“Ready for the Revolution?” was the greeting the filmmaker and poet used to answer the phone until the 70s, according to the testimony of her daughter Henda Ducados. The same question should be asked now, in this opportunity to see that same voice being raised in a retrospective: the first one about the filmmaker in Portugal, co-presented by IndieLisboa and Cinemateca Portuguesa.
Sarah Maldoror was not only one of the first women to wield a camera and transform African cinema from then on, but a matriarch who did it to fight oppression. We now bring her work to the big screen compiled in 43 films (3 features and 40 short films) – some of them believed to be lost – and 5 films that contextualise the director’s work. To be seen from September 1 to 8 in Cinemateca’s Felix Ribeiro Room and at the Terrace.
Maldoror was born in Gers, in the south of France, from a Guadeloupean father and a French mother. Her work’s militant and political dimension appeared from a very young age when she decided to change her original surname Ducados for Maldoror, inspired by Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror, where the author describes the worst of what human beings are capable of. From this rebellion appears a pseudonym that articulates an anti-colonialist, pan-African and feminist discourse, attentive to the legacies of negritude in artistic and cinematographic production. From her first work Monangambée (1969)*, a vehicle for denouncing the crimes committed by colonising Portugal in Angola, to Sambizanga (1973), a testimony to the liberation of the country, the fingerprint of her political cinema is quickly canonised. The latter – Sambizanga – will be screened in a newly restored copy, recently premiered at the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival.
From then on, she affirmed the negritude movement and thus spread black culture, along with her companion Mário Pinto de Andrade, Angolan poet, Pan-Africanism thinker and founder of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA). A diversified group of films let the affirmation of blackness pass through, as in Et Les Chiens Se Taiseient (1978); and others look at black identity and culture after the independence of their territories – À Bissau, Le Carnaval (1980), Cap-Vert, Un Carnaval Dans Le Sahel (1979), Fogo, L’Île De Feu (1979) – and the Parisian psychogeographies of migrant experiences – Un Dessert Pour Constance (1980), Scala Milan A. C. (2003), Le Passager du Tassili (1986), among others.
The retrospective also brings together numerous portraits of artists, writers, directors or singers, who look at Maldoror’s work as a collection of inspiration and sowing of awareness. It is important to mention the central figure of the activist poet Aimé Césaire, present in at least three films, as well as the poets Louis Aragon, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Édouard Glissant, Léon G. Damas, the painter Joan Miró, among others.
Another presented branch gives voice to black women in profoundly anti-racist films that exude solidarity. From Portrait D’Une Femme Africaine (1985), Écrivain Public (1985), to Point Virgule (1986), Premiére Recontre Internationale des Femmes Noires (1986) or Assia Djebar (1987).
On the other side of the spectrum, one looks at her work through authors such as Chris Marker, William Klein, Anne-Laure Folly, or Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnec – this last film, Préface à Des Fusils Pour Banta (2011) is an elegy to Sarah Maldoror’s lost film, Des Fusils Pour Banta (1970), which focused on a woman involved in the fight for Guinea and Cape Verde’s independence.
> The Italian militant photographer Augusta Conchiglia will be present at the session on September 8, at 15:30, for Monangambée‘s second screening at the festival, invited by Maria do Carmo Piçarra and ICNOVA-FSCH.
> Sarah Maldoror’s daughterAnnouchka de Andrade will be present in Lisbon during the retrospective.