Delphine’s prayers

Rosine Mbakam

IndieLisboa 2021 •

Belgium, Cameroon, Documentary, 2021, 91′

A raw documentary about Delphine, a young Cameroonian woman who is carrying a suffering that has sprouted horns. Rosine Mbakam’s camera keeps its eye on Delphine, without looking away or illustrating what she expresses. Cameroonian-born and Belgium-based, Mbakam and her cinema, which has focused on the migrant experience, explore themes such as the weight and dominance of patriarchal societies over African women and the Western culture’s sexual, colonial exploitation.

A conversation between the two women. Delphine, the protagonist, and Rosine Mbakam, the filmmaker. Born in Cameroon, they met in Belgium. Separated by class, they are brought together by their migrant experience. Rosine holds the camera but Delphine is the one who points out where to place it and when to cut. It was Delphine in the first place who asked Rosine to make the film. Ten days of shooting turned into ten years of editing for the filmmaker. What she offers us as a result is a perfectly contained place of shared intimacy. The focus is always on Delphine’s face, she speaks, puts her makeup on, makes up her hair. She is in her bed. The bed is sometimes made, and sometimes not, Delphine’s belongings are scattered all around. There’s no need to tidy up when you receive a dear friend. Neither your room, nor your soul. A place of shared intimacy becomes a place of shared pain. Delphine’s story is one of exploitation, humiliation, marginalisation, and her confession turns into a desperate cry, the one and only possible prayer: change my life! The prayer that’s not directed, it seems, to any god, but to each and every one of us facing Delphine on the screen. (Anastasia Lukovnikova)