Tombs Marabouts and Pre Koranic Spirits Exploring the African Continent from

Tombs, Marabouts and Pre-Koranic Spirits: Exploring the African Continent from the Differences

The 16th edition of the MiradasDoc Guía de Isora International Documentary Film Festival in Tenerife was again held entirely during the continental European winter (slightly milder in the Canary Islands), with the audiovisual market already coming face to face. face format and always acts as a quality bridge and production incubator between the south of the world. On the slopes of Mount Teide, the small town consolidates year after year its brand as a stopover for auteur documentaries that have passed or will pass through other prestigious competitions in Europe, Africa and Latin America. In 2023, the appointment is extended until this Saturday, February 4th.

For this occasion, with Cuba as the guest country, MiradasDoc, which took place between January 27th and February 4th, dedicated a little more than a day to the African continent, to the enormous imagination that reality (or the daily stories of the living) exceeds. and present to examine the historical injustices, the ancestral histories, the jins (geniuses or pre-Koranic spirits that Muslim theology salutes in its scriptures), as well as the vulgar and hereditary colonial exclusions, or the histories drawn from the cosmos. In the latter case we are literally talking about stones from outer space falling into the desert and then being eagerly sought by both scientists and nomads alike, so Fragments from Heaven, Adnane Baraka’s introspective reflection on the meteorite market has become in recent years founded in a region in north-eastern Morocco.

We try to explore this continent from our differences

Adnane Baraka, audiovisual producer

Besides Baraka’s film, other films stop in Africa, from very different perspectives, with a common place: the possibility of survival for those who remain on the continent, many of them bounced more than once from the fate of their dreams in some country of the rich North. So brings Sierra Leonean newcomer Mohamed Sessy Kamara, Sisterhood (Sorority), the touching story of two twin sisters who have tried to work in a Gulf state and Belarus, in one case of modest fortunes and unlucky luck., in the other. Husinatu and Hassanatu strive for some dignity in life, or at least a dry house that doesn’t flood with every storm, something that seems impossible to achieve in their own birthplace. So the dream of the girls is always the dazzling North America of cinema films, even if they content themselves as domestic servants in Qatar with a stopover in Conakry.

Still from the film Fragments from Heaven by audiovisual producer Adnane Baraka.Still from the film Fragmentos desde el cielo by audiovisual producer Adnane Baraka, granted by the MiradasDoc International Documentary Festival of Guía de Isora

For her part, in Guardian of the worlds, Leïla Chaïbi moves the camera from one grave to another until she stops at the Marabout (grave of holy teachers of Islam) in the largest cemetery of Tunis, where she lives a single man , who in his day was a family man in Italy, a country that deported him and took him away from his children. It is a document and a lament, yes, above all the lack of help for those in need in their own country, but also a beautiful walk through the Tunisian sunsets, an acknowledgment of irreplaceable motherly love and a romantic fable in which the money is put is the least. The film’s excellent photography – honored in Carthage and selected for the official competition of the next Ouagadougou Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) – delivers images that are pictures at an exhibition.

The south is also in the north

The deepest emotion for what is happening in the north and south of the Mediterranean comes with Marie-José vous Attend à 16h (María José awaits you at 16h), about the endless tragedy in exile of the forgotten people of Darfur, signed by Camille Ponsin. After working for some time with émigrés in the jungles of Calais, the French documentary filmmaker invites us to enter the Paris home of the ethnologist Marie-José Tubiana who, at 90, continues to defend the allegations of refugees who have been granted asylum in France is denied. Marie-José has a vast archive of her anthropological journeys to the indigenous peoples of the Sudan-Chad border since the 1950s and is able to confront the ignorance of those responsible for the refusal of applications ex officio that exceed the quota are responsible. Denying the other person their identity, the mere existence of their village of origin or the name of their mother tongue seems to be the usual practice of those who have precise instructions for refusing help to the desperate. That the South suffers in the North is evident in the long afternoons that Marie-José devotes to the asylum seekers, patiently questioning them and writing down by hand details of the lives persecuted and slandered by the murderers and the bureaucracy.

Frame from the film Guardian of the Worlds by director Leïla Chaïbi.Frame from the film Guardian of the Worlds by director Leïla Chaïbi, donated by the MiradasDoc International Documentary Festival of Guía de Isora

Fortunately, within the framework of the MiradasDoc festival, there is space and time to listen to each other or to discuss before and after each screening, as well as within the framework of some meetings such as MiradasAfro, which brought together filmmakers Leïla Chaïbi, Mohamed Sessy Kamara and Adnane Baraka.

“We’re trying to explore this continent from our differences,” said Baraka, a new Moroccan author who prefers a path closer to that of Terrence Malick than Maghreb costume brismo. “It’s a very imaginative continent that you have to find your own cinematic expression for,” he added, noting that the similarities and pains in Africa (wars, disease, poverty) require an approach based on community engagement, and that there are also things that “may not be common problems” so can be approached from “a personal perspective”.

Cinema has continuity in communities when the tapes are projected and residents of those neighborhoods can see each other on the screen over and over again.

Mohamed Sessy Kamara, audiovisual producer.

Another director who has brought a feature film debut to Tenerife is Sierra Leonean-born Mohamed Sessy Kamara, who claims that despite everything, “Africa is always Africa”, even given the different cultures, beliefs and traditions; To claim it, it is enough for him to verify himself as the only African in the restaurant of a tourist hotel in the Canary Islands. “That’s cinema too: being in places you never imagined, with people you’ve seen on the big screen,” he emphasizes with a smile and full of gratitude for his job.

Like so many other creators who have to overcome very adverse production conditions on the continent, Sessy Kamara insists on not giving up but “being part of the solution process”. About the making of his film, he comments that he wanted to talk about the tribalism that is influencing politics in his country – which has finally emerged from years of fratricidal wars – but that he has chosen to save himself (from persecution or prison) . , which tells a small life story containing the differing perspectives of members of a single family, representative of what is suffered from leaving (and confronting external injustices) or remaining in domestic inequalities.

Cinema, he argues, has continuity in communities when the tapes are projected and the residents of those neighborhoods can see themselves on the screen again and again in new societies.

For her part, Leïla Chaïbi speaks of the “mixtures and influences that come from outside the African continent”, so according to the Franco-Algerian filmmaker, among the common challenges faced by Africans are production difficulties, starting with funding, which must also be obtained abroad, with the consistent search for a balance. “The documentary is a difficult endeavor because it tries to illustrate reality from personal experience, to which is added the fact that you spend a lot of time with people you don’t hang out with regularly,” he points out.

In Africa, according to Chaïbi, “the boundary between fiction and reality cinema is much more delicate”. The public on the island of Tenerife, so far and so close to Africa, knows these crossings well, as does the one nestled to the north to the south. Maybe that’s why I’m so enthusiastically grateful for these calls.

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