The image is unforgettable, a group of children emerging from beneath the stalls of a still-deserted Brazzaville market. They are the « dirty seven » gang, as they like to call themselves. This opening sequence is representative of the whole film. These street children progressively reveal themselves through the relationship they establish with the director. The film doesn’t just depict their condition. It portrays these wounded souls who have not lost their urges, their dreams, their games, their rules, and their desires. As the film delves deeper, going beyond their difficult relationships with their parents, the thing that has hurt them most turns out to be the war, which has uprooted their nearest and dearest and killed people.
It is the filmmaker’s own position that unquestionably makes this film so very moving. Remaining open to confidences, putting the children in a position where they can talk, and putting his own questions in a very direct manner, he gradually sets up a paternal relationship, which has him accompany the children home in a tense return to their families. The children naturally negotiate this return, demanding a new outfit and a sports bag, but he manages to put them in a constructive situation, asking them to specify their projects clearly.
This would not have been possible had he not shared their living space and lives. Moussa Touré actually slept in the same place as them and shared their breakfast. This sharing, this time spent together (six weeks) is essential. But the quality of Touré’s position also lies in his cinematic approach. Even though the images are captured live, a mise-en-scene emerges, like when he questions the children in the water as they bathe, or shows them dancing or playing football, thereby empowering them so they are living, effective beings rather than just victims. There is no longer any need for zoom effects, therefore, for slow motion shots, for freeze fames, or the silent faces and longing gazes so common in many films about street children. There is no need to aestheticise poverty as, rather than simply denouncing a wretched situation, the film highlights its lessons and its possibilities. This profundity which is totally on a par with life echoes the sparseness of a mise-en-scene that nonetheless remains highly sophisticated.
This kind of documentary film that confronts societal subjects head on is imposing a new path that can help African film to assert its own gaze. In it, compassion is never miserable, reality is never anecdotal, but contains something universal. Despite the scandal it represents, other people’s pain can help us to position ourselves and to focus on what really matters.
///Article N° : 5641