Fipadoc: "You and Me" in Bangui, Central African Republic

It's an energy ball that dances when you arrive for an interview. Rafiki Fariala is probably the youngest filmmaker in the Central African Republic (CAR) and certainly the youngest ever elected.


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Émilie and D'Agou in "Mbi Na Mo", a documentary by Rafiki Fariala (France, Central African Republic), selected at the International Documentary Festival (Fipadoc) in Biarritz. Fipadoc 2019

It's a ball of energy that dances when arriving for the interview. Rafiki Fariala is probably the youngest filmmaker in the Central African Republic (CAR) and certainly the youngest selected for the International Documentary Festival (Fipadoc) competition in Biarritz, France. At 21, he made his first film. "Mbi na mo" ("You and Me") is a 28-minute crossing of Central African society and its capital Bangui with a young couple.

RFI : In You and Me , we share the daily life and hopes of Agou, a motorcycle taxi driver, and his wife Émilie. What story do you want to tell ?

Rafiki Fariala : It's first of all Central African history. When you see the film, you really believe in CAR, my country where I come from. This is the love story of Émilie and Agou. They love each other, but dream a bit like in the American cinema of a much better future. Their only means of livelihood is Agou's bike. After an accident, he does not know how to take charge of his wife Émilie who is only 20 years old and can not continue his studies. They know more about how to welcome their future unborn child.

This young couple, is it representative for the Central African youth ?

This is the hope that the Central African youth is looking for. They dream. This is a dream of all young Central Africans. They try to project themselves into the future. How can they live like young people in Europe or in the West? This film represents the Central African youth looking for what the future can give them. The Central African Republic is still represented in the crisis. When we see the CAR, we always think about the crisis, but today, the youth hopes and dreams of a better future.

The young Central African filmmaker Rafiki Fariala at the International Documentary Festival (Fipadoc) in Biarritz. Siegfried Forster / RFI

The Central African Republic, a country of 4.5 million inhabitants, is virtually unknown in France and Europe. Its capital Bangui, with its 600,000 inhabitants, is just as much. Which city will we discover during this taxi-motorcycle crossing ?

When we talk about the Central African Republic, we always refer to our first president, Jean-Bedel Bokassa [ president of the CAR from 1966 to 1976, emperor from 1976 to 1979, ed ]. Emperor Bokassa remains a reference. Through this film, I wish we did not stop at Bokassa and the war. That's why there are taxi-bikes [in my film], a phenomenon of everyday life. Young people use it every day to get around. It is the most common means of transportation in CAR. Through this film, I tried to describe the beauty of Central Africa. It's really a big emerging country. The little we have, I tried to describe it through these young people, through their hopes, their daily struggle for a better life and a better future. I'm trying to write all the Central African activity, all his youth. There is also this reality of taxis-motorcycles that cause accidents. It happens every day in CAR. For that, we also fight to say to the youth: roll more slowly to preserve your future!

On screen, we discover the small apartment of a room of the young couple, the school of Emilie, the hospital that accompanies her in her pregnancy, the work of Agou as a motorcycle taxi driver in the streets where we see the inhabitants, street vendors or military parade. These are the markers of the Central African society ?

These are the most important for me. I describe the house, the school ... It's our daily life. I want to describe our activities, our culture, because [usually] we always refer to war. I really want to know my country, the CAR, through our social life, school, how we study, how we go to the hospital, under what conditions ...

The young Central African filmmaker Rafiki Fariala at the International Documentary Festival (Fipadoc) in Biarritz. Siegfried Forster / RFI

Being a filmmaker in Central Africa today, what does this mean ?

For me, being a filmmaker in Central Africa is really a hope for the country, because through cinema, through my images, I can describe my country, talk more about my country. My country is unknown. Wherever you go, people have trouble finding CAR on a map. Through our Central African films, we will be able to talk more about our country and make it known beyond our borders.

In concrete terms, what is it under which conditions ?

This film is made with a small budget. It's a first school movie. I had never done a movie before. Imagine someone who was told: today, we are trying to teach you how to film. It was a bit strange for me. The Alliance Française has done a lot for the Central African youth.

This film is really our daily life. I try to tell how we wake up in the morning. We do not have breakfast. At home, we prepare the "ball" [ball of cassava, ed] that is taken as breakfast, so it's already lunch. It's our daily life, it's our culture. We try to describe it a little through these roosters we hear, through the awakening, moving in the markets. I filmed in several neighborhoods of Bangui. When people saw me with the camera, they found it a little strange: "wow, does it happen here? ". It was amazing to see a young person like me wander with the camera. But that opens the borders for us.

The young Central African filmmaker Rafiki Fariala at the International Documentary Festival (Fipadoc) in Biarritz. Siegfried Forster / RFI

Agou and Émilie, how did they react to the film ?

They were very happy to see it themselves. When we shot, every day, they asked me the question: when does the film come out? Can we be like actors in the movies? They were very touched and asked me to do another documentary with them. I continue with a second story around these two characters. They are happy to represent the Central African youth through Mbi na mo .

In February will open a cinema in Bangui. What do you hope for the future ?

Initially, we did not talk about cinema in CAR. But the Varan Workshops, our partners and trainers who were kind enough to come to Bangui, in partnership with the Alliance Française who supported us and who was there, they had the idea to set up the cinema. The workshops will renew the cinema system in CAR. Today, the French Alliance in Bangui - under the direction of Olivier Collin - has built a large hall that will be inaugurated on February 2nd. This will restore the cinema. For years, Central African youth could not see movies. There were not [more] rooms. From February 2nd, we will have a room with a capacity of one thousand people standing and 400 people seated. So this will be a great joy for Central African youth. We will have access to a room, cinema, equipment ... it's really a great opening to the world.

You are also a singer. How did it click to make a first film ?

I am a singer, a slammer. First, I was always in front of the camera. As soon as there was this contest for the Varan Workshops, I knew that it could open the door to the cinema. There were 150 candidates, and in the end, only ten were selected, including me. And through my images, I can accompany my words that I made in music and describe them with images, so that the Central African public and the whole world can know the truth, discover our culture and our country.

The young Central African filmmaker Rafiki Fariala at the International Documentary Festival (Fipadoc) in Biarritz. Siegfried Forster / RFI

► See also: Opening of Fipadoc: "It will be the Cannes of the documentary" , rfi, 22/1/2019

► See also: African culture: 35 appointments in 2019, rfi, 10/1/2019

The opening of the movie theater in Bangui will take place on February 2nd.

Mbi na mo ("You and Me"), by Rafiki Fariala (RCA), competing in the Young creation category at Fipadoc, Biarritz, France, until 27 January.

REF: http://www.rfi.fr/culture/20190124-fipadoc-rafiki-fariala-rca-bangui-mbi-na-mo-you-and-me