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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.


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06 November 2010

Ouméma Mamadali discusses her film Baco (Comoros)

Ouméma Mamadali discusses her film Baco (Comoros)

by Ouméma Mamadali and Kabire Fidaali
Fiction - 60min - 1997
From the African Women in Cinema Archives
Excerpted from the interview with Ouméma Mamadali, held at the 15th FESPACO, February 1997, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. First published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film, Video and Television by Beti Ellerson (Africa World Press, 2000).

The film uses storytelling to bring together the issues of democracy, gender, and the economy in the Comoros Islands.

The story takes place in Comoros and is, in fact, a satire on democracy in the Third World, but the story is presented in the form of a tale.  A child recalls what happened in his family.  It is a story about his father, who has several wives.  Ninety-nine percent of Comorians are Muslims.  Baco, which means the elder, the wise man, or the grandfather, is the principal character.  He is married to ten women, has fifty children and a hundred or so grandchildren.  He is a peasant who lives a relatively comfortable lifestyle because he owns several plantations.

I will note that Comoros is the premier producer in the world of fragrant flowers, and in particular ilang-ilang.  Ilang is a flower that goes through a distillation process and its oil serves as a base for all the great perfumes.  Baco has several plantations where he cultivates ilang.
He begins to notice that his wives, children, and grandchildren do not agree with him anymore.  Because the price of ilang has fallen considerably, they no longer want to plant it.  There is a protest in the family, and Baco decides to call democratic-style elections to choose a chief of the clan, who is the person who will manage the domain.

Ouméma Mamadali elaborates on the feminine\masculine complementarity that was present in making the film with Kabire Fidaali.

It was a very special collaboration. Kabire is Malagasy and lives in Madagascar, but spends every vacation in Comoros; I was born in Comoros. Also there is a difference in age, Kabire is much older than me.  However, at two different periods we were taught the same thing.  We grew up in a similar environment.  Although we have a different perspective as a woman and a man, we have a similar sensibility that allows us to create something together. I think there is a richness that comes from working with a man and a possibility to be able to discover a common sensibility and way of seeing things. Even though there is a twenty-year difference in age between us, for me it has been a very rich experience.

Ouméma agrees that through their filmmaking relationship Kabire Fidaal discovered and appreciates her sensibility as a woman.

First of all, it is very difficult for two people to make something together, it takes a great effort…we have something is common. We have a vision that is complementary, as a woman and man.  For example, the personality of the women in the film evolved from our combined effort. We wrote the dialogue together. I had my ideas but he added to them.  And that is what is very rich.  I think the roles of the women, as well as the men, would have been different if I had work with a woman.

While they directed the film together, they both had specific tasks.  She describes the division of work between them.

The film was made thanks to the work of Kabire. He trained the technicians while he was in Comoros.  It was truly his personal and private initiative, with the help of no one.  With a small television subsidiary, Kabire trained the entire crew.  Now, thanks to him, Comoros has a technical crew capable of making films.  I do not have the technical capabilities, Kabire was the technical partner and I did the producing and writing.  Kabire did the camera; he trained a sound person on location. I did the directing and mise en scene.

Ouméma discusses the reception of the film as well as the themes that reflect the culture and society of Comoros.

It was quite particular: the women liked the film very much, and the men felt frustrated.  It is true that it was the women and not the men who said all the important things. Towards the end of the story, the people realize that it is a woman who is winning the elections and not a man.  A man stands up and says, "These elections must be recalled, its a disgrace," although it is one of Baco's daughters who is winning in the elections.

In Comoros, it is interesting because it is a Muslim society, but it is based on a matriarchal system.  When the woman marries, her father must build a house for his daughter and it is the husband who goes to live with his wife.  That is surprising in comparison to other Muslim countries, where this is not found.  In Comoros, the woman has a great deal of power.  Through her spouse or son, she decides everything, and she is the one behind every decision. In the cultural arena, it is the woman who comes out often and who organizes the events.  I think that may be the case in many parts of Africa.  But in any case, in Comoros, the women are much more dynamic and hardworking than the men.

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