Africa well represented at French short film festival


At the 2014 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France from 31
January to 8 February 2014, five productions from African countries were entered
into competition. Film journalist and critic Claire Diao was there to see the work
and speak to the filmmakers.

Les Jours d’avant (The Days Before) by Karim Moussaoui

Shot in Algiers in 2013, this 40-minute piece depicts the 1990s memories of two
teenagers (Mehdi Ramdani and Souhila Mallem), just before the Algerian civil war
broke out.

First written as a support to Moussaoui’s feature film project Waiting for the
Swallows, Les Jours d’avant uses sensitive storytelling to follow the characters
while a Handel soundtrack and an adult voice-over introduces the memory
sequences. “What matters to me was the theme of youth. We don’t talk enough
about it. First love, first emotions, feeling… this is what I wanted to tell,’ says
Moussaoui. More than a memory of the peaceful moments predating a war, Les
jours d’avant is a subtle tale about youth, love and social barriers.

A co-production between France (Les Loupiottes) and Algeria (Taj Intaj), Les
Jours d’avant has won prestigious awards all around the world: Namur
(Belgium), Oran (Morocco), Cordoba (Spain), Fameck and Angers (France) and
Algiers (Algeria). In Clermont-Ferrand, it received a Special Mention.

Selma by Mohamed Ben Attia

Mohamed Ben Attia’s fourth short film, Selma, depicts the story of a single
mother (Nejma Zeghidi) who decides to get a grip on life after her husband’s
death. As he was a taxi driver, she starts to take driving lessons without the
consent of her husband’s family.

This 20-minute film from Tunisia is a brilliant analysis of what widows face all
around Africa. After being the “property’ of their own parents, women then
belong to their husbands, before becoming part of their husband’s family when
the latter dies.

Produced by two Tunisian companies (Propaganda Production and Nomadis
Images), Selma tells about the daily struggle of a woman from her point of view,
without using effects to describe the violence of the mother-in-law’s power.
Moreover, Mohamed Ben Attia sensitively underlines the Tunisian conservatism
that the Arab Spring movements fought, which still remains a contemporary

Madama Esther by Luck Ambinintsoa Razanajoana

The selection of this short film is a sign of the Malagasy coming out in the world’s
cinematographic circuit. Luck Razanajaona, a graduate of the Moroccan cinema
school ESAV, is one of the leading filmmakers on the island.

Selected at last year’s Clermont-Ferrand festival with his previous short, Le zebu
de Dadilahy, he returned this year with a movie supported by the Serasary Fund,
a film production grant initiated by the first Malagasy film festival, the Rencontres
du Film Court.

Madama Esther tells the story of an unemployed cleaning lady in her 50s who
wishes to take her grandson to the seaside, and hosts illegal cockfighting in her
backyard to earn the money.

With stunning cinematography by Toky Randriamahazosoa, Madama Esther
dives into the daily lives of poor Malagasy people. Without falling into a simplified
depiction of the good (hard working people, like the main character) versus the
bad (illegal workers, like the cockfights organiser), Madama Esther offers a hard
inside look at Malagasy society.

A Tropical Sunday by Fabian Ribezzo

It’s been a long time since Mozambique was last featured on international
screens. The most recent was Mickey Fonseca’s Dina in 2011. Directed by
Argentinean director Fabian Ribezzo – based in Maputo for the past 10 years –
and produced by the Italian producer Silvia Bottone, A Tropical Sunday depicts a
group of street children in their struggle to get tickets for the local funfair.

Presented as a light comedy, featuring children cast from all over the city, the
film’s point of view shifts between an adults’ perspective (parents or guards) to
that of the children.

“I went to Luna Park with my child and I saw these same situations several
times,’ explains Ribezzo, who received great feedback from local viewers after a
screening in Maputo. “I’m not a Mozambican, so it’s interesting when people
accept the movie.’

Financed through friends and an Italian crowd-funding platform (Kapipal), A
Tropical Sunday is proof that not only documentaries, institutional films or
commercials can still be made in the country of Kuxa Kanema.

Wardyat Yanayer (January Shift) by Emad Mabrouk

When the Arab Spring started it was interesting to see how film festivals
persued North African filmmakers to get a fresh and immediate look at what
happened. In fact, this was premature because filmmakers had first to assimilate
their country’s turmoil, before producing movies, like this one, which recount it.

In the vein of 2014 Oscar nominee Ibrahim El Batout’s Winter of Discontent,
Emad Mabrouk recounts the daily life and duties of Ibrahim (Hany el Metnnawy)
during the Egyptian Revolution.

Dated 25 January 2011, the plot deals with the revolution in an intimate way.
While the character continues his duties, his wife watches the scenes on TV and
through the window as all the international audience did. Through a personal
story, Wardyat Yanayer questions a national issue: Who took part in the
events? Who did what? Why?

By telling his story without any judgment, Emad Mabrouk addresses an
interesting issue: participants versus onlookers. No one is innocent.


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