Posts Tagged ‘CPH: DOX’

Zinder (2020) IDFA

Dir.: Aicha Macky; Documentary with Sinya Boy, Bawo, Ramsess, Americain, PGG; Mali/France/Germany 2021, 85 min.

Nigerian writer/director Aicha Macky grew up the former leper’s quarter of Zinder, Niger’s second biggest city on the border with Nigeria. It’s a Godforsaken land-locked place where corruption is rife and education and opportunities are few, especially in the backwater of Kara-Kara where Islam holds sway but is hardly a civilising influence, the young men get by resorting to a gang culture and violence.

So it’s left to the women, and one brave soul in particular, to find out what’s gone wrong. Macky talked to those left behind by society, who only know violence as a means to change their lives. Her film is another shocking testament to depravity and disillusionment.

Two men on a motorcycle: on a mast a flag with a drawing of Adolf Hitler emblazoned with Swastikas. These two are joining their friends for a body-building session, explaining that “Hitler is the name of a guy from the USA”. The group might not know their history, but they are proud “because nobody is crossing the gangs of Kara-Kara”. The main enemy are the police: “I pray for Boko Harem, to come and f…k the cops”. Progress in there world sees knuckledusters replacing belts as their main weapons. Gangster movies influence their behaviour and they are proud of their scars.

Some have chosen a profession, like Idrissa Sani Malam, who ‘drives’ a sort of rickshaw taxi and is particularly proud of a scar left by a woman, “we were lovers, or I was at least a regular client.” Sex traffickers are part of the territory, their victims are girls as young as 15. Even women in the “Red Light district” are not protected, least of all by the police: They have not found the perpetrator who had slashed a woman’s throat three month ago. One way or the other, most of them end up in prison, a notoriously sordid place, where the men queue to use squalid latrines.

Meanwhile, Salissou Cikara visits a friend waiting for his trial and blaming ‘snitches’ for his fate. Cikara then goes home to his pregnant girlfriend, whose ultrasound costs the earth: 3000 Francs for the ultrasound, 9500 Francs for a blood test, and that’s not the end of the story. The civilised world has brought medicine, but at a price.

Bawo “has done a lot of bad things”. Like kidnapping girls in short skirts and abducting them into make-shift rooms “where we emptied ourselves into them. If they screamed, we put our hands over their mouths. We were breaking them in, with knives. Over time, they got used to it and became one of us. Reggae music plays all night as we smoke weed and take Tramadol.”

There’s always someone to blame for societal breakdown. This time it’s the ‘foreigners’  for stealing the country’s minerals. Ramatou Ma Main – Ramsess for short – is a hermaphrodite who gets by smuggling gasoline in daring night raids, hunted down by federal custom agents. Rumour has it that the gasoline smuggled into Niger actually belongs to the state of Niger. And votes on election days are rather cheap, 2000 Francs does not go far. Then Cikara has a brain wave: they will give up crime and form a security organisation – but this costs money. So the gang goes and works hard in the nearby quarry, but worse is to come, and Cikara dreams on. DoP Julien Bossé takes us to the centre of the action, his incredible footage particularly of Ramsess’ last raid and confrontation with the custom officers feel like a violent action thriller but this is a real life. Aicha Macky goes where her male director colleges would not dare to go: unflinchingly into the heart of darkness. AS     




To the Moon (2020) CPH:DOX 2021

Dir.: Tadhg O’Sullivan; Documentary, ROI 2020, 71 min.

This first solo outing for writer/director and editor Tadgh O’Sullivan is a hymn to the moon compiled of countless clips and texts from over 130 films featuring the lunar planet. Like most compendium films To the Moon stimulates the desire to revisit the originals – mostly Nordic and German films –  not just as quotes – but in their entirety.

This moon admiration marathon is divided in sections with the first three entitled: ‘Because the Moon feels loved‘; ‘Because its always alone in the Sky‘ and ‘Loom of the Moon‘. The goddess of the Moon is apparently called Luna, yet ironically the word has now come to be connected with the mentally challenged here on Earth (lunatics).

The next chapter, ‘The Werewolf’, explores intruders into the home after the hours of darkness, and particularly those of a canine variety. ‘Ebb Tide has come to me’ is a melancholic segment dealing with ageing and featuring as its themes water and death in the moon shine: “Winter of age which overwhelms everyone”.

‘Part of a Dream’ looks at children’s relationship with the moon and we watch, among others, a clip of Edgar Reitz’ Heimat, where the young narrator asks himself “Is it the same Moon over Russia as over Schabbach?”

A little boy asks a father if he is part of the moonlight dream in ‘The Moon is Ours‘ and we enjoy a clip from Fritz Lang’s horror outing The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960). Meanwhile a very unromantic Italian man drives his knife into a tree, destroying a heart carved into the trunk, his female companion looking hopefully up to the gleaming planet. Finally, ‘Earth Fragment‘ brings us back to the cruelty of nature, an owl is attacking a rabbit in the moonlight.

Three years in the making To The Moon is a labour of love, O’Sullivan has certainly done his homework, but one wonders how much is really to his credit. Impressively edited and entertaining To the Moon is an enjoyable foray into the film archives testing the audience’s knowledge of film history AS


UK films featured in To The Moon:

– Dangerous Moonlight, (Brian Desmond Hurst, 1941)

– The Smashing Bird I Used to Know (Robert Hartford-Davis, 1969)

– The Tell-Tale Heart (JB Williams, 1953)

– Ulysses (Joseph Strick, 1967)

– Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962)

– Der Mude Tod (Fritz Lang, 1921)

– Magic Myxies (F. Percy Smith, Mary Field, 1931)

– Floral Co-operative Societies (Mary Field, 1927)

– Cottage on Dartmoor (Anthony Asquith, 1929)

– Buxton Well Dressing (George Kemp, 1904)

– Children’s voxpop: Y Dydd (1969)

– The White Shadow (Graham Cutts, 1924)

– Lobsters (John Mathias, 1936)

– A Throw of Dice (Franz Osten, 1929)





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