Algerian/Swiss filmmaker Mohammed Soudani talks to Business Doc Europe about his upcoming doc project that argues that the future of Africa belongs to women.
In L’Afrique des femmes, Mohammed Soudani takes the audience on a trip through seven African states to meet the women who are doing everything in their power to save their continent, and to create a better future for African people.
“I am an African who lives far from Africa but I have it at heart,” says Soudani. “In Africa there are some men that we call ‘cravatés’ because they wear ties but they don’t do much else, and above all they don’t do anything for their country. I think instead that African women will change this continent.”
“We can no longer bear to see young men leaving Africa to come to Europe, at the mercy of politicians like Salvini [Italian leader of far-right party Lega Nord],” he continues. “Africa cannot continue to be at the mercy of everyone. To give dignity to Africans, Africa must begin to offer a better life to its young people so that they are not forced to leave. African women play a fundamental role in this.”
The film features several articulate advocates for political and social change, such as Marguerite Barankitse, a humanitarian activist who works to improve the welfare of children and challenge ethnic discrimination in Burundi, and two young Mozambique women committed to nature conservation, Angela Mercia and Norina Vinncenta of Gorongosa National Park.
Among other stories, we hear the testimony of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, founder of environmental and women’s rights NGO Green Belt Movement, as told by the organisation’s current Kenya president, Marion Kamau.
“This is a documentary and the essence of a documentary is to be instantaneous and spontaneous. We did a lot of research work to find women who had something to say and who were actually putting themselves at stake,” explains Soudani. “This was also possible thanks to the help of many people who helped us on the spot. Once these women were identified, however, I wanted them to speak spontaneously and not with prepared interviews. In this sense, interviews in the film are more like chats and the result is fresh, spontaneous.”
Soudani argues that, as frustrating as it has been, the pandemic has enabled him to hone the work. “The Covid-19 arrived at the beginning of editing and delayed our schedule by a few months. Editing is a delicate and crucial phase in a film, I would say it is the heart of it,” he says.
“At the beginning it [the pandemic] was a shock, but then with editor and assistant director Giorgio Garini, who is also a dear friend, we tried not to let ourselves be overwhelmed and we used this suspended time to do some research and to deepen the meaning to give to our film. In this regard, I decided to include in this documentary, which is dedicated to women and which has women as its protagonists, a single man, an important character of African cinema who has a lot of respect for women and that viewers will discover by watching the film.”
At the beginning of 2020, the film’s producer Tiziana Soudani, wife of Mohammed and founder of the swiss company Amka Film, sadly passed away after a long illness. Director Mohammed pays a long and emotional tribute to her.
“Tiziana was the machine that started this movie. It was she who, after reading the biography of Michelle Obama, an African-American woman who was a source of great inspiration for her, pushed me to think of a film about African women who fight for the progress of the continent at all levels,” he comments.
“Tiziana was a woman and, as such, had a special sensitivity and had many female friends, both in Europe and in Africa. This film will be dedicated to her. She was the one who pushed me to go to Africa for the shooting, partly hiding the gravity of her illness from me so that I could finish my film. I can say that she is really the co-author of L’Afrique des femmes.
“Tiziana is no longer here today but she is the one who still guides me and encourages me every day to go on with this project. We’ve always done things together. I discussed all my projects with her and her feedback was important to me. Even when we didn’t agree on something, we always found a solution to make the films we wanted to make.”
Soudani adds: “In this regard, I must mention two other important women for L’Afrique des femmes. The first is Silvana Bezzola, head of documentary production at RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera, who believed in the project and supported it from the beginning. The second is Angélique Pitteloud, who helped us a lot in the search for the right women for the film. Our co-producer Nikady’s in Côte d’Ivoire also played a key role.”