Cannes 2019: Maïmouna N'Diaye
member of the jury | membre du jury interview/entretien by/par Falila Gbadamassi (AfriqueFrance Télévisions)
Translated excerpts from interview in French by Falila Gbadamassi. AfriqueFrance Télévisions. 13 05 2019
EN FRANÇAIS: https://www.francetvinfo.fr/culture/cinema/festival-de-cannes/maimouna-ndiaye-il-faut-que-le-cinema-africain-arrive-a-faire
Choice of pursuing a career in Africa rather than Europe:
I admit that I was very lucky. I grew up in Africa, studied in Europe and then came back to the continent. It is indeed a choice, because at one point in my career in Europe, I felt that I had more to gain by working in Africa and I wanted to do things from the continent. It seemed obvious to me.
When I finished my studies, I worked in TV series and feature films in France. And then, there was an off-peak and rather than waiting for roles that did not come, I thought it would be better to collaborate with directors on the continent. And to avoid having to wait between films and because I like to be active, I embarked on the production of documentaries. I have roles in the theatre, in TV series and in the cinema. I am always on the move, because I need it. In addition, if the film industry is to develop, African filmmakers must be allowed to work on location with us.
As ambassador of Fespaco in 2019: Its evolution at the 50th anniversary
There are many things that have changed and others not so much. This year, I had the great honour of being the image of the fiftieth anniversary of Fespaco (Pan-African Festival of Film and Television). This was a privilege for several reasons: First, it is a pan-African festival, my diverse background and my cultural identities echo this [born in Paris of a Senegalese father and a Nigerien mother, grew up in Guinea, lived in France, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal before settling in Burkina Faso]. So I feel that I am at home in all of these places, and am very comfortable. I am international, pan-African and of African descent. I do not see my colour, but I know my cultures. Then, L’Œil du cyclone | The Eye of the Hurricane (2015) and the 12 awards that I received worldwide, and the film itself which received 80, certainly played an important part.
I think that the place of women in our African cinemas has evolved a great deal. They are more and more present in films, even if their roles remain stereotypes, whereas there are other characters to embody. On the technical side, the situation has also changed. It started with women directors, women cinematographers, sound and lighting engineers… They have pushed to be recognised and have asserted themselves in this environment of men. The advent of digital technology has helped to facilitate access to women. They are not only makeup artists, scriptwriters or editors. At this level, the situation has really evolved and it is a pleasure.
…at the level of productions, [African] filmmakers sometimes lack imagination or they do not want to take the time to unleash their imagination. I think that cinema has to make you dream, reflect and, why not, change mentalities or give another point of view. However, I find that we are still too close to what people live on a daily basis. I am a documentary filmmaker, so I will not criticize such an approach. Simply, I think that fiction must go beyond this.
Africans do not always want to see their reality in film, they want to be projected into another reality. People, young people especially, go to see foreign films because, in fact, they allow them to dream, they are taken elsewhere. Our cinema needs to get there. Our films must be seen in Africa and beyond, like all other productions. We have to make films, period! Even if we talk about African cinema, which is often classified as such, ultimately, a good film is a good film. We have to get there and we will succeed. The youth is on the way!
The regional disparity between Maghreb cinema/English-speaking countries and francophone regions in West and Central Africa
We need to understand in the francophone region that cinema is a real industry and that we must put in place genuine cultural policies so that cinema is funded at the level that it merits. Our policies must recognise that cinema pays. It is an idea that does not seem to get through.
Shooting a film involves setting up teams of women and men who, through their work, can support their families. I think that investing in cinema prevents us from having to sacrifice the education of young girls for the benefit of boys. To fund girls' education is to see what they are capable of! As long as cinema is only considered entertainment, we will not get there.