Interview with the Franco-Beninese actress Fatou Ndiaye

Cannes, May 2002
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The television drama « Fatou la malienne » propelled you into the public eye a sequel is going to be made soon. Flora Gomes’ « Nah Fala » has now given you an entry into the realm of real cinema.
They are not the same worlds and it’s good to be able to move from one to the other, especially as « Nah Fala » is the first African film I have had the chance to make. It was a wonderful adventure and I felt really comfortable in the film! I play the role of a young woman who leaves her native village to go to study in France. She has to be careful never to sing, however, because of a potentially fatal curse affecting women. She abides by the belief, but ends up transgressing it and is reborn because she frees herself from this interdict.
It’s a very different role to « Fatou la malienne ».
Yes. Rather than being a victim, I have a positive role here in which I show my family a new truth. It’s a vast metaphor for the freedom of speech. That greatly affects the energy that you invest in a role.
You learned Creole to play this role.
Yes, the Creole spoken in Guinea-Bissau. Given that I initially wanted to be a singer, it gave me the opportunity to add a language to my repertoire! It’s a very beautiful language, very melodic. I had to learn it really fast, in a month, but it was a real pleasure. I worked with someone who I listened to speaking a lot to copy the sonorities, and on my own too. When I was there, I spoke the language, which helped me master it.
You have had a dazzling start to your career!
I did want to go into acting, but I was intending to do so later on. I shot « Fatou la Malienne » when I was taking my « baccalauréat », and then the wonderful « Nah Fala » project came knocking on my door. I accepted it to learn and discover.
It’s not always easy for black actors in France.
When I used to turn on the TV when I was little, there were no black characters, but it wasn’t something I really noticed. Now that it’s my work, I realise that the proposals are limited. People tell us that French spectators cannot identify with black people. I really don’t know why! I know wonderful black actors who have a really hard time and find it impossible to get a broad experience.
How did you feel about the recent French political situation?
I felt very uneasy. Even though I have lived here a long time, I felt like people were saying to me that I didn’t belong here, when Paris is my town. At least things are clear. We can’t point the finger at others, it is right here next door, downstairs. It’s a total rejection. You aren’t part of our society and you don’t belong here! But that wasn’t such a surprise because this was already part of our day-to-day experience.
Do you want to continue your career as an actress?
Yes, it’s a field of experimentation and I think I have a lot of things to learn about myself. There are some fascinating encounters to be had and themes to defend! Flora’s film is one of them. It is not at all caricatured and is a real undertaking. I am confident.
Are you continuing your studies at the same time?
Yes, but at home. I am studying ethnography and mythology. I came to France when I was eight and I have remained interested in my roots. That has translated into a desire to know other peoples and the world. You discover some wonderful things.

///Article N° : 5613

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