23 April 2009
16 April 2009
13 April 2009
It is the tradition in French Guiana to eat a dish called Awara Soup on Easter Monday. It is said that when one eats it, one will never leave Guiana. One becomes Guianese, one becomes Créole. This is the legend recounted by French-Malgasy producer Marie-Clémence Paes. With her Brazilian filmmaker husband, Cesar, they are a filmmaking couple whose purpose is to produce films about the riches of the Southern Hemisphere, as countries in these regions are often stereotyped, focusing only on their problems and difficulties.
They made the film Bouillon d'Awara/Awara Soup with this in mind. Marie-Clémence sees the film as a metaphor for the many diverse cultures that live together in relative harmony in this small region of the world. She has this to say about the film:
We decided to make a film about a place in the world, a kind of little laboratory in the world, where people from very different cultures and races live in one location. It is a tiny place, a microscopic area, which is why we like to say laboratory. We went to shoot a film in a little village in Guiana where there are 1,500 inhabitants, and among these 1,500 people there are thirteen languages spoken. Over the last twenty years, sixty percent of the population of this city is made up of recent immigrants. They come from the Antilles, Brazil, China, Laos, France—from where there has been a presence for a long time—and, of course, there were Amerindians from the beginning, and there are also Lebanese. Actually, there are people from all of the continents who are in this little place together, and who intermix. We wanted to show that, despite the increase of nationalism everywhere, in the world there exists a glimmer of hope. In this little place the people are able to live together despite all the different languages, cultures, colors, and customs.
The history of the metissage and cultural mélange in Bouillon is actually told through the preparation of a dish called Awara Soup. It is a metaphor because it is a dish whose ingredients normally are not cooked together. Pork is not cooked with shrimp nor are cucumbers mixed with eggplant; these are not what normally blend together in a dish.
There was another story that was not in the film that I found very interesting. When invited to eat Awara Soup, the mistress of the house never obliges anyone to eat everything. She comes to ask you what you want to eat. The person who wants to eat only shrimp may do so; the person who wants to eat only fish may do so. The person who wants to eat everything may do so. But she never says, "Here taste this." No, it really is about fishing about in the soup to find the consistency, or the color, or the odor that appeals to you.
Le Bouillon d'Awara/Awara Soup - trailer
10 April 2009
The African Film Festival of New York, which has just opened on 8 April, celebrates its 16th year with the theme: Africa in Transition. Eight African women are featured in the festival: Egyptian Jihan El-Tahri’s Behind The Rainbow (2009) which is the centerpiece of the festival; Yandé Codou, la griotte de Senghor (2008) by Senegalese Angèle Diabang-Brener; three women from Kenya: Wanuri Kahiu’s From a Whisper (2008), two films by Judy Kibinge, Killer Necklace (2009) and Coming of Age (2008), and Lupita Nyong’o’s In My Genes (2009). Cameroonian Josephine Ndagnou’s film Paris or Nothing/Paris à tout prix (2008) is among these exciting listings as well as British-Nigerian Ngozi Onwurah’s Shoot the Messenger (2006). Katy Léna N'Diaye’s Awaiting for Men,which was also featured in the Cascade Festival, is also among the film selections. Below are short synopses of the films along with relevant links.
Angèle Diabang-Brener (Senegal) Yandé Codou, la griotte de Senghor. Yandé Codou Sène, 80-something, is one of the last great singers of polyphonic Serer poetry. This film is an intimate look at a diva who has lived through Senegalese history at the side of one of its greatest near-mythical figures, President-poet Léopold Sédar Senghor.
Jihan El Tahri (Egypt) Cuba: An African Odyssey. The previously untold story of Cuba's support for a variety of revolutionary and independence movements on the African continent from the mid-1960s through the early 1990s. These include Che Guevara's military campaign in the Congo to avenge the execution of the country's first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba; Cuba's support of Amilcar Cabral's uprising in Guinea-Bissau; and the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola, which led to the independence of Namibia and the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
Judy Kibinge (Kenya) Killer Necklace. Boo is a handsome young banker with a bright future; Wai is a sultry young girl from a privileged background. Boo would do anything for Wai, but Wai has her eye on a different prize: the most beautiful golden necklace in the world. This twisted tale of desire and deceit asks, is anybody what they appear to be?
Josephine Ndagnou (Cameroon) Paris or Nothing/Paris à tout prix. Suzy will do anything to go to Paris, but finds that it is not the paradise that she had dreamed.
Katy Léna N'Diaye (Senegal) Awaiting for Men. Three women in Oualata, Mauritania, on the edge of the Sahara desert, practice traditional painting by decorating the walls of the city. They express themselves openly about the relationship between men and women.
Lupita Nyong’o (Kenya) In My Genes. The documentary explores what is it like to be “white” in a “black” society. Agnes, a woman with albinism, overcomes the difficulties of being born with no pigment in a society that discriminates against people with the condition. The film explores the experiences of a member of one of the most hyper-visible and at the same time invisible groups of people in a predominantly black society.