BEST PRACTICES OF THE ACPCULTURES+ PROGRAMME: GRIGRIS

Thanks to the film and its selection at Cannes in 2013, the Chadian government has implemented several actions to promote cinema in the country

Grigris, 6th feature film by the Chadian director Mahamat Saleh-Haroun, was part of the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, where it won the Vulcain Prize. Accustomed to the Croisette, Mahamat Saleh-Haroun already presented Abouna (2002), and A Screaming Man (funded by the ACPCulture Programme, before ACPCultures+), crowned with the Jury Prize in 2010.

The protagonist of Grigris is a young paralytic, stricken during childhood by polio, who dreams of becoming a dancer. Through this character emerges the portrait of a certain neglected Chadian youth but which is struggling to build a horizon.

Saleh-Haroun was inspired by the story of the main character, played by Souleymane Démé from Burkina Faso. It is by seeing him acting on stage despite his handicap that the director has found the inspiration to write his film.

"I am inspired by stories of youth that I frequent in Chad, which abuts permanently on a social reality not allowing them to accomplish themselves", says the Chadian director. "We added a documentary filter to the genre: the portrait of a young man whose dream is broken because in Africa any good son should first take care of his family. The film is important also because I wanted to send a strong message in favor of women's emancipation in Chad", says Haroun.

Does the Cannes selections are useful for the career of a film?

"Yes, certainly, the presence at Cannes is a great help. The Cannes Film Festival is the biggest festival and market of the profession, a selection in the competition gives the greatest visibility for a film, with other festivals selection and with the press and foreign distributors", replies Mahamat Saleh -Haroun. "After the price [of the jury] to A Screaming Man, the impact was such that the Chadian state has invested, for the first time, a few hundred thousand euros in the production of Grigris. The Chadian Minister of Culture also specifically came to Cannes to attend the official projection of Grigris. It's a breakthrough", says the director.

What did the contribution of ACPCultures+ mean for the film?

"First of all it means the birth of a new film by an African director, telling a story about Africa but with a universal scope, shot in Africa, produced in harmony with its partners, the budget and schedule provided. The contribution of ACPCultures+ has significantly contributed to the diffusion of the film in Africa and to the development of the presence of African cinema in the world. This is very significant and necessary to fight against the marginalization of Africa", says Saleh-Haroun.

Moreover, the film has contributed to the emergence of a film industry in Chad and consolidated the will of the Chadian government to invest in the audiovisual industry. The Chadian government has for the first time helped to finance a feature film. Moreover it introduced a Chadian film promotion caravan to disseminate local films in the most remote parts of the country and among high school students. "There is a real awareness of the positive image on the country conveyed by this film", says Saleh-Haroun.

A third result is added to improve the country's image abroad and the establishment of a film policy: the training of professionals.

Technicians, actors, local partners who participated in the film have acquired or strengthened international work experience. "It is important for us to train young people in all trades of cinema, editing, writing, so that we can make movies at home, without being obliged to call on foreign experts. Through these training and development of professional skills, we can reduce manufacturing costs and meet people around a film project of the same culture, not just cinematographic", says the Chadian director. And remember: "it is necessary that black Africa is creating an economy of cinema".

The film was praised by critics of the whole world, but it came with a very good commercial. Grigris has indeed been selected in many festivals: Sydney, Karlovy Vary, Munich, Melbourne, Helsinki, Vancouver, Namur, Busan (Korea), Mumbai (India), Sao Paulo, Bergen (Norway), Viennale (Austria), Cinemania (Canada), Haifa, Kolkata (India), Gijon (Spain), Kerala, Dubai, Rotterdam .... And continued to win awards: Bayard photography in Namur, Signis price at the African Light Festival of Besançon, Special Mention to Souleymane Démé at Dubai Festival, Actor award for Anaïs Monory at the African film Festival of Khouribga (Morocco)...

The economic impact has been very benefic for the director's production company.

The film was released in theaters in over twenty countries, was broadcast on Canal+ Africa and was sold to thirty televisions and European airlines, from English and French speaking Africa. The recipes that have been invested in new projects in Chad. Mahamat Saleh-Haroun was able to fully self-finance his new film Hissene Habre, a Chadian tragedy, presented once again at Cannes in 2016.

August 25, 2016
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