Lili et le baobab

By Chantal Richard

Lire hors-ligne :

Everybody who is attracted to Africa should absolutely see this film. It is a beautiful lesson on a relationship finally devoid of the eternal ambiguities inherited from imaginative representations of our colonial history. Julie, nicknamed Lili, photographer at the town hall of a small town near La Hague in Normandy, is sent to photo the works carried out thanks to the town’s twinning with the Senegalese village of Agnam Lidoubé. She is thus transplanted in an unknown world and the first image of the film shows her leaning her head out of a taxi window, which is driving her to the village and absorbing the warm air, her eyes closed. One can only properly see with one’s heart: Lili arrives with a broad mind. She is 33, is not married, does not have any children. We will learn this because the women she approaches spontaneously ask her. Their very simple questions take her aback. She is like a reed, just a lonely woman who likes to walk the Norman windswept dunes. The presence and the interiority conveyed by Romane Bohringer’s subtle acting makes her very close to us.
Welcomed by the whole village, Lili takes pictures. She does her job but she lets herself being absorbed by Africa and her vision becomes panoramic, as when she climbs up the water tower from where we can see the scorching bush in the distance. She is always on the screen: she is the subject, her feelings and her view. The film adopts her pace and it is because she takes the time to watch without judging that it settles in a rhythm where each detail is important. The African language is not subtitled: we receive it as Lili hears it. The image is often fixed or follows movements, no scenic bluff, no sunsets, no crunchy stories, not even the sociology of daily activities that films on Africa are usually stuffed with. She quickly overcomes the language barrier and gets close to Aminata, probably because she sees herself in the loneliness of a woman constantly helping others. Aminata gives her a present: a ring. In Itto (Jean Benoît-Lévy et Marie Epstein, 1934), one of the major films of colonial cinema, the French commandant pulls a ring from his little finger and slips it on the finger of a tribe chief in the Moroccan Atlas, symbol of the new alliance, after the rebellion lead by Itto, a woman. Wasn’t colonization supposed to seal the « marriage between Africa and Western countries »? When Aminata gives a ring to Lili, it is not a quixotic or unequal relationship: it is the simple expression of a sharing. The twinning supports the water access system that enables the women to grow gardens. Aminata draws a larger garden in the sand: her hope is concrete, but the locusts will get the better of the women’s work. This too, Lili knows how to listen to and understand: the silence and dignity of bodies hide the harshness of a survival that only hangs by a thread. The North-South economic gap is huge. But an event will occur forcing Lili to get more involved. Lily draws her reaction from what she perceives in African culture, at the foot of the baobab. Her response is completely fair: that of a possible, intimate, mutual and subtle relationship, at the image of this truly beautiful film.

Translated by Sutarni Riesenmey///Article N° : 6888

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