« Don’t limit us to one genre »

Interview with Pierre Yameogo on Delwende, by Olivier Barlet

Cannes, May 2005
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Wend means God in Moré. And Delwende?
Literally, the translation is « I confide in God » or « I lean on God », which is almost the same. I added as a subtitle « Get up and walk », a both provocative and artistic expression.
One of the centers in Ouaga has the same name.
Yes, but there are other centers too: Pasnanga, Temboken, Sabou… They seem to be spreading since centers are being enlarged and there’s no law to protect women accused of witchcraft. I don’t understand why; it’s a form of collusion. How can someone be accused of « eating souls? » Some women are stoned; old women are killed like thieves. I’m not a Christian but I thought the soul belonged to God; that’s what they say. It’s aberrant that in 2005 concentration camps are still having to be built in the centre of Ouagadougou to accommodate these women!
Are the women in these centres only there for witchcraft?
Yes, they’re there for this sole reason. Otherwise, if someone is accused of something else he/she stays in his/her family.
Is the ritual of the siongho widespread?
Yes, there are a lot of rituals but the siongho is the most well-known. As for the old man who plays the diviner in the film, it’s really the way he earns his crust. That’s the way he makes a living: he is offered gitfs. It wasn’t easy to get him to play in the film. When we arrived at the centre, six women had disappeared, and came back only a few weeks after. It was him who had sent them to this camp.
The film marks a return to the roots: in it, we find classical structures typical of African films, which you used in Dunia. What was your desire?
I disagree: it’s a film that moves. Dunia was quite motionless while in Delwende, the village is in motion. Because it’s a village, people immediately want to make a general connotation. I couldn’t see a way to film that issue without locating it in a village. But the cameras move around. Don’t limit us to one genre: you must look at the topic. Some are very unfair with us.
The film’s rhythm is indeed quite strong, with tight editing. Yet, one passage of the film is lengthy. What was your intention?
I just wanted to deal with African life. If people don’t move around, you can’t chop up the image: length is necessary. Western people might like it, but it doesn’t make sense to us, and that’s what we want. It’s a rhythm typical of African films and which has to be accepted as it is. Asian films have extremely long passages and people talk about the aesthetic. But when it comes to us, they say that it’s badly done!
My question was more about the aesthetic: the meaning of this change of rhythm in the film.
When you want to film people in their reality, what’s the use of talking about aesthetic? I don’t even understand the question. You can talk about aesthetic when you build up a set, when you make a storyboard, or think about an image. But representing real life is a different approach.
The character of the madman is the one who knows but who does not impart.
He wants to impart but nobody will listen to him.
Isn’t it the filmmaker’s stance on the topic addressed?
Yes, but it’s also the issue of being unappreciated, which is awful. He finds old batteries to stay informed, but he stays in his corner because everybody shuns him. The one who has knowledge but who’s rejected won’t be able to impart. He remains a silent witness. I am myself subjected to this lack of recognition; you too probably. We all are at times. Therefore you wonder if you should keep on fighting. A filmmaker has to make a living; if he/she doesn’t anymore, then it’s not worth it. You can’t please everybody, but if you can’t make a living out of it, it’s because you’re unappreciated, you’re bad! I’m satisfied if I please good people.
The film crew is mostly African.
Yes, I’ve always trained the technicians. I make digital films. I don’t know any African who can do it well enough for the film to be presented at Cannes, but I include someone who will be able to train them. I was surrounded by all the competent technicians in Burkina, from even further afield.
Is digital also a constraint?
There are problems but it’s a way to go fast. The filming is lighter. Digital is cheaper but the difference isn’t that great: the lab costs the same, only the editing is cheaper because we don’t need to develop the film. Therefore, we save on a 5 million CFA position, which represents 10% of a 35 mm budget. It’s the second time I have used it but we don’t get the images that we want because it’s not totally reliable yet.
You used Wasis Diop’s music and Western classical music.
I told Wasis that for this film, I wanted to remain opened to different types of music. He composed different styles, played them to me, and we made our choice. I picked what enabled me to dream. I listen to music when I’m alone and it’s not dombolo that blows my ears away! At first, I was told that I shouldn’t use classical music, but why not? It’s a nice association with the traditional village. I didn’t overly use it.
Who choreographed the dances?
Blandine Yamégo, the main actress, who’s above all a professional actress. She improvised one afternoon.

Translated from French by Sutarni Riesenmey///Article N° : 7069


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