Awa Gueye is a Senegalese filmmaker whose work has been shown at the Cannes Film Festival. She sat down with Right for Education to talk about her work and relationship with cinema.


R:Ed: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?


My name is Awa Gueye, I am a Senegalese Author, Documentary Filmmaker, Scriptwriter and Director. I studied cinema at the Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis. I did my master’s and bachelor’s degrees in the arts and culture, within which I specialised in cinema.


R:Ed: There is often a fantastical element in your films, even in the most everyday situations. How important is this element?


Actually, as I said in the documentary, we share ourselves. With the books I was reading, the Grimm’s fairy tales and such, I realised that there is war, poverty, all that, a lot of sadness in the world. And even if people don’t realise it, there is a lot of tension in the world, a lot of sadness, a lot of things. In fact, if you focus on it, you are not happy enough. And for me, cinema and literature are an escape. It’s a kind of bubble.


R:Ed: Is the bubble more real than reality? Do you spend more time there?

I admit that I am more comfortable there than in reality.


R:Ed There is an interesting quote in your film Jar Jar: “Everything that separates us is for the benefit of everything that binds us.” Is this the main theme of your work?


All we know is what we have and all that is. Like religion for example. But that can separate us in a very violent way. The establishment of religion for example is already a separation.


R:Ed: Which art forms have had the most influence on you?


Actually, I have three. I already mentioned literature, which I discovered at a very young age, and then I started to draw, paint and all that. And then there’s music. I listen to music all the time and I write at the same time. So of course, it leaves a mark. It inspires me so much. Especially when I’m writing so I don’t break the fantasy.


R:Ed: Your films focus mostly on women and their world. How do you compare the world of men and the world of women? 


I feel more comfortable with the world of women. Women are more sensitive, much more sensitive and a woman has more complexity. They are as much in love with their families and their children, their husbands and so on. With men, it’s more one directional. 


R:Ed: Do you think your films are women’s films?


Yes. I will make films with women without ever thinking about it. One day I realised that my films were indeed films all about women. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t give men strength. We see that men, whether we like it or not, have a certain leadership in society. They are at the mercy of almost everything. Even if women decide to fight to be on the same level as men. Because today, in Senegalese society, I don’t know about other countries, but in Senegalese society, in the suburbs where I live, even more women have become heads of families. Those who have a job, they are the ones who provide money for the household. And at the same time, the strange thing is that they still play a smaller, insider role.


R:Ed: You appear in your films yourself. Does the camera allow you to distance yourself from reality while taking part in it? Do you enjoy being distanced from reality?


In fact, the camera was the only way for me to show my world. The truth is that even as I’m talking to you now, I can’t concentrate on what is being said. You have noticed, it’s just how I am. In real life, people may be my friends, but they don’t really know who Awa is. 


R:Ed: Once a film is made, has your relationship with the subject changed permanently?


Of course, that’s what’s magical, downright magical about filmmaking. When you start on your subject, it is quite banal sometimes. The subject is like a treasure chest. I have come to say to myself now when I start a film, what will I discover in the course of this film? Because inevitably, you discover things. Inevitably, you get closer to the person, you can’t not make a film about what is really magnificent in the documentary. As soon as you make a film with a character, you include them in your inner circle. They become someone really privileged. Because at a certain point, the person necessarily opens up to us. And we understand all the unspoken things, sometimes we understand all the violence, the suffering of that person.


R:Ed: Can you tell us about your next film?


I have a short film and a feature film. The first one is the story of a little girl called Acipa, who lives in a village here in Senegal, in the north in a big village. She has been adopted by her sister who is married to a man who is both a criminal and a rapist. That’s the film and the plot of the story. And there are many rivers in the village. The river actually flows through the village and drowns people, we don’t know. We think that in the collective imagination of the village, they believe that it is the spirit of the river that is drowning this little girl. But in reality, it wasn’t that, it was just a man raping these little girls. What does it mean? A great deal.


R:Ed: Do you have any advice for other directors?  


I’m going to be general and just say that in its global context or in Africa or anywhere else in the world, what’s important is always to hang on and believe in your dreams. And I was saying this even yesterday. Fight to make your film no matter what anyone says. It’s a dream that might finally come true because there are many films that didn’t make it. You have to believe in it. Afterwards, you’re bound to find an audience. That’s all I have to say.


Right for Education


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