Toza é bélé (We are many)

By Moussa Touré

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The film begins with archive images from 1998, with soldiers at last proclaiming, « We want peace ». These are the film’s only images of a war that is nonetheless constantly present via its hellish consequences. The film is set in March 2002. Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Touré is in Brazzaville where he meets women who were repeatedly raped during the war. Their accounts are harrowing. Some were tortured. They are surrounded by the children born out of their forced pregnancies. They carry the Aids virus with which they were then infected. One of them repeats three times: « I am still very young »…
How can soldiers behave this way? « Desperate for women? On drugs? May God forgive them », says one woman, adding that they did nothing but « waste people and brutalise women ». The camera frames them face-on, without zooming in unnecessarily, avoiding all effects, remaining level with them, showing utmost respect, and never lingering on these silent faces. The filmmaker asks direct questions to help them to testify, and this relationship that you can tell has grown out of a real meeting, of a long process of relationship-building, of gaining of people’s confidence, is this deeply moving film’s greatest quality. It is not just a documentary report, even if it was only made with a digital camera held by the director himself, and one sound engineer. It is cinema, with a lighting chosen to accentuate the faces and simple but studied framing, helped by the choice of locations, even if they remain within the cramped setting of the huts in which people live on top of one another. Nothing revels in the wretchedness, nothing sensationalises. Despite everything they have suffered and are still subjected to (one woman recounts that she can no longer return to her neighbourhood, where she is scorned and subjected to jibes such as « five letters spell that woman’s name »), these women show an impressive sense of dignity. It has to be said that, in this filmic context, it is the director who manages to capture and transmit this dignity. One simple scene – a woman and her children saying grace before food – is seen twice. The choice is clear. Rather than war scenes that would fill the film with the very kinds of images the television bombards us with, here is a simple testimony from the inside.
Moussa Touré also addresses the question of support and rights. He goes to meet a psychiatrist, a social worker, a lawyer, and visits a free legal aid centre. All are highly competent (who says competent people have to be brought in from abroad?), conscious of their lack of means, as they proffer solutions to end the impunity the rapists enjoy.
It is the deliberate simplicity that hits right home, that enables us to feel these women’s terrible emptiness, the emptiness of an Africa that is exhausted from healing the wounds of its History, from seeing itself condemned to live it over and over again. A letter from Lydie, the woman Moussa Touré focuses on the most, dated July 2002, concludes the film. The war has started again.

2002, 52 min.///Article N° : 5644

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