Film Archive

Death of the Serpent God

Documentary Film
France
2014
91 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Xavier Pons
Damien Froidevaux
Ian Saboya
Damien Froidevaux
David Jungman
The back story sounds like a caustic fairytale but is a common practice in Europe. At the age of two, Koumba came to Paris from a Senegalese village with her parents. For 18 years, the French capital was all she knew until she ended up at a police station after a nocturnal fight and was deported within 48 hours.
She finds herself in the isolated village of her ancestors, among relatives she doesn’t know. The old legends in which snake kings rule the people’s fates are still alive here. The upheaval is a brutal shock. “White Koumba”, as she is called here – quite contemptuously – is now the mother of an illegitimate son and trapped. She reacts as she usually does: lashing out fearlessly and rebelliously, making demands and insulting her environment – including the filmmaker, whom she calls selfish. So at first the film is made against its protagonist’s desperate resistance. But Damien Froidevaux doesn’t give up, doesn’t abandon the rebellious girl. Over a period of five years he frequently returns from Paris to Senegal until he finally becomes part of a coping process. Koumba goes through a fascinating change of personality to become the heroine of her own odyssey, while always aware of the role of the camera.
Lars Meyer

From My Syrian Room

Documentary Film
France,
Germany,
Lebanon,
Syria
2014
70 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Nathalie Combe, Heino Deckert, Georges Schoucair, Myriam Sassine, Hazem Alhamwi
Hazem Alhamwi
Sivan
Hazem Alhamwi, Ghassan Katlabi
Florence Jacquet
Hazem Alhamwi
Nuzha Al Nazer, Frédéric Maury
A feeling of oppression creeps in. Hazem Alhamwi’s nib scratches over a black and white sketch worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. Apocalyptic motives and mordant satire are his speciality and were his salvation. In a country like Syria, where everything, even breathing – as someone bitterly comments – was controlled, havens were needed. Art that resigns itself to being non-public, can be one. This film was made when the protests following the Arab Spring raised hopes that something might change: saying out loud at last what was suppressed and would have lead to long prison sentences for decades. The director talks to friends and relatives to find causes and origins, beginning with childhood experiences of propaganda and personality cults, adaptation and fear. Today, when events happen so fast, we are in the age of fast media. Alhamwi’s nuanced tones, associative motives and trips into the visual worlds of childhood have a hard time keeping up in a present in which Syria is crushed between religious and ethnic interests as well as those of foreign countries. The voices from Alhamwi’s room are echoes of a time when people demanded democratisation and freedom. The film records those short moments when the opposition tried to form and articulate itself. The time allotted to the idealists was very short.
Cornelia Klauß

National Diploma

Documentary Film
DR Congo,
France
2014
92 minutes
subtitles: 
English
French

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Marie Balducchi
Dieudo Hamadi
Dieudo Hamadi
Rodolphe Molla
Dieudo Hamadi
Dieudo Hamadi
“Lord, give me a diploma!” are the not so silent prayers of Congolese high school students just before their final exams. Instead of the Mercedes Benz of Janis Joplin’s American version a graduation diploma is considered to be the key to happiness. Getting it, however, is nothing short of a miracle, because the school system is part of the institutionalised corruption: if you can’t pay the “teachers’ fee”, you’re expelled.
A group of students in Kisangani, however, refuse to put up with this any longer – among them Joël, who can’t scrape the necessary money together even though he works hard every day carrying crates on the market. They take the initiative and move into an empty house to prepare for the exams, self-organised and with the aid of “little tricks”. They have two months left, two months in which they will live, discuss, pray and sing together.
Dieudo Hamadi manages to be always at the centre of things with his camera and to show the group’s dynamics from inside. His tale of the fragile democracy in the Congo is told not with resignation but with a touch of utopia that makes real democratic participation seem possible – and with an explosive finale. You’ve never seen a real graduation party until you’ve seen this film, though he doesn’t conceal either that the students don’t escape the logic of the system after all.
Lars Meyer