute and stereotypically represented on the big screen. IBW considers it paramount to offer a platform that stimulates change, promotes and encourages individual and collective initiative in filmmaking and audience experience.

This year, we kick off the festivities with an impressive double-bill. The UK premieres the compelling documentary on sport legend JESSE OWENS by acclaimed director Laurens Grant, followed by the gritty but stylish depiction of teen angst; YELLING TO THE SKY starring an affecting performance by Zoë Kravitz (daughter of the mixed race half Bahamian & Jewish actor/singer Lenny Kravitz), nominated for a Golden Bear at last year Berlinale.

Saturday 14 April showcases films that encapsulate the Caribbean experience, whilst offering a selection of shorts and features with particular focus on womanhood and the islands, featuring the romantic comedy ONE LOVE starring Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani Marley and Idris Elba. From Guadeloupe we have the poetic huis-clos BLOODY ROOTS (Fichues Racines) and the celebrated series titled WOMEN WEST INDIES DIASPORA produced by the Guadeloupian -Trinidadian filmmaker couple: Stephanie & Steve James in attendance.

Saturday is also marked by two challenging seminars and talks starting with a refreshing look at the evolving image of the black actress and what the future holds with guest speakers in What next for the Black Actress?. The second event is an interactive discussion Small Talk, Big Talk – Black Women’s representation in the 21st century with a formal presentation, exclusive spoken word performances, shorts and a photographic exhibition.

On Sunday 15 April, IBW presents a BAFTA-winning quirky and heartfelt short film MWANSA THE GREAT, the highly recommended sweet comedy PLAYING WARRIORS and the acclaimed and powerful drama ANCHOR BABY starring Nigerian superstar Omoni Oboli.

IBW does not only exhibit the best of diversity in cinema but it also provides a dynamic portal for creative networking.

We close the festival on a stimulating and upbeat note: come and join us to discuss tips on how to make your mark in the film industry. Hosted by Lorna Stewart founder & director of mentoring agency Black 100+, this is a fantastic and unique opportunity to share experiences and discuss the dos & don’ts. It has now been nearly a decade and IBW Film Festival continues to remain the one and only festival resolute in its commitment to celebrate and promote the diversity of black women in film, and to challenge stereotypical depictions of black women on screen both in the UK and abroad.

Only two years to go before our 10th anniversary...
-------------------------------End--------------------------------------

Press Enquiries:
Alexandra Dorisca (07588172775) - Alexandra@imagesofblackwomen.com
Sylviane Rano (07876155228) - Sylviane.rano@imagesofblackwomen.com

General Enquiries: ibwfilmfestival@yahoo.co.uk
Notes to Editors

1. IBW Film Festival Ltd is the continuity of Images of Black Women Film Festival in the United Kingdom. Ground breaking, unique, rare: Images of Black Women festival, three days of pure and real delight. Platform to promote the Black Diaspora cinema with a focus on women of African descent such as film directors, producers, actresses, etc.

2. IBW Mission is to raise the profile of and increase the visibility of African & African-Caribbean women in film,

3. The Festival takes place from 13th to 15th April at The Tricycle Cinema, Kilburn, NW6 7JR

4. The full festival programme will be available online from 16th March 2012 at

25 March 2012

Report on Mis Me Binga 2012, The third edition of the international women’s film festival

Interview with Narcisse Wandji, the chief representative of Mis Me Binga and translation from French to English by Beti Ellerson, 25 March 2012. The third edition of the international women’s film festival was held from 8 to 11 March in Yaoundé Cameroon.

Greetings Narcisse, what are your impressions of the 3rd edition of Mis Me Binga 2012?

Well, the Festival was a success. This third edition hailed 250 films from across the globe and welcomed as many as 5,000 participants.

This year the festival saw the birth of a network of film festival organisers from Cameroon, which are currently working on its charter, of which the details will be given to you later.

In addition, we had the honour of welcoming Professor Ute Fendler, who teaches African studies and cinema at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. She discussed the economic issues regarding the film industry in Africa. It was very inspiring!

The prizes and winners for 2012…

In terms of the prizes, I must note that the jury’s task was not at all easy. Out of 250 films, 30 were selected.

The festival awards three prizes each year: The Golden Minga for the best fiction film, the Golden Minga for the best documentary and the Special jury prize.

The Golden Minga for the best fiction film was awarded for El Padre (The Father) by Patricia Venti from Spain. The Special jury prize was awarded for Zebu and the Photofish to Kenyan Zippy Nyaruri.

The jury did not award the Golden Minga for best documentary this year because in their estimation, none of the documentaries met the necessary standards for the prize. While the themes of the films were relevant, their superficial treatment and technical problems were the factors that prevented the selection of a film that merited the award.

However, two films received an honourable mention, Computer by Peggy Mbiyu from Kenya and Nebuleuse by Sandrine Batsotsa from Cameroon.

In your opinion, what could better ensure that the quality of the film selections are up to par in order to not have the reoccurrence of the documentary category without a prize awarded?

Good question! In the first place, we did not receive many documentaries, which, to note, were short films. All of the films were made African women filmmakers, the majority of whom are self-taught. Therefore, there is a serious problem of training. This is the only explanation that I can give at the moment. And as I already stated, there were very serious technical problems, especially with the audio. As well as the superficial treatment of the subject matter.

I know that there are many great female documentarists on the continent but those who sent their films, need a bit more work in terms of training.

Perhaps a workshop devoted to technical aspects of documentary filmmaking and scriptwriting in order to master the craft! Does this kind of initiative exist within the Mis Me Binga infrastructure?

Yes we have had two workshops in 2010 and 2011 and the films that were made from the workshop will be released for the 2013 or 2014 Festival.

Compte rendu de Mis Me Binga 2012, 3ème édition du festival international de films de femmes

Entretien avec Narcisse Wandji, le délégué général du Mis Me Binga, par Beti Ellerson le 25 mars 2012. La 3ème édition du festival international de films de femmes a eu lieu du 8 au 11 mars 2012 à Yaoundé Cameroun.

Bonjour Narcisse, quelles sont tes impressions sur la 3ème Edition du Mis Me Binga 2012 ?

Et bien le Festival a été une réussite. Cette 3è édition a connu la participation de 250 films venus de tous les coins du globe. Nous avons compté la participation d'environ 5.000 personnes. Le festival a vu naître cette année un réseau d'organisateur de festival de films au Cameroun. Et ce réseau travaille à présent sur son statut. Donc les détails te seront donnés plus tard.

Il faut dire aussi que nous avons eu l'honneur d'accueillir la Professeure Ute Fendler, professeure des études africaines et du cinéma à l'Université de Bayreuth en Allemagne. Elle nous a entretenu sur la thématique de l'industrie cinématographique et l'enjeu économique en Afrique. C'était génial !

Et les palmarès et ses lauréates pour cette édition…

Pour ce qui concerne les palmarès, il faut dire que la tâche du jury n'a pas été facile. 30 films ont été retenus sur les 250 films. Le Festival décerne 3 prix chaque année: Le Minga d'or du meilleur film fiction, le Minga d'or du meilleur documentaire et le Prix spécial du jury.

Le Minga d'or du Meilleur film fiction a été attribué à El Padre (Le père) de l'Espagnole Patricia Venti. Le Prix Spécial du Jury a été décerné au film Zebu and the Photofish [Zebu et le photopoisson] de la Kenyane Zippy Nyaruri.

Le Jury n'a pas décerné le Minga d'or du meilleur documentaire cette année. Le Jury a estimé qu'il n'y avait pas de documentaire à la hauteur du prix. Les sujets traités par ces documentaires étaient certes très pertinents, seulement la légèreté dans leur traitement et les problèmes techniques n'ont pas permis de trouver un documentaire pouvant mériter ce prix.

Toutefois deux mentions spéciales ont été décernées à deux films, Computer de la Kenyane Peggy Mbiyu et Nebuleuse de la Camerounaise Sandrine Batsotsa.

À ton avis, comment assurer que la qualité des films sélectionnés soit à la hauteur pour ne pas se trouver sans remise de prix pour la catégorie du meilleur documentaire ?
Bonne question ! Déjà nous n'avons pas reçu beaucoup de films documentaires. Il faut préciser que ce sont des films court-métrage documentaires. Et tous ces films court-métrage documentaires sont faits par des réalisatrices africaines et la plupart sont autodidactes. Donc il y a un sérieux problème de formation. C'est la seule explication que je peux donner à présent. Il y a vraiment de sérieux problème technique, notamment au niveau du son. Et le traitement de leur sujet qui se caractérise par une légèreté.

Je sais qu'il y a de très grandes documentaristes sur le continent mais celles qui nous ont fait parvenir leurs films ont encore besoin de travailler, je veux dire de formation.

Peut-être un atelier de travail sur la technique et le scénario pour perfectionner la réalisation du documentaire ! Existe-t-il ce genre d'initiative au sein du Mis Me Binga ?

Oui, nous en avons fait deux ateliers, en 2010 et en 2011 et les films issus de ces ateliers sont attendus pour 2013 ou 2014 au Festival Mis Me Binga.

15 March 2012

Claude Haffner: "Black Here, White There" | "Footprints of My Other "

Claude Haffner with her grandmother
An interview with Franco-Congolese filmmaker Claude Haffner by Beti Ellerson regarding her documentary film, Footprints of My Other (2012)
Claude, a moving autobiographical story about your place “in between”—black and white as a racial signifier, Africa and Europe—their contrasting beliefs and customs, class, status and gender—what you represent as an Alsatian and its contradictions as a Congolese. I also discern your need to redefine yourself in relationship to your father and mother—a liberation, as you call it, and finally as an expectant mother, your research on the formation of identity and how you will transmit your own multiple identity to your child with the hopes that she will be able to find, as you have between black and white, her own colour. Some reflections?

Initially, I wanted to make a film that focused solely on the diamond operations and the turmoil that I discovered the first time I went to the Congo. I saw the poverty in which my mother's family lived, and I wanted to talk about this heartbreaking reality in a different manner than that presented by the media, that is to say without the tendency to dwell on the sordid side of life, which I hate. I looked for a way to educate and at the same time not bore the viewer, but also that he or she may be able to identify with the story, whether the person is black, white or any other colour of the rainbow. I knew that to bring it to the screen, I had to enter into the story. But I did not at all imagine that I would talk about myself, my history, my bi-raciality.

Then I contacted the South African producer/director Ramadan Suleman to propose the project. Ramadan read the draft and immediately called me back to say that he liked the idea a lot and he was prepared to produce the film, however he thought that I had to be more involved in it since it was my family, my country, my feelings; that this aspect should be more pronounced. So I added my individual history to the story.

But what is wonderful about the documentary is that no matter how much one may write and rewrite the script, at the end it is the characters and the scenes that are shot that will decide the final product. The issue of culture, of being mixed-race, the place between father and mother, the transmission of identity to the child, none of these themes were written. They emerged during the filming. I had not planned to talk about skin colour with my cousins for example. It’s what is called the "magic of the documentary." At least that's the way I love films and how I would like to make them. Not knowing everything in advance about how the film will look, not forcing situations in order to relate the story, but rather leaving room for unanticipated situations. The film should redefine itself as the shooting unfolds in the same way that the filmmaker redefines herself in relation to her initial idea and to her subject. This is evident in the fact that in 2004 I could not foresee that I would be expecting a child after having filmed in the Congo, and that I would actually include myself, while pregnant, during the scenes in Alsace. Somehow, the film helped me to define my identity and my place between Europe and Africa and to become aware of the richness that I possess to have come from a double culture or perhaps I should say, multiple.

Through your narration and the family photo album we find that the story is also about your parents who also lived in between—Africa and Europe, your father Pierre Haffner, whose passion for African cinema takes him to the Congo to teach, and which continues upon his return to France. But more visibly of your mother, who is black living in a white world, African living in a European culture and more poignantly a Congolese woman escaping the poverty that her family must endure. How did their experience influence you?

One cannot tell everything in 52 minutes, and I unfortunately could not construct the theme that was dearest to my heart, which would relate a bit more in detail the story of my maternal family. Actually, my mother and her siblings were born, raised and educated in Katanga and not Kasaï, which is the land of our ancestors where my grandparents were born. However they left for Katanga to live as newlyweds. There, my grandfather was a chauffeur and earned enough money to offer a decent life and education to his children. But in the 1990s, Mobutu drove out the Kasaïans from Katanga, and told them to go back "home" (as the European Jews were sent to live in Israel after World War II). My mother’s brothers had never set foot in Kasaï, as there was no work for them. This is where my family’s situation began to deteriorate.

I wanted to clarify this point, because it is important to help understand that my mother had attended school and received a religious education by the Belgian nuns during the colonial period and immediately afterwards. And as many Africans of her generation who had completed high school or university, she had already been exposed to European culture even before she and my father met. So for a long time, I was not really aware of my family’s poverty. I of course realised that we were extremely privileged compared to them, but to be honest it did not prevent me from sleeping at night. As the saying goes: "out of sight, out of mind". For me we lived in Alsace, and as a child I was not at all aware of what my mother was living "in exile" in Strasbourg. We lived in a nice neighbourhood; there were children of all races and all religions in my school, I did not ask any questions on this existential "in between-ness". I thought it was cool to be of mixed race, because my parents kept telling me it was a great opportunity to bring colour in the bouquet of the world. And this has been true until the day I went to Kasaï. Suddenly I was a foreigner there, a stranger in my own family, a foreigner of the culture, of the history. I was pleased with this experience, but as I stated in the film, I was very uncomfortable. To really understand, one must experience things for oneself. And with maturity, one observes the world differently, asking new questions. In other words, the experiences of my parents would remain abstract as long as I had not been confronted with Africa.
Growing up with your father’s interest in African cinema, how did this experience shape you as filmmaker and also as film critic? I’m thinking of your research “Le documentaire africain, un remède éventuel aux maux dont souffre le cinéma africain?” and “D'une fleur double et de quatre mille d'autres.”

In fact, very early my father made me aware of cinema, as he organised film screenings at home for my friends and I in Kinshasa, when I was barely two years old. And then filmmaking professionals were part of the family. Ousmane Sembene was godfather to my brother for example. But when I was preparing for my school diploma and my father asked me what I wanted to study, I told him I wanted to go to film school and he categorically refused because he wanted me to do some "serious" studies. So I opted to study history. But the idea of making films did not leave me, and parallel to my history degree, I enrolled in my father’s film classes. When I submitted my first paper to my father, I was nervous, as he was very strict with me. I had no room for error. He telephoned me after reading it and told me that my paper was excellent and that he was very proud, acknowledging that I had mastered film culture. After graduation, he agreed to let me go to Paris to continue audiovisual studies at university.

At that time, I wanted to be continuity supervisor. I made dozens of short films while working in that capacity, and my father liked the idea because it was a job as a worker like other technicians. I think he was afraid that this difficult world of cinema would swallow me, and I am grateful to him because it gave me the strength to meet the challenge and go further. And as it were, the death of my father made me decide to make my first documentary. On the one hand, the first barrier between filmmaking and me had fallen, and on the other hand I had to honour his memory by remaining "serious". The documentary is a very serious form of expressing stories in images, and it operates as a continuation of my passion for history. As for my experience in film criticism, it allowed me to reflect on the field in order to define my own film language. But I'm not interested in film criticism, per se. Because it is so difficult to make a film, I do not like writing about a film that I do not like. Though one cannot only critique films that one likes. However I love teaching, and when I get the opportunity from time to time, at an association event, at a school or university, I take great pleasure in talking about films that I like.

You choose to focus most of the story, around 40 minutes, on your experiences in the Congo, as a return to your ancestral homeland. The first time accompanied by your mother, which you describe as having experienced the reality of Congo as you hid behind her, and the second time alone, having been “liberated”, you were now trying to “find your place.” Your mother talks about raising you and your brother totally acculturated into Alsatian culture, and you lament about not having learned Lingala. Why this physical alienation from Africa, in a household full of books, music, sculpture and paintings and with a father whose expertise is in African culture?

I feel like saying "this is a question to pose to my parents!" Indeed, I think one first learns what is taught at school. And I received a French education. One shares the culture of one’s young classmates. And I was surrounded by children from diverse backgrounds, but not particularly African. And it's not because your parents have a library full of Nietzsche, for example, that you know or you are interested in philosophy. It is not because there is a Picasso on the wall that you know everything about Cubism. And if your parents speak French at home and do not teach you another language, I know few, especially children, who would go through the process of learning it. It is true that this is something I deeply regret about my childhood and I blamed my parents for it, but it's never too late to learn, to reconnect to one’s native culture. This is the message of the film. Life should not stop with what has been acquired, it is a permanent learning experience; this is what is wonderful about it.

In the film you talk about reconciling with your mother having better understood where she comes from, beginning to respect her, becoming closer to her. Reconciliation implies there were issues that had to be resolved. What prevented reconciliation before now?

I felt secondary to my mother’s concerns about her family in the Congo. I thought she spent too much time dealing with them and not enough on us. I suffered from her "absence." With age, one finally understands the complexity of life, and if one follows the path of wisdom, one is able to forgive.

As a viewer I was very touched by your putting yourself in such a vulnerable position when talking with your cousins about how you suffered from feelings of not belonging—as your cousin stated, being “in between”. Nonetheless, I found your cousins equally vulnerable as they had to deal with your European and light skin privilege—an assignment that you adamantly rejected. Some reflections? Why the choice in filming this encounter?

Again it is the miracle of the documentary that was in operation. In my scenario, it was written that I would be filmed exchanging formalities with my cousins. But, upon arriving in the family courtyard, I turned to the cameraperson, Donne Rundle, who was preparing the equipment, and I said: "Frankly, I do not know at all what I will say to them, we never talk to each other, I am not at all comfortable." Donne responded to me: "Well that's exactly what you're going to tell them!" And I am very grateful to her, because for this sequence and others, her support was invaluable. During the editing everyone was touched by that moment, it was imperative that this scene turn out well! We spent days on it, editing and reediting, because it became pivotal to the film. It, in fact, determined the film's title, which was originally to be called “Kasaï”.

I discerned a bit of a feminist moment when you asked why as a woman, you could not participate in the ancestral mourning ceremony. On the other hand, you exerted power in the context of class and wealth, distributing money to your relatives—men and women, all very appreciative of your gift. Some reflections on these contrasting roles?

Feminist, I do not know! But it is clear that I did not expect this, since in many communities that I visited the women were the ones who spoke to the dead and who wept. And here I am with someone I do not know, who I had only met for the first time, and who will do the ceremony in my place. That's why at the end of the film, it was important for me to do my own "ceremony" in Alsace. To say, "yes, I respect the tradition of the Baluba in their land, but elsewhere I do it my way." However, if there is feminism in the film, it is in honouring my grandmother, my aunt, my cousins and all the women of Africa and elsewhere who fight to "keep the pots turning" as the governor of Kasaï said. That's why I wanted to end with the idea that there are solutions for our country and our people to lift themselves out of poverty, starting with the focus on girls’ education.

In constructing your story there were of course some things that you left out for various reasons. What cinematic choices did you make to tell this story?

Oh yes, there are many themes that I wanted to cover and that I had to give up along the way, because I could not deal with everything in 52 minutes, which is the format of the TV documentary. I especially wanted to present more information on the historical background of the Congo from the 70s until today. I also wanted to talk about the history of my ethnic group the Baluba, who has suffered from the "pogroms" and is known for being rebellious and combative. And above all I wanted to denounce the exploitation of diamonds and looting in my region. But all of these deserve the space of at least a two-hour film or a series. You have to play the game and make choices, even if they are extremely hard to do.

The film ends with a quote by your father: “In order to journey still a bit further in the miracle.” In what context did he say this and what does it mean to you and for this story you have told?

I found this phrase in one of his books, and strangely, I do not remember which one (I looked for it before editing the film, but I still have not found it). His fellow artists wanted to create an original work for his tombstone, and I found this epitaph. Because my father was an optimist humanist, I felt that this sentence reflected his thoughts, his philosophy. And I think that he gave me this gene. In any case, this is the manner in which I wanted to construct and conclude the film: Yes it is hard, yes it is severe, yes there is poverty, yes there is suffering in the world and among people, but nothing is definitive and impossible. Life is a journey that continues into death, which is not an inevitability in my view, but rather a continuum: a miracle, in the extraordinary sense of the word. Yes life is an extraordinary journey.
Interview with Claude Haffner and translation from French by Beti Ellerson, March 2012.