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22 June 2024

Pauline Mvele Nambané, founding director of the Festival International "Cinéma & Liberté" Libreville, Gabon

Pauline Mvele Nambané, founding director of
the Festival International "Cinéma & Liberté"

Drawing from several sources, following is the vision of the Festival International "Cinéma & Liberté" and a portrait of founding director of the Festival International Cinéma & Liberté, Pauline Mvele Nambané. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

Sources: Marie Dorothee (gabonactu); Steven Mpono (7joursinfo-com) and video conversation with Pauline Mvele Nambané by Urban FM 104.5 La Station Urbaine and image from its YouTube channel.

A culmination of years of dreams and fine-tuning of ideas, the International Cinema and Freedom Festival of Libreville finally comes to fruition. The activities were detailed on Friday the 4th of June 2024 during a press conference which was held at the French Cultural Center in the presence of an array of invited guests.

The 1st edition of the International Cinema and Freedom Festival of Libreville in Gabon will take place from June 24 to 29. Film screenings followed by Q&A, will be held each evening from 18h30 free of charge at the Baie des Rois. Fittingly, Laurence Ndong, the Gabonese Minister of Communication and Media, is the patron of this 1st edition.

During her inaugural address Pauline Mvele Nambané, founding director of the festival, whose vision of the festival is to create a space for an intergenerational exchange, presented the objectives of the film event. She emphasized that the festival, which was the outcome of a collaboration between the Association Gabon Ciné Doc and Clybe Nambané Production, aims to promote, education through images, human rights and freedom of expression. These objectives will be achieved through film screenings, training workshops and other cultural activities. In addition, an international conference on the theme “cinema and citizenship” will be held.

In addition, the festival aims to promote African film heritage. Pauline Mvele Nambané noted that the 1st edition will celebrate and pay homage to many of the great filmmakers of African and Gabonese cinema such as: Charles Mensah, Philippe Maury and Pierre Marie Ndong, as well as Henry Joseph Koumba Bididi, Imunga Ivanga and Prince De Capistran.

Translation from French of the video interview by Urban FM 104.5 La Station Urbaine
(L’interview YouTube originale en français, ci-après)  

The emergence of the Festival International "Cinéma & Liberté"

The festival has a particular interest in films on human rights, freedom of the press and best practices of democratic governance. The goal is to educate, to inform people about freedoms and rights. We are convinced that cinema is a powerful tool for educating, awareness building and a means to change behavior. Through this festival we want to contribute to educating the Gabonese population.

Pauline Mvele, director of the Festival International "Cinéma & Liberté"

I am a filmmaker and throughout the years I have made several documentaries that focus on social themes. I created an association with friends and for several years we toured the schools to do film screenings. So this festival presents a bit of a culmination of everything we have done; and in particular, of my filmography, of my commitment towards these themes.

Why the focus on the protection of liberties?

Because I believe that every human being has a mission and we are not here by chance. As a filmmaker I cannot just stand by. When you look at my filmography you will notice that I decided not to remain silent and inattentive regarding certain situations that I observe in my society. So I give voice to these people so that the situations that they live are known and that another perspective can be given.

Violence against women, giving testimony

I received a lot of testimonies when preparing to make the films. With the film, Mivova Yato, which is a documentary about gender-based violence, I collaborated with an association. I received a lot of testimonies but at the time of filming many withdrew, after having agreed, at the moment of the filming they “remove their body,” as we call it. But I do understand perfectly. It’s not easy. Sometimes when one experiences a situation and talks about it with two other people it's okay, but to do so in front of a camera, to say it to the whole world. I really do admire all the people in my films who had the courage to testify, with their faces uncovered. Personally I am not sure if I had experienced certain situations that I would have dared to talk about it. But it is also the role of the filmmaker to provide the environment that instills a sense of confidence and trust with the interlocutors. I do feel that I create an environment where people feel comfortable to confide in me.

What is your method for creating this trust?

I don't know if I would say that I have a method but I think it is because I really like people, I know how to listen to people, I know how to look at them and I am sentient of their situation. To give an anecdote of a great filmmaker, who said that one should film the people one loves and in so doing, inevitably something comes out positive for you.

Accroche-toi, the first documentary film

It was my first documentary, which I continue to hold very dear. However, when I look at it with hindsight I say to myself that I could have done better, but it was not about the technology at the time. No, that has nothing to do with it. I believe that’s often the big mistake people make. To say, “Oh yes I have the most efficient camera so I could make a good film.” It’s not true. Someone can make a good film with a cell phone. So it is one’s cinematic practice that determines the results. I was trained on the job and I had my background as a journalist as well. So yes, there is cinema there, but there is also a lot of reportage in the film. I think today, now 10 years later, I would have made this film differently, especially as the characters were really strong.

Perhaps a remake?

Unfortunately, no. When I watch the film now I am touched, because Libreville is no longer like that… I am taking advantage of your platform to talked about what happened. The three women who you see there, in the film, two of them died. That makes it even more important to talk about the people who are living with HIV, the situation has regressed a great deal in Gabon. Today we need to talk about the fight against AIDS. In Gabon there is no longer awareness, no one is taking charge of the problem. It seems that HIV is touching a progressively younger population, the 18-30 year-old population which are carriers of the disease and it's very serious because it is an illness which is still incurable. There is still no definitive cure so there is this film and it's important that it exists. And it's also an opportunity to pay tribute to these people who agreed to testify openly. Today there are those who are no longer with us, but they continue to live, one could say, because of this film.

In 2014, you made Sans famille, a documentary that received the award for best documentary at the International festival of cinema and audiovisual of Burundi. How did you established contact with the actual and former prisoners or certain prisoners?

Actually with most of my film projects, the first thing that I do is to familiarize myself on the subject, I start collecting documents, I read a lot of books, watch other films and then I talk about it to a few trusted people. I tell them that I am working on a project and ask them if they are also familiar with the subject, I meet with associations that support the cause to see  if perhaps they have leads.

Films focusing on Gabon

All of my films take place in Gabon and these films that I have made actually give me another face of humanity…they allow me to be even more sensitive and give me the force to say that I am on the right path and that I must continue.

Sans famille, did you want to highlight prisoners’ rights

Yes. The central prison of Libreville was built during colonialism, designed for an occupancy rate of 300. At the time that I made the film there were more than 5,000 people. That’s not normal. Because someone made a mistake, they should not have to live in inhuman conditions. And the prison system should assist those who are there so that when they are released they can restart their lives. But nothing is done. I know of initiatives in other countries that are commendable. Every morning prisoners were taken out in order to do farming, the prisoners ate what they cultivated, they ate healthy food. The prison sold the products and saved the earnings and when the prisoners were released they benefited as well. There are initiatives such as these. But when people are locked in their cells 24/24 hours, year after year and nothing is done. When a young person is locked away for six months because they stole something, when they are released they become assassins. They have hardened in general. They become hardened having been around other notorious prisoners, there is a mixture of people of varying crimes and sentences. So yes, it is about the struggle for prisoner rights.

And this first edition of the Festival International "Cinéma & Liberté"

The festival is free to all. The aim of the festival is to have cinema meet the public. In addition to film screenings there will be training workshops. There will be roundtables, an international conferences. There will be five Masterclasses (see details below).
There are two other people who come from Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire. In any case we expect big names in African cinema. I would like to thank the French Institute who agreed to support us on this first edition as well as others.

Marie Dorothée of gabonactu gave the following details of the Masterclasses:

“Writing, directing and producing the documentary” led by Natyvel Pontalier, Gabonese director and Laurent Bitty, Ivorian director-producer and Kalid Zairi, director/producer from Morocco.

“Actorat” and “How to succeed in a good production” will be led by Rasmané Ouedraogo, one of the main actors of the series “Bienvenue à Kikidéni”, which is currently broadcast on Canal +.

“From idea to realization and production of a series” by Aminata Diallo Glez, director of successful series: 3 hommes 1village, 3 femmes 1 village, Super flics and Bienvenue à Kikideni.

“The management of cultural projects” by Abdoulaye Diallo and Alpha Bah, both festival directors.

“The structure of the scenario” by Imunga Ivanga. This master class will lead to the production of a film which will be screened during the next edition.


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