Cameroun, Belgique - 2023 - 93 minutes
Image: Tandor Productions
“For me and for my family in Cameroon, cinema was like a world apart where there were only incredible stories, embodied by incredible people. In my film, these incredible people are my family and the stories are their stories.”
« Pour moi et pour ma famille au Cameroun, le cinéma était comme un monde à part où il n’y avait que des histoires incroyables, incarnées par des gens incroyables. Dans mon film, ces gens incroyables, c’est ma famille et les histoires sont les leurs »
Sous la pluie de Douala, Mambar, résignée, vide l’eau rentrée dans sa maison avec l’aide de ses enfants. Arrivée dans son atelier de couture, le même calvaire recommence. À tour de rôle, les clientes défilent dans son atelier avec un seul mot à la bouche : la préparation de la rentrée scolaire. Mambar n’a encore rien acheté pour ses enfants. Ses journées sont longues, l’attente de ses enfants est grande, mais la pluie de Douala laissera-t-elle le soleil briller sur Mambar et ses enfants ?
"Une réalisatrice qui brouille la frontière entre la fiction et le documentaire avec ce portrait sans pathos d’une mère courage qui affronte la vie avec endurance. Le film dresse un tableau subtil de la situation économique et de la place des femmes au Cameroun, portée par une formidable interprète."
The city of Douala is in trepidation for the start of the new school year. A long line of customers come to Mambar Pierrette, the neighbourhood dressmaker, to have their clothes ready for imminent social events and ceremonies. More than just a seamstress, Pierrette becomes the confidant of her customers, of a generation. But when the rain starts pouring down and threaten to flood her workshop - one of several successive misfortunes - Pierrette will have to stay afloat.
With this portrait, the filmmaker blurs the boundaries of fiction and documentary; without pathos a courageous mother confronts life with fortitude. The film lays out a subtle portrait of the economic situation and women’s place in Cameroon, interpreted by an impressive protagonist.
An excerpt of the interview with France 24. 24/05/2023, Text by David Rich.
France 24: "Mambar Pierrette" is your first feature film, although it features your cousin in a role very close to her reality. Where do you draw the line between documentary and fiction?
Rosine Mbakam: Pierrette's reality is at the center of the film. It was her life that inspired me to write this story. During the filming, the characters seized on the story to bring the scenario to their own reality. Fiction never takes over, it comes to densify and deepen the narrative, to contextualize certain elements. In particular, it makes it possible to clarify that Pierrette's social situation is not only linked to her husband's irresponsibility, to the fact that she does not earn enough money or to the political situation in Cameroon, but also to neocolonialism, which persists, which means that in certain countries there is still a great deal of insecurity.
France 24: The couture salon occupies a central place in the film. Why did you highlight this activity and what does it symbolize?
RM: My film tells the story of Pierrette who is a seamstress in real life. Couture embellishes, it brings people together and the couture salon is a place conducive to an atmosphere of confidentiality. I wanted to highlight the value of this work of preparing and transforming which hardly exists any more in Western society. We go shopping but we have lost this relationship, this involvement with what we wear. The couture salon also symbolizes the relationship between men and women in Cameroon. The men stay at the entrance, at the door, while the women establish themselves within, embodying the space and spread throughout. These opposing positions mark the contrast between a new generation of women who take more and more responsibility and who want to build their own as opposed to the men who do not accept this reality and find themselves in a vulnerable situation. Pierrette doesn't sew exclusively for women, she works for everyone, it's not a space that excludes. By staying at a distance, the men protect themselves/each other, they avoid posing questions regarding their position as a means to safeguard their power.