Martial Arts and Film

Interview with Senegalese actress Rokhaya Niang, by Olivier Barlet

Ouagadougou, February 2003
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Young Senegalese actress Rokhaya Niang has the leading role in two Senegalese films in competition at Fespaco: Le Prix du pardon, by Mansour Sora Wade, and Madame Brouette, by Moussa Sene Absa.

Had you been in any films before this?
No. Le Prix du pardon was my very first film, and first feature film. The first few weeks were tough but I made it.
What is the biggest problem for actors?
As actors we’re not paid very well because our status isn’t official. We agree because someone else will do it if we don’t. Filmmakers tell us that the budget is too small to pay us any better but they forget about us when they win awards. We make films because of our passion but we have to make a living all the same! We need to set up associations in each country, to set standards.
Now that Fespaco has made actors a central theme, what do you think the priority should be to improve the situation?
Actors don’t receive any formal training in Africa. We need teachers!
Does film open up other opportunities?
Yes, fashion designers sometimes notice us and ask us to model for them.
Leading roles in two films in the official competition. That’s pretty impressive. Which role did you feel most comfortable in?
I received the script for Prix du pardon five weeks before the shoot and I worked very hard on it with Hubert Koundé. For Madame Brouette, I only got the script two weeks before the shoot even though it was a tough role. But both films were my babies.
There is a great sense of complicity between you and the little girl who plays your daughter in Madame Brouette.
Yes. I’m a teaching assistant by trade and I know how to communicate with children. We worked together before going onto the set, which created a bond. It was tough going during the 40-day shoot but we made it!
Both your roles stand up for women. How did you find this?
I liked both roles because I have always wanted to stand up for women’s rights. I’m a fighter but I don’t hate men! I have never liked the easy life. You have to earn an honest living but make sure you’re respected. When I read the scripts, I knew they were right for me. It’s probably no coincidence that I was asked to play them!
So people know they have to be careful with you now?
[laughs]I do Taek-wan-do and people are respectful of me, but I’m easy going. I’m very calm – non-violent.

///Article N° : 5669

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