Considered “the father of Gabonese cinema,” Philippe Mory died Tuesday night at his residence in the capital at the age of 81.
“Philippe Mory was said to have committed suicide at his residence in the 6th arrondissement of Libreville,” said the Minister of Communication and government spokesman Alain Claude Bacille Bi Nze, June 7 contacted through telephone by Jeune Afrique. “It’s a huge loss for Gabon’s cinema,” he added, without giving further details on the circumstances of the death of actor and director.
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba has also reacted to the news. On his Facebook page that read: “The 7th art has lost a great figure (…) He carried the colours of Gabon and of the African film to Cannes and has inspired generations of moviegoers”
Beginning career in France
Philippe Mory began his career in 1954 in France. Spotted by director Michel Drach, he played the main role in his film On n’enterre pas le dimanche, which in 1959 won the Louis Delluc Prize. He then continued his career in Gabon. In 1962, he participated in the film La cage by Robert Darène, which he also wrote the screenplay. Shot in Gabon, the movie is selected the following year at Cannes, a first for the sub-Saharan cinema.
The drums are silent, the first film as director
In 1964, he gets three years in prison for his involvement in the coup against Leon Mba. An experience that has not marred his commitment to cinema since 1971, he directed his first (and only) feature film Les tam-tams se sont tus (The drums fell silent). The story of Abraham, a young sculptor who falls for the young wives of his uncle, that he seduces and takes with him to the capital. The drift of the village girl to discover the delights of the city displeases the sculptor, who reproaches him for westernising and forgetting the traditional African values.
He then resumed his acting career with Le grand blanc by Bassek Kobhio Ba (1994), a raw film that recounts the arrival of Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné on the Ogooue river.
Philippe Mory is illustrated in several Gabonese feature films, including the popular comedy Les couilles de l’éléphant (2000) by Henri Joseph Koumba Bididi. Engaged in the promotion of African cinema, Philippe Mory also participated in the creation of the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers in 1970, followed five years later by the National Centre of Gabonese cinema (CENACI), now the Gabonese Institute of Image and sound, based in Libreville.