Shot some ten years ago now, this bitter indictment has not aged a bit. History remains what it was, of course, the film evoking Cameroonian colonisation, forced labour, colonial conscription, and the disillusions of independence, that « rigged democracy » as Céléstin Monga calls it in a letter to President Paul Biya. But what hasn’t aged is the cultural genocide orchestrated in Africa and its dependence on foreign powers. Teno questions the number of African authors stocked in the French cultural centre libraries, denounces the dependency of the book market, trains his camera on the « street bookshops » where he finds the same comic books, such as Akim, as when he was young, and which are still lapped up by youngsters who thus forge a pretty sad image of themselves.
The duty to civilise advocated by the colonists concerned people who lacked neither creativity nor culture as the Bamoun alphabet testifies! Where, then, was the obscurantism that still motivates the well-intentioned missionary spirit even today?
The film indeed stands up against the persistence of colonial relationships and representations, which is why it sadly remains so topical. The film’s objectives remain as necessary as ever: to encourage critical reflection to counter the prejudices on which racism and paternalism are founded, to use all-too-rare images to contribute to the teaching of History, to participate in the debate on the multiculturalism of French society.
« Yaoundé, cruel town », Teno’s film opens with the struggle for democracy and, before handing over to the political comedian Essini Mindja, ends on the portraits of assassinated political militants, thereby paying homage to those who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom.
The importance accorded to books leaves no doubt about the message. Education is a form of resistance. But History imposes its bitter observations. The shock is terribly brutal. The archive images depict the violence at play and its permanence, both before and after independence, in a clear and damning continuity.
Accompanied, as are all his documentaries, by a voice-over commentary that serves more as a personal meditation than an illustration of the images, Afrique, je te plumerai remains an essential document and a bracing reflection on contemporary History.
1991, 88 min., 35 mm and video, image: Robert Dianoux, music: Ray Lema, produced and directed by Jean-Marie Teno (Les Films du Raphia).///Article N° : 5634