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28 February 2017

Frontières, by/d'Apolline Traoré : “Four women tackling African integration” | Quatre femmes à l'assaut de l'intégration africaine by/par Sid-Lamine Salouka

Frontières, d'Apolline Traoré : “Four women tackling African integration” | Quatre femmes à l'assaut de l'intégration africaine 

Africine : published/publié 27-02-2017: by/par Sid-Lamine Salouka. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson.

[English] Français ci-après

The opening film of the 25th edition of the Pan African Festival of Cinema and Television in Ouagadougou (Fespaco) is a road movie by Apolline Traoré where, as usual, the Burkinabè filmmaker focuses on the empowerment of African woman. As the road movie is a cinematic genre that puts the voyage at the heart of its adventures, by its title ("Frontiers") Apolline Traoré's third feature is framed from the start as a fantastical journey of the problematic passage from one country to another. Indeed, the thread of the film is the trip from Dakar to Lagos by Hadjara (Amélie Mbaye), a Senegalese voyager who travels to buy goods for the women's association of which she is a member. In her crossing of West Africa, she meets and befriends three other women. The first is Emma (Naky Sy Savane), an Ivorian merchant who has been wayfaring on the roads for fifteen years without knowing why. In addition, there is Micha (Unwana Udobang), a Nigerian living in Burkina Faso who returns to her country to attend her sister's wedding, and eventually to reconcile with her family. Finally there is Sali (Adizétou Sidi), a young student of Bobo-Dioulasso who carries out a task for her fiancé in the capital of Nigeria. More than friendship, it is their similar quest that brings the heroines together: to free themselves from the authority of men and to assert themselves as people in their own right. If the purpose of this film is indeed African integration, especially within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it is the slice of life of a week on the road of the quartet that is supposed to keep the viewer in suspense. During their expedition, it is the excesses of the phallocratic powers in their raw versions, that each of the women is confronted, more so than the administrative and sovereign ideologies of the countries. These States, and the absurd laws on which they seem to be based, are only pretexts in the hands of corrupt policemen and customs officers. They are mainly men, for the women civil servants are exemplary, such as a police officer who stops a thief and a jewellery trafficker. Moreover, racketeering and sexual abuse are commonplace among men of power.

But this seems to be the common lot of the woman: the husband of Hadjara beats her daily, while the fiancé (manipulator) of Sali does not hesitate to involve her in drug trafficking without her being aware of it. However, the discovery of this trafficking on the border between Benin and Nigeria creates an even closer bond between the four women, who mount their attack against the rogue authority in official uniform, giving the film a certain suspense. Gender issues are a constant feature in Apolline Traoré's films. In her last feature ("Moi, Zaphira"), a young widow lives in a village called Lagassa. The word, which means "Vaurien" in Dioula, but is pronounced "Lakassa", carries the meaning "lay down and die". In this village, the men, who refuse to cultivate a fertile land, rely on foreign aid for their survival. Zaphira, who dreams of a better destiny for her daughter, disguises herself as a man, and is employed as a miner on a nearby gold mining site. In "Frontières", the destinies of courageous mothers are also celebrated; even if some of their methods are dubious. For example, in order to obtain a pass, Hadjara shamelessly seduces a Senegalese customs postmaster at the beginning of the film. But later, she puts herself at the head of a commando that saves Sali from being raped. If the second action is commendable, the first sounds like the behaviour of a slut...

This is one of the difficulties of the film, which tries to reconcile the political ambition of the co-producer, ECOWAS, and the personal cause of the filmmaker. Placed between these two desires, the scenario of Apolline Traoré remains weak in its construction. The four portraits of women appear as many layers that overlap though without any real depth. And the characters, far from having texture, appear like incomplete sketches. The actresses’ performance, which fails to restore the truth of the characters, reinforces this perception. This, even if the casting and the mise en scène have improved considerably compared to "Moi, Zaphira". Another proof of the wide discrepancy in the work is the need to justify the message by a speech in voiceover that literally kills the film. Clearly, Apolline Traoré's passage to the road movie, even if full of well-meaning intentions, reveals above all, the choice of a framework a bit too large.


Le film d'ouverture de la 25ème édition du Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou (Fespaco), est un road movie d'Apolline Traoré où, comme à son habitude, la réalisatrice burkinabèe se penche sur l'émancipation de la femme africaine.

Le road movie est un genre cinématographique qui met le voyage au cœur de ses péripéties. Par son titre ("Frontières") le troisième long métrage d'Apolline Traoré se pose d'emblée comme un parcours rocambolesque au cours duquel le passage d'un pays à un autre pose problème. En effet, le fil conducteur du film est le voyage que la Sénégalaise Hadjara (Amélie Mbaye) effectue de Dakar à Lagos ; elle doit y acquérir des marchandises pour de l'association féminine dans laquelle elle milite. Dans sa traversée de l'Afrique occidentale, elle rencontre trois autres femmes avec qui elle se liera d'amitié. Tout d'abord, il y a Emma (Naky Sy Savané), une commerçante ivoirienne qui traficote sur les routes depuis quinze ans sans plus savoir pourquoi. Outre Micha (Unwana Udobang), une Nigériane installée au Burkina qui rentre au pays pour assister au mariage de sa sœur et, éventuellement, pour se réconcilier avec les siens. Il y a enfin Sali (Adizétou Sidi), une jeune étudiante de Bobo-Dioulasso chargée par son fiancé de porter une commission dans la capitale du Nigéria.

Plus que l'amitié, une même quête réunit les héroïnes : s'affranchir de la tutelle des hommes et s'affirmer en tant que personnes à part entière. Lire l'article complet sur Africine.

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