The 16th edition of the MiradasDoc Guia de Isora International Documentary Film Festival, in Tenerife, has once again been held in full, in the continental European winter (somewhat milder, in the Canary Islands), with the audiovisual market already in face-to-face format, and always acting as a quality bridge and production incubator between the south of the world. On the slopes of Teide, the small town consolidates, year after year, its brand as a stopover for auteur documentary films that have passed or will pass through other renowned competitions in Europe, Africa and Latin America. In 2023, the appointment extends until this Saturday, February 4.
On this occasion, with Cuba as the guest country, MiradasDoc, held between January 27 and February 4, has dedicated a little more than one day to the African continent, to the enormous imaginary that exceeds reality (or the daily stories of the living ) and the present, to investigate historical injustices, ancestral stories, djins (geniuses or pre-quranic spirits that Muslim theology welcomes in its writings), as well as in the vulgar and hereditary colonial exclusions or the stories that come from the cosmos. In the latter case, we are talking about literal stones from outer space, which fall in the desert, and which are then boldly sought out by both scientists and nomads, according to Fragments from Heaven (fragments from the sky), the introspective contemplation of Adnane Baraka, on the meteorite market that has been established in a region of northeastern Morocco, in recent years.
We are trying to explore this continent from our differences
Adnane Baraka, audiovisual producer
In addition to Baraka’s film, other films stop in Africa, from completely different perspectives, with a common place: the possibility of survival of 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. Thus, the newcomer Mohamed Sessy Kamara brings, from Sierra Leone, sisterhood (sorority), the moving story of two twin sisters who have tried to work in a Gulf country and in Belarus, with modest fortune, in one case, and with unfortunate luck, in the other. Husinatu and Hassanatu are after 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. Hence the dream of the girls is always the dazzling North America of the movies, even if they settle for seasons as domestic workers in Qatar, with a stopover in Conakry.
For his part, in Guardian of the worlds (guardian of the worlds), Leïla Chaïbi moves the camera from one tomb to another, until stopping at the marabout (tomb of holy teachers of Islam) of the largest cemetery in Tunis, where a single man lives, who in his day was a father of a family in Italy, the country that deported him, taking him away from his children. There is a document and a complaint, yes, above all the lack of assistance to the destitute in their own country, but also a beautiful walk through the Tunisian sunsets, a recognition of the irreplaceable love of mothers and a romantic fable in which the money is the least. The excellent photography of the film —awarded in Carthage and selected for the official competition of the next Ouagadougou Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO)— provides shots that are pictures of an exhibition.
The South is also in the North
The deepest emotion for what happens to the north and south of the Mediterranean Sea comes with Marie-Jose you attend at 16h (Maria Jose awaits you at 4:00 p.m.), about the endless tragedy in exile of the forgotten in Darfur, signed by Camille Ponsin. After spending some time cooperating with emigrants in the Calais jungle, the French documentarian invites us to enter the Parisian home of ethnologist Marie-Jose Tubiana, who at 90 continues to work to help with the allegations of the refugees whom they are refused asylum in France. Possessing a vast archive, created by herself in her anthropological trips to the original peoples of the border between Sudan and Chad, since the 1950s, Marie-Jose is capable of confronting the ignorance of those responsible for rejecting ex officio requests that exceed the quota. The usual procedure of those who have precise instructions to deny help to the desperate seems to consist in denying the other his identity, the mere existence of his village of origin or the name of his native language. That South that is suffered in the North is evident in the long afternoons that Marie-Jose dedicates to the asylum seekers, asking them patiently and writing by hand details of existences persecuted and reviled by both the murderers and the bureaucracy.
Fortunately, within the framework of the MiradasDoc festival, there is space and time to listen to the other, or to debate, before and after each screening, as well as within the framework of some meetings such as MiradasAfro, which brought together the filmmakers Leïla Chaïbi, Mohamed Sessy Kamara and Adnane Baraka.
“We are trying to explore this continent from our differences,” said Baraka, a new Moroccan author who favors a path closer to that of Terrence Malick than that of Maghrebi costumbrismo. “It is a continent very rich in ideas, for which you have to find your own cinematographic expression,” he added, noting that what is common and painful in Africa (wars, diseases, poverty) require an approach based on social commitment, and that there are also things that “perhaps are not shared problems”, so they can be approached from “a personal perspective”.
The cinema has continuity in the communities, when the tapes are projected and the inhabitants of those neighborhoods on the screen can see each other over and over again.
Mohamed Sessy Kamara, audiovisual producer.
Another director who has brought a debut feature to Tenerife is the Sierra Leonean Mohamed Sessy Kamara, who maintains that, despite everything, “Africa is always Africa”, even considering the different cultures, beliefs and traditions; To assert it, it is enough to verify his presence as the only African in the restaurant of a tourist hotel in the Canary Islands. “This is also cinema: being in places you never imagined being, with people you saw on movie screens,” he points out, smiling, grateful for his job.
Like so many other creators who, on the continent, have to overcome very adverse production conditions, Sessy Kamara insists that one should not give up, but “be part of the process of solutions.” About the genesis of his film, he comments that he wanted to talk about the tribalism that affects politics in his country —which has finally come out of years of fratricidal wars—, but that he chose to preserve himself (from persecution or jail). , telling a small life story, which contains the different points of view of the members of a single family, which are representative of what is suffered by leaving (and facing external injustices) or staying in domestic inequities.
The cinema, he argues, has continuity in the communities, when the tapes are projected and the inhabitants of those neighborhoods on the screen can see themselves again and again, in new companies.
In her turn, Leïla Chaïbi talks about the “mixtures and influences that come from outside the African continent”, so, according to the Franco-Algerian filmmaker, the common challenges of Africans include production difficulties, starting with financing, which it must also be achieved abroad, with the consequent search for a balance. “The documentary is a difficult exercise, because it tries to illustrate reality, from personal experience, to which is added the fact of having to spend a lot of time with people that one is not used to being with on a regular basis”, she points out.
In Africa, according to Chaïbi, “the border between fiction and the cinema of reality is much more sensitive.” The public on the island of Tenerife, so far and so close to Africa, knows these intersections well, as does the one in the South nestled in the North. Perhaps for this reason I am enthusiastically grateful for these calls.
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