After having spent most of my time zooming online with certain key informants, in July 2021, I-Lotte Pelckmans- finally managed to visit members of Gambana in person and discuss the possibility of making a documentary movie about the Gambana movement. Between the 3rd and 12th of September 2021, I spent 10 days in Paris to film key members of the movement for my upcoming movie on transnational Soninke anti-slavery activism between Mali and France.
In all, 9 informants have been recorded (with informed consent and having signed the necessary papers). Unfortunately, only 2 of these were women, as many of the women whom I would have liked to interview were too busy with both care work and their jobs. As many live in the outskirts of Paris, it is usually difficult to find a time that can be squeezed into daily life schedules and activities. Lesson learned: book the cameraman not only for the weekdays, but also for the weekend next time!
Most informants are currently part of the official board of the Gambana movement: some were chosen for their role as first initiators of the movement, while others were once part of the board but have chosen to dedicate their lives to new issues. We visited the oldest people in the places where they wanted to invite us (their own or friend’s houses), and others were invited to our self-made filming studio near Gare de l’Est.
An old Mauritanian informant proposed for us to meet and interview him in the house of his son’s best friend: a younger cousin with a 4 room flat in Aubervilliers. While we were interviewing and filming, this cousin received friends as visitors, a young couple in their thirties as well as the old man’s own son, but everyone insisted we should just continue the interviewing and filming. And so we did… Instead of 5 people in the room, we were now all of a sudden 9 in a small space, and I was a bit nervous that this would impact not only the quality of the sound but also the possibilities for the old man to speak out. However, that fear soon turned out to be unfounded as the old man simply continued to tell his story, patiently waiting for the translator to do his job. For both the man’s son, the cousin and their friends visiting, it was the first time ever that they heard the history of their uncle/father’s grandparents and ancestors. Concentration was high and the degree of listening was amazing… once we took a break, a lot of comments and questions arose and they (the younger generation) were pleased to have learned about their own history! Lovely unintended consequences of filming in the field…
Blog by Lotte Pelckmans