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 March 2016

When Alice Diop takes us "towards masculine tenderness" | Quand Alice Diop nous entraîne "vers la tendresse" au masculin by/de Sylvie Braibant – tv5monde

Alice Diop -
When Alice Diop takes us "towards masculine tenderness" | Quand Alice Diop nous entraîne "vers la tendresse" au masculin by/de Sylvie Braibant – tv5monde

Source: À lire en français. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

Alice Diop: "'Towards tenderness' - four young men speaking freely, locked in their sexual and romantic representations or on the verge of getting out of it."

The young filmmaker Alice Diop likes to position her gaze on the fringes. Her short film Vers la tendresse (Towards tenderness), in competition at the 38th International Women's Film Festival of Créteil, explores the romantic intimacy of four young men from the banlieue (outskirts) of Paris. A cinematic success.

One cannot help thinking that only a woman filmmaker could present this kind of perspective on such a slippery subject for a short film. While at the same moment in France and Germany, intellectuals are skinning each other alive regarding a text by writer Kamel Daoud on the cultural or religious frames of reference that would determine the sexual behavior of young migrants from the Maghreb.

"Initially, I wanted to make a fiction film about love in the banlieues. I did not know that these recorded voices would become the material for another film," says the director.

"These four encounters were fantastic. The quality of the dialogue that was given to me was fundamental. These boys were astonishing," she continued.

Alice Diop: “The film is a mise-en-sène of the voice off.”

It did not start as a film; but rather, audio-recorded conversations for another film project, which was to be fictional. Alice Diop went to meet these young men, who she regularly passes as she comes and goes home, to get them to speak about themselves, their private selves—a rare unveiling. They all grew up in the same neighborhood of Montreuil, east of Paris, between housing projects and the growing "bobo" (bourgeois/ bohemian) gentrification. But geography is their only commonality—their path on the meanderings of the heart is as diverse as they are.

Alice Diop: “We do not listen enough to men on this subject.”

She realises that this topic is usually discussed from a woman’s perspective. The various news items and incidents of violence against women are what generate media attention. She seeks to go beyond this dual external and internal discourse. Their stories are also about their fears.

The difficulty of being a man

The first, who was born in France, is so uptight that he goes on to say that "love is not for Africans", taking on an identity with those who remain locked out. He describes a sexuality damaged by pornography and the weight of the collective. The second feels comfortable, between despair and hope, that it wouldn’t take a great deal for other worlds to open up to him. The third made his "outing" and tells of a body encased inside a masculinity that he did not recognise, and the pretenses and difficulty of living a confirmed homosexuality openly. The last one has warmed up to the codes of tenderness, to the thoughtfulness of the desires of his partner and the give-and-take with each other.

One of the protagonists Patrick reflects on his painful journey as a young man attracted to other men...

In listening to their viewpoints, Alice Diop knew she had a film, and that the absence of images would give power to these sentiments. So she constructed a 40-minute documentary, propelled by the voices, the words placed on other bodies than those from which the voices emerge, while the other two interviewees were willing to be seen by the camera. These voices captivate in their intimacy, in their opposition, by their uniqueness to the group.

The role of the documentarian is to go beyond globalising discourse. What she seeks is the singular, and the complexity of these singularities, what each of these unique voices have to say…

Alice Diop: “For me, the man of the banlieue does not exist any more than the Arab man or African man.”

The result is a quintessential gracefulness of sound and image, which brushes aside all prejudices and makes one want to just listen again to what was just seen.

What motivates this young director, is to go towards the voices that are not heard, towards those who remain invisible in the public space, and to not be drawn into collective representations.

In the work she conducted with migrants, she identified the suffering, and with Ver la tendresse she searched for what it was to be a man, the difficulty to love, as much as universal quests. In both cases, her training as sociologist assists her; then she seeks to go beyond it.


Alice Diop has read Michel Foucault, and finds references in societal taboos: the difficulty of being and becoming a man in a ultra-sexualised world marked by advertising images, where love is reduced to a consumer product; or even the planetary wanderings of those tens of millions of migrants, refugees of wars and of misery, bodies and spirits neglected by the exodus.

The young director is also competing in the Cinema du Reel in Paris with La Permenance, another documentary (96 minutes) where Alice Diop follows the daily experiences of physician/psychiatrist Dr. Geeraert in his consultations reserved for undocumented immigrants. He examines the physical and psychic wounds of patients who, month after month, struggle to build a life here. Another topic on the fringes of our world…

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