Anne-Laure Folly Reimann

Originally published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television by Beti Ellerson. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ,  2000. Interview by Beti Ellerson and Press Conference, at the 15th FESPACO, February 1997, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.  Translated from French.

You came on the cinema scene in 1992 and have made several films since then.  Could you talk about your evolution into cinema?

    I am not really a filmmaker, in conventional terms I mean.  I began several years ago.  I am an international lawyer.  I was sent on a mission to my country.  I was very happy to get a chance to see my grandmother.  She died when I was there, and I attended the funeral.  I observed the treatment of the dead, their relationship with the cosmos and the world, and their basic values.
    It occurred to me that the West has a particularly thorough understanding of Asia, of Asian philosophy, but I found it curious that there is not this understanding about Africa.  I thought about how necessary it is that we express ourselves.  Since I work in an international milieu, I know that power comes from those who say things.  There is a widespread attitude that if you do not express yourself, if you have nothing to say, then you do not exist.  The problem is that, culturally speaking, Africa does not say things.  We think that what is important is not told, or is expressed discreetly, or is told only to one another, by word-of-mouth.  Our attitude is that a culture that exposes itself disintegrates.  I think that in some ways it is true, the idea of total diffusion of something—when you diffuse everything—you lose something of your essence.
    I think the change in the Western world is because the West produces and diffuses, because once you diffuse things they are modified, they change.  These notions and values are told to someone else, that person receives them, then modifies and changes them, and so on, and the values themselves evolve.   Whereas in African society, the values that you are told once, you keep and apply all of your life.  The societies are very fixed, and they are much more solid.  Though this is not only in African societies, there are many closed societies in the world.  The Japanese society, for example, at the same time fascinating, is also apparently very diffused.  It is a society whose economy is known everywhere, but no one knows a fourteenth-century Japanese poet.  It is somewhat like the African societies, but the only difference is that the Japanese culture went through a cultural mutation and had other things in exchange.  It could diffuse its economic conscience, its economic philosophy.  We have not had this.  I think that we are a bit lost in our international discourse.  We no longer exist.  Now we must say something.
    I started with culture.  I made a film called Le gardien des forces, on so-called magic, which is not magic at all, rather a belief that we practice in my village.  It was a film about my neighbor, who is a fetishist, and his practices.  I was not very experienced in film at the time, so I simply filmed this remarkable practice that had been in existence since I was born.  The film was presented at the Margaret Mead Society in the United States.  I was invited to the Society—where the people were very formal—and was asked to explain the events, since they did not know about this practice.  In the film, people killed with their voices, with words.  However, the people at the Society could not believe it.

Why didn't they believe what they were seeing in the film?

Read the entire interview