The 76th Cannes Film Festival was one of the richest ever for the ACP-EU Culture programme and its beneficiaries. Three films supported by the cinema and audiovisual support mechanism were presented, offering an exceptional showcase for the cinematographic and cultural talent of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The highlight of the festival was undoubtedly the selection in official competition of the feature film “Banel et Adama” by the young Franco-Senegalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy. This is a first for a film supported by the European Union’s cooperation with the Organisation of ACP States. But even more exceptional is the fact that “Banel et Adama” is the only first film in the competition.
An African love story
The film tells the story of two young, passionate lovers. Their love story takes place in a small, isolated village in northern Senegal, where the outside world seems non-existent. Banel and Adama are exceptional beings, as if from elsewhere, destined to live an ideal love. However, their relationship will face many obstacles. The conventions of their community will put their passionate relationship to the test. In their environment, passion has no place, and chaos is even less tolerated. “I love love stories in the form of series, films or novels… tragedies. I missed them because there weren’t any in Africa, with role models who represented me and so many other people. So, I said to myself that I was going to write it”, says Ramata-Toulaye Sy.
Aesthetics at the service of emotional development
“Banel et Adama” has a remarkable aesthetic, playing with pastel and faded white colours. The imposing desert and hostile elements – in this case the drought and the hot wind – also add to the beauty of the visuals. The director explains: “I wanted the images and photography to reflect Banel’s emotional journey. At first, everything around her is harmonious and beautiful. As her heart dries out, the colours fade, becoming harsher and rougher”.
Another aspect to commend is the performance of the two actors who play the young couple: Khady Mane as Banel and Mamadou Diallo as Adama. Their performance, through their bodies, gestures and looks, literally transports the audience to the heart of their story. As with the rest of the cast, non-professional actors were found in the region where the film was shot.
On 20 May, the film was screened in front of an enthusiastic audience at the Théâtre Louis Lumière, prompting a wave of warm cheers for Ramata-Toulaye Sy, Khady Mane and Mamadou Diallo, who were welcomed with pride.
Between magical realism and committed storytelling
“Augure”, the first feature film by Baloji Tshiani – a Belgian-Congolese rapper, songwriter, poet, performer, stylist, now turned filmmaker – was selected in the “Un certain regard” section. This first feature – which claims to be a work of magic realism – was supported by the ACP-EU Culture programme through the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund. “Augure” is a choral film telling the story of four characters considered to be witches and sorcerers. They find a way to help each other escape from their subjugation in a fantastical Africa. After taking his first steps on the Croisette, Baloji Tshiani was approached by other festivals.
Three’s company, they say? The third film to make its debut at Cannes – and supported by Deental ACP (set up by the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée) – is “Nome” by Guinea-Bissau director Sana Na N’Hada. The director takes us back to Guinea-Bissau in the 1960s, at the height of the war for independence. At the heart of the story is a young villager who finds himself banished from his community after impregnating a village girl. Driven by a sense of revolt, he leaves his village to join the ranks of the armed resistance against the Portuguese military. Presented at the Cannes Film Festival, “Nome” has the honour of being included in the prestigious ACID (Association du cinéma indépendant pour sa diffusion) parallel section, providing an international showcase for this powerful tale.
All that remains now is to await the selection of the various juries to determine whether one or more of these three films will receive an award.
Photo legend: Poster of the film “Banel et Adama ” by Ramata-Toulaye Sy