Date: Saturday 23 April 2022
Film: Delphine’s Prayers (Les Prières de Delphine), Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam, Cameroon/Belgium, 2021, DCP, 91 minutes, French with English subtitles
Mbakam’s third feature is an intimate portrait of Delphine, a young Cameroonian woman now living in Belgium. Over the course of several interview sessions held within her apartment, Delphine describes her journey to Europe, beginning with the death of her mother during childbirth and her own childhood experiences of sexual abuse and exploitation. Mbakam’s camera remains fixed on Delphine throughout with only an occasional doorbell or distant street sound a reminder of the world outside the frame. Across her career Mbakam has found spaces where African women are able to be and to speak and – in this apartment – Delphine tells her own story with both courage and wit.
In Focus: Rosine Mbakam
The films of Rosine Mbakam give voice to the stories of Cameroonian women at home and overseas, deconstructing cinema’s colonialist gaze on African women and girls. Her first three solo documentary features – The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman (2016), Chez Jolie Coiffure (2018) and Delphine’s Prayers (2021) – form an extraordinarily empathetic tryptic on the African migrant experience in Europe, and more precisely in Belgium where Mbakam has been based since moving to Brussels from Cameroon to study filmmaking at INSAS. Although formally diverse – from the essayistic and the autobiographical to direct cinema – Mbakam’s work is a testament to the power of female camaraderie and solidarity. Her films explore womanhood and African identity from a position of intimacy, collectivity and self-reflexivity. Her most recent work, Prism co-directed with An van Dienderen and Eléonore Yameogo, is an essay film that addresses the ideological biases that are implicit in cinema’s own technology by challenging the camera’s predisposition towards white skin.
‘As African filmmakers studying in Belgium, we are taught Western cinema. I’ve had to deconstruct this to find my own cinema, because the way cinema is made in the West is not my way of doing cinema. It’s not the same reality. If I take the Western approach to making movies, I will destroy the singularity of the story that I want to film. I have to find, each time, the right way of filming the situation, story, or subject at hand.’ (Mbakam)
In Focus: Rosine Mbakam is the first survey of Mbakam’s work in the UK. It includes the UK premiere of Prism (Rosine Mbakam, An van Dienderen, Eléonore Yameogo), along with a retrospective of Mbakam’s earlier work. The season is presented by the Essay Film Festival and Open City Documentary Festival, in collaboration with the ICA.
About Rosine Mbakam: Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam grew up in a traditional Cameroonian family. She learnt about filmmaking through the Italian NGO Centro Orientamento Educativo and would go on to make programmes for Spectrum Television before leaving Cameroon in 2007 to study film at INSAS in Belgium. Her critically acclaimed documentary films have been shown at numerous international festivals (IFFR, Fespaco, Dok Leipzig, Cinéma du Réel, Sheffield DocFest, NYFF) and were the subject of a retrospective at MoMA in 2021. She divides her time between her production company (Tândor Productions in Belgium and Tândor Films in Cameroon) where she works on several projects and her teaching activities at KASK in Ghent (Belgium).
In collaboration with Open City Documentary Festival