Tuesday 1 December 2009

Safi Faye (b.1943)

This is part of the research I am doing for Film Directing 4 Women.

I have discovered many, many women filmmakers from various countries, with the most varied journeys. Women who have made sure their visions are materialized in celluloid, that their cinematic voices are heard.

It has been difficult to pick one of them to represent the many filmmakers I found, especially because I myself have never heard of them until now. So I am sharing this as I learn about them.

To start this research, I have chosen Safi Faye from Senegal. Faye is also an ethnologist, making the very interesting crossing from documentaries to fiction. I personally find the line in between both to be quite blurred. For me, the research of daily life and how people live (socially, culturally, and economically) is the base for all fiction. I can't, and I do not intend to, tear them apart.

Faye was born in 1943 in Dakar. She obtained her teaching certificate at the age of 19 and continuing teaching for the next six years. During the Dakar Festival of Negro Art in 1966, Faye met the renowned French ethnologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch. Rouch encouraged Faye’s interest in Cinema as well as its use as an ethnological tool.

Faye acted in Rouch’s film “Petit à petit ou Les Lettres Persanes 1968 (Little by Little or the 1968 Persian Letters)” which
allowed her to become acquainted with Rouch's technique of cinéma-vérité (an unobtrusive camera eye, spontaneous shooting, improvised nonprofessional acting, and mostly single takes), which was to influence her greatly in the course of her future career as a filmmaker. (Francoise Pfaff, 1988)

In 1969 Faye moved to Paris and enrolled at “the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes to study ethnology and at the Louis Lumière Film School in 1972”, and supported herself working as a model, actress and film dubbing.
Her first film, La Passante (The Passerby) derives from Faye’s experience of estrangement in Paris. After making a collective film with other students from the Ecole (Revanche, The Revenge), Faye went back home to Dakar to work on the research for her next film, “her first feature length docudrama, Kaddu beykat (Letter from My Village), with a crew of three, including a French cameraman and her uncle, who worked briefly as a soundman.”

The film was actually financed with a $20.000 grant given to Faye by the French Ministry of Cooperation and was released in 1975. It went to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival and “ won an award at the Festival International du Film de l'Ensemble Francophone (FIFEF) held in Geneva. ln 1975-1976 this film obtained the Georges Sadoul Prize in France and a special award at the Fifth Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) in Burkina Faso, and won the International Film Critics Award at the Berlin Film Festival (FIPRESCI).
Whilst pursuing her cinematic ambitions, Faye received her diploma in ethnology from Sorbonne, concluding her PhD in 1979 at the University of Paris.

to be continued.

scene from Mossane (1996) by Safi Faye

Source: Francoise Pfaff, "From twenty-Five African Filmmakers", Greenwood Press 1988

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In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.