The Nigerien director and filmmaker Rahmatou Keita, author of a rich internationally-hailed filmography, is currently at the Cannes Film Festival to promote her new film “Zin’naariyâ” (Alliance d’or), which tells the love story of a man and a woman in the heart of Niger’s desert. Contacted by phone, she returns to the genesis of his new feature film of 90 minutes.
Although Cannes Film Festival is far from being an easy one, especially as she has to promote her new full-length film, find distributors and sellers, Rahmatou Keïta never seems tired. On the contrary. She appears to be in top form, with conversations often interspersed with laughter. On the phone, in her voice which hums and carries, she can speak for hours about her passion for the cinema.But what above all interests this former journalist from France 2, France Inter, France 5, who won several times for her work, is to tell stories that nobody talks about, especially on the African continent. Over time, she gradually leaves journalism aside. Not that she stays away from her profession, but simply because the passion for cinema eventually grips her. As if the pieces pieced themselves together naturally for this author of numerous lengthy reports and documentaries. “I always say that my job is journalism and cinema my passion,” she likes to say. Today, she has no less than eight films to her credit: “Djassaree 1997”, “Femmes d’Afrique”, “Le Nerf de la douleur,” “Une journée à l’école Gustave-Doré” “Les États généraux de la psychanalyse”, “Al’lèèssi… une actrice africaine”, and henceforth “Jin’naariyâ!”, which she intends to defend with all his energy.
AFRIK.COM: Can you go back to the preparation of your new film Zìn’naariyâ!?
Rahmatou Keita: I would first like to clarify that this is a film 100% African. I gathered Africa around this film. It is an African Union film. It was entirely funded by African countries, including Algeria, Niger, Congo Brazzaville, Rwanda, Morocco and Uganda. In all, it took me eight years to find funding, one month for the shooting, the budget being limited, and a year to do the editing and all post-production. It is important to note also that whatever the political orientation of the leaders of these countries that have agreed to finance the film, it is primarily militants for Africa, who are sensitive to the things that disappear on the continent.
How have you managed to convince these countries to finance your project?
I was able to convince them by highlighting the importance of image. I emphasised that the promotion of our cultures also requires the image. I am proud that all these countries got involved so that this film could emerge. Moreover, the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers, which brings together all the associations of African filmmakers and of the Diaspora, is being created with the African Union, an African fund for film, to provide financing to project developers. I think that it will become a reality before two or three years.
Can you tell us more about the love story that your film narrates?
It’s a love story happening in the Sahel, in Niger Sultanate of Damagarau, built in the 11th century. The film is set in a beautiful setting, with beautiful architecture, because Niger is also made up of ancient cities. I tell a Fulani love story in a Hausa state, from the Sonrhay perspective. These are people from very modest cultures. So I tell this story with great modesty. It’s a love story with all these cultural codes. Through this film, I also tell about things that are disappearing in African cultures, because the West is a steamroller that imposes its way of life on the world. In reality, behind this film, there is the desire to preserve men and women of cultures and lifestyles. If all this dies, the world also dies because it draws a lot of African cultures.
What do you mean by that?
The West wants to standardise the world, shape it in its own way. If the West kill African cultures, it will also die because it will have nothing to feed on. Take the computer language, be aware that it is inspired by the way the pygmies calculated on a basis of two. But today it is massacring pygmies, who are disappearing due to deforestation that destroys their lifestyles.
Why is participating in preserving cultures in Africa so dear to your heart?
I think it is something to do for all these endangered cultures. And I myself, I play my survival, because it is these cultures that have nurtured me and it is with them that I can feed my children. My films are my testimony to the world. Of what use is it copying the films of other people when we have so much to tell about Africa? The future of cinema in Africa. The future is in Africa. Everyone goes to Africa and Africans, themselves, are fleeing Africa. There is something wrong. Africans need only to show what they are through cinema. It’s always the others that show who they are, it does not make sense. Africans survived despite the dramas, invasions and much climate damage. Peoples disappeared for less than that. Africans have a spirituality, strength and energy that enabled them to overcome many dramas. it is up to them to reveal who they really are.
- ASSANATOU BALDÉ