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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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24 December 2017

Safi Faye to young filmmakers: “Dare! You are free to do whatever you want” by Mame Woury Thioubou. Le

Safi Faye to young filmmakers:
“Dare! You are free to do whatever you want”
by Mame Woury Thioubou.
Published, 8 December 2017.
Translated from French by Beti Ellerson

If Ousmane Sembène is considered one of the fathers of African cinema, Safi Faye is indeed the mother. Though she has been away from the camera for many years, the first woman filmmaker of Africa agreed to come out of her voluntary retirement to participate in the 4th Edition of the Saint-Louis Documentary Film Festival [Senegal], of which she is the guest of honor. On Wednesday, she presented a Masterclass with a focus on her film Lettre paysanne. Safi Faye urged the younger generation of filmmakers to "dare".

For several years filmmaker Safi Faye had moved out of the spotlight. Far from festivals and even further from the media, living peacefully between France and Senegal. However the heritage city of Saint-Louis welcomes her as part of the 4th Edition of the Saint-Louis Documentary Film Festival. Guest of honor at the festival, Safi Faye responded to a letter of invitation from the educational director of the Master's in documentary filmmaking at the l’Université Gaston Berger (UGB) of Saint-Louis. In his letter, Mamadou Sellou Diallo urged the illustrious elder to make herself known to this new generation of young filmmakers who, since 2003, have been constructing another gaze and imaginary on the screen. "For the numerous young people in Africa who have decided to make documentary films, fully aware of the absolute necessity of reconstituting a language that speaks anew to our societies and to give information regarding Africa to the world, it would be an honor to receive you.”

Touched by these words, Safi Faye agreed to come and present her film Lettre paysanne (Kaddu baykat) to the young film students in the  department. The Masterclass, which was held at UGB with the young people eager to learn from her experience, turned out to be an intergenerational exchange. “Dare!” is the advice that Safi Faye gave to these young students. “I encourage you to dare to imagine. You are free to do what you want”, urges Safi Faye in front of these students who fell under the spell of the film made in 1975. “It is a very militant and political film that was censored and whose end is a premonition,” Mamadou Sellou Diallo emphasizes. Indeed, in "Kaddu baykat", Safi Faye depicts the problems of a Senegalese peasantry bent under the yoke of an agricultural system dominated by groundnut cultivation. "The only use of groundnuts is to pay taxes", a farmer seated under the palaver tree states with indignation. “Peanut crops harm us,” another adds.

With the droughts of the 1970s, in the world of the peasantry, the consequences were devastating. Empty granaries do not prevent the State from claiming payment of debts from the peasants. “It's realism. We had sprinkled the farmers with pesticides and it caused a scandal,” recalls Dr Saliou Ndour of UGB. At the end of the film, one of the characters, Ngor, forced to look for work in the town with the hope of paying the dowry that will allow him to marry his fiancée Coumba, addresses the villagers urging them to remain on their land, which is more beautiful and serene than the big city. Dr. Ndour observes that this “remarkable film lays out the first warning signs of this movement of rural exodus whose consequences are still being felt today”. “What African countries went through in the 1970s is no different from what is happening now. The State is the principal enemy by its external-focus mode of operation”, asserts Abdoulaye, student of UGB.

A final work
As a teacher, Safi Faye simultaneously began studies in ethnology at the Sorbonne and studies in pedagogical cinema at Louis Lumière in Paris. “After the World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar in 1966, all the intellectuals spoke of an Africa that I did not know. I never had black professors. And I wanted to go to the Sorbonne to find out where I came from. I started learning anthropology and ethnology. And I saw my community that always told me about the negative side of the peasantry. In the film, they repeat what they had told me,” she explains to the students. These images that speak, these remarkable images that she filmed, “to allow her non-literate mother to read the images”.

Deeply rooted in her Serer traditions, Safi Faye draws on this breeding ground to explore and share the experiences of the Senegalese peasantry. “When my father speaks, I listen. That's why you'll see a lot of static shots in the film,” she explains. Away from the cinema world for many years, Safi Faye does not intend to put away her camera before giving a final oeuvre to posterity. “My current project talks about where I come from. I want to follow my journey beginning where I was born in the Gueule-Tapée. Then, I’m done”, she says to the young students, who have fallen under the spell of this “mother of African cinema”.

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