Ouméma Mamadali

Originally published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ,  2000.

Interview held at the 15th FESPACO, February 1997, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.  Translated from French.

It was interesting how you used storytelling to bring together the issues of democracy, gender, and the economy in the Comoros Islands.  Could you talk about your film, Baco, and the themes that you addressed in the film?

Well, it is my first film.  I have done short documentaries in Comoros about the problems in the agricultural sector, and about peasants.  However, in terms of fiction films, this is my first professional fiction film.   I co-directed Baco with a man named Kabire Fidaali.

The story takes place in Comoros and is, in fact, a satire on democracy in the Third World, but the story is presented in the form of a tale.  A child recalls what happened in his family.  It is a story about his father, who has several wives.  Ninety-nine percent of Comorians are Muslims.  Baco, which means the elder, the wise man, or the grandfather, is the principal character.  He is married to ten women, has fifty children and a hundred or so grandchildren.  He is a peasant who lives a relatively comfortable lifestyle because he owns several plantations.

I will note that Comoros is the premier producer in the world of fragrant flowers, and in particular ilang-ilangIlang is a flower that goes through a distillation process and its oil serves as a base for all the great perfumes.  Baco has several plantations where he cultivates ilang.

He begins to notice that his wives, children, and grandchildren do not agree with him anymore.  Because the price of ilang has fallen considerably, they no longer want to plant it.  There is a protest in the family, and Baco decides to call democratic-style elections to choose a chief of the clan, who is the person who will manage the domain.

Read the entire interview