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A Trip to the Country

Documentary, Cameroon/France/Germany, 2008, 75 min.

A voyage in search of the illusion of modernity, which haunts Cameroonian society.

A Trip to the Country questions, sometimes ironically, the notion of development associated in Africa with a “tropical modernity” which can be summarized as follows: Everything from Europe is modern, while all things local are archaic and must be discarded.

After the ravages of slavery and colonialism, the African continent now faces another threat: educational systems, which perpetuate inferiority complexes and dependence vis-à-vis the West. This self-destructive mentality also establishes a social hierarchy placing “modern” city dwellers above “backward” rural people.

Alex’s Wedding

Documentary, Cameroon/France, 2002, 45 min.

French and Bandjoun with English subtitles

Chronicle of a rather particular afternoon during which the lives of three people change dramatically: Alex, the husband, goes to his in-laws’ to bring home his second wife. Elise, Alex’s childhood sweetheart and first wife, accompanies him – as she must, according to tradition. And Josephine, the young bride, leaves her parents to begin a new life.

Pressed into service by a neighbor, Jean-Marie Teno turns what might have been a typical wedding video into a subtle and intimate portrait of polygamy in contemporary Cameroon. Filming the celebration in great cultural detail, Teno is also implicated in the interpersonal drama of the welcoming of the second wife into an already established household.

The Colonial Misunderstanding

Documentary, Cameroon/France/Germany, 2004, 78 min.

PAL all zones; French, English, and German subtitles

The film looks at Christian evangelism as the forerunner of European colonialism in Africa, indeed, as the ideological model for the relationship between North and South even today. In particular it looks at the role of missionaries in Namibia on the centenary of the 1904 German genocide of the Herrero people there. It reveals how colonialism destroyed African beliefs and social systems and replaced them with European ones as if they were the only acceptable routes to modernity. As Prof. F. Kangué Ewané says in the film: “I can forgive Westerners for taking away my land …but not for taking away my mind and soul.”

Afrique, je te plumerai

Documentary, Cameroon/France/Germany, 1992, 88 min.

1990: thirty years after Africa’s wave of independences, the end of the cold war and the dramatic political changes taking place around the world, inspire a generation of young Africans to take the streets and challenge the one-party state and its attendant nepotism, corruption and economic failure.

In a daring free style construction, Afrique, je te plumerai mixes past and present, establishing a link between yesterday’s colonial experience and today’s violence and corruption in Cameroon, the only African country colonized by three European powers.

Chief!

Documentary, Cameroon, 1999, 61 min.

During the month of December, 1997, I witnessed several troubling events in Cameroon: In my village a young boy was nearly lynched by a mob people’s justice in a lawless state. I went to a wedding and learned that, by law, the husband is the ruler of the family. A highly respected journalist was imprisoned without a trial for writing an article about the health of the president.

Homage

Documentary, Cameroon, 1985, 13 minutes

With poetry and irony, Homage celebrates the playfulness of life with its share of difficulties and tragedy in Bafoussam, Teno’s hometown in Western Cameroon. One of the best piece of Autobiography in visual arts.

Sacred Places

Documentary, Cameroon/France, 2009, 70 min.

French with German, English, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish subtitles

Set in St-Leon, a modest neighborhood tucked between the cathedral and two mosques in the city of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where for 40 years, the world’s famous FESPACO (Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou) showcases the best achievements of African filmmaking, Sacred Places is a film about the fight to survive and to maintain one’s dignity in a hostile environment.

Through the lives of Bouba, the video club operator, and Jules Cesar, the djembe maker and player who sees the djembe, a skin-covered hand drum, as the big brother of cinema, Jean-Marie Teno turns the portrait of the Ouagadougou neighborhood of St. Leon into an introspection on his craft as a filmmaker, as well as a personal reflection on art, popular culture, and business in Africa today.

Clandestine

Fiction, Cameroon/France/Germany, 1996, 98 min.

Proud and determined, the hunter set out, leaving behind his village ravaged by a terrible drought. All the villagers came out to wish him well, and everyone gave what he could: an egg, a handful of peanuts or a few kola nuts…

As in the folktale, Sobgui, a former computer programmer who now drives a “clando” cab in Douala, flees to Europe to escape a life in Cameroon which has become unbearable. In Cologne (Germany), , Sobgui joins a community of African emigrants. Most are hard-working and ambitious people. Sobgui begins a love affair with Madeleine, a German political activist who encourages Sobgui and his friends to return home and fight for change.

“One hears the voice of Africa expressing itself in the first person and taking the risk of its subjectivity, without using the excuse of poverty or relying on folklorism. This is, above all, very courageous.”