Rosine Mbakam Programme Three

Date: Thursday 21 April 2022

Time: 18:30

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema



Film: Chez Jolie Coiffure, Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam, Cameroon/Belgium, 2018, DCP, 78 minutes, French with English subtitles 

You Will Be My Ally, Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam, Cameroon/Belgium, 2012, DCP, 20 minutes, French with English subtitles

Sabine is a Cameroonian hairdresser who runs a small salon, Jolie Coiffure, in the Matonge district of Brussels. Despite having been in Belgium for almost a decade, she is still awaiting a decision on her asylum application. Mbakam’s observational portrait captures Sabine’s daily life at the salon surrounded by an eclectic cast of patrons and visitors, many of whom harbour similar fears of deportation. Shot entirely within the confines of the salon, Mbakam’s engaged, attentive camera reveals the reality of life in this little-known corner of the city.

Rosine Mbakam’s first fiction short, You Will Be My Ally, follows Domè (Bwanga Pilipili), a young woman from Gabon who is apprehended at Brussels airport and accused by immigration officers of travelling under forged documents. After a series of exhausting interrogations and fearing that she will be forced to return to Gabon, Domè initiates a Bwiti ritual to induce childbirth.

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