Heidi Specogna, CH/GE, 2016, 117’
World Premiere
Sunday August 7th, 11.00, Cinema Teatro Kursaal
Monday August 8th, 18.30, L'altra Sala

en / it / de / fr

In the beginning there was a notebook. A notebook about hundreds of broken lives and tragic fates. Director Heidi Specogna wastes no time and shows it to us in the very beginning. She uses the photos of men, children and teenagers, as well as brief testimonies, to make sure we never forget the horrific events committed between October 2002 and March 2003 in the Central African Republic by the troops of Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo.

This notebook, which crystalizes the suffering associated with painful events of the recent Central African history, was discovered by chance and led Heidi Specogna to embark on a seven-year long cinematic journey. When she started her project, the idea was to focus on a few women who were trying to rebuild their lives, some after being raped. However, reality caught up with her and she had to reconsider the scope of Cahier africain. In 2012, five years after the first civil war had ended, the Seleka rebels took up arms again and the nightmare began anew, fuelled by rivalries between Christians and Muslims. Making the most of her presence there, the director did not shy away from showing the effects of these new conflicts, going as far as filming dead bodies, all the while avoiding the pitfalls of sensationalism and voyeurism. To her, it was all about showing and documenting. She wanted to leave a trace just like this small notebook that she helped transfer to the International Criminal Court in The Hague had done. There, Jean-Pierre Bemba has just received an 18-year prison sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity. A fitting end to this filmic endeavour.

After several years of shooting, Heidi Specogna decided to give Cahier africain a novel-like dimension. She divides the film into three chapters, starting her story in 2011 and the beginning of Bemba’s trial, and finishes it in 2015 on a daringly optimistic note. Thanks to the exceptional editing, the film articulates the pain of the people and discreetly tells the story of a wounded country by focusing its gaze on the faces and the eyes of individuals. One such person is Arlette, a young girl who undergoes knee surgery in Europe only to find out that her wound reopens later, standing for war crime victims that can never entirely heal. Arlette is just like the film itself: true, beautiful, tragic, and deeply moving.

Stéphane Gobbo