Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Scene Descriptions
October 8, 2021
Oct 8, 2021
We wanted freedom, but we got democracy.
Scene 1: ESTABLISHING SHOT. The scene must be like a Russian dreaming. Andrei Tarkovsky's mistrust of linearity matched with Mikhail Kalatozov’s anxiety of the frame. The camera’s demand of austerity. Small incisions of light. A black blank screen. Ominous wails and chatter of Africans rising in the unknown background.
Scene 2: CLOSE UP. Rotating Stills. “The Upright Man” Thomas Sankara adorning a red beret. Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta. Sékou Touré. CUT TO: STOCK FOOTAGE of political propaganda. CUT TO: A ROLL and B ROLL of African liberation armies. Coups. Low angle shots zooming into farms being salted. Townships and villages burning. Muddy puddles reflecting the fire. ZOOM OUT: A lush landscape of green. The sky a grainy sienna. CUT TO: Rotating stills of Robert Mugabe: Blaise Compaoré: Paul Biya: Idi Amin: Bokassa standing in front of his bold eagle styled golden throne. CUT TO: STOCK FOOTAGE. Camera unfolds to a crane view of Lumumba unboarding a plane with handcuffs on his wrists before rope is further tied around his arms. Mobotu in the background. His stare into the camera an anthem collapsing.
Scene 3: WIDE SHOT. Political cartoon of the scramble for Africa. CUT TO: Colonial map of Zambia, then known as Northern Rhodesia. It’s edges showing Angola bordering west. DRC northwest. Tanzania northeast. Malawi east. Mozambique southeast. Namibia southwest. Zimbabwe and Botswana south.
Scene 4: A black blank screen with the sound of a train approaching in the background. FADE IN: Mining newspaper The Nchanga Drum. On its cover a map showing Northern Rhodesia’s Copperbelt railroad line area from Livingstone in the south to the Belgian Congo border. A photograph of white and African miners. Camera zooms into the picture. Entering. The photograph no longer a still setting. Bodies move. White arms and black arms holding pickaxes rise and break in unison against sacred rock. CUT TO: Mining train passing by miners. Zambian women holding their children at the side while selling grain.
Scene 5: CUTBACK: Colonial map of Northern Rhodesia. Kenneth Kaunda’s frame growing on top. A litany of abbreviations cut across. ALC; ANC; UNIP; ZANC; ZNBC; UP; UPP; PAFMECSA; PLP; CAA; CAI; CAS; ANIP; AZ; FUCA; MMD; NAZ; UDI; CCMG.
Scene 6: STOCK FOOTAGE of Kaunda on a podium giving a speech at the University of Zambia. “It pays to belong to the UNIP! One Zambia, One Nation, One Country.”
Scene 7: WIDE SHOT of Lusaka Independence Stadium. October 23rd-24th. 1964. Zambia army band playing. CUT TO: TIGHT SHOT of the Union Jack waving as it comes down. Zambia’s flag ascends. Northern Rhodesia is no more. Zambia is born. Chants from the crowd of “One Zambia, One Nation, One Country!”
Scene 8: MEDIUM SHOT of Zambia’s countryside. Morning mist where the trees are covered in rising smoke. CUT TO: Zambezi river. CUT TO: WIDE SHOT of Victoria falls, showing David Livingstone’s statue in Zimbabwe. Dusk falls. FADE OUT.
Scene 9: CLOSE SHOT. The screen unfolds into color, showing a dim room. Two young lovers, both infants of freedom’s spring, laying on a straw mattress bed facing a large flag covering the wall. (He doesn’t know he has hung the flag backwards). Her head resting on his dead arm. A window open, wind whipping at a loose screw on the side.
Scene 10: CUT TO outside the small room. Though the sky is crowded with storm clouds, the Jack Snipes don’t stop singing. Their song a lisp in the wind. The scene retracts back into black and white. CUT TO inside the room. Blocks of letters spelling out “C-O-P-P-E-R-B-E-L-T P-R-O-V-I-N-C-E.” A plastic ornament of an African mask above the bedside table.
Scene 11: MEDIUM SHOT. Static showing on a wooden Zenith television set inside the room before a scene plays from Ousmane Sembene’s Xala (1975): “Two white men carrying briefcases walk in on a congressional meeting held by African leaders dressed in Western attire. Clapping at the president who resembles Léopold Senghor. He uses words like ‘revolutionary’ and ‘independence’ and they garner an applause. The white men place briefcases in front of each leader. They open them and their eyes shine with green. The Léopold Senghor parody rises and announces ‘modernity must make us lose our Africanality.’ They all clap and disappear with the briefcases into limousines.’ TV set goes off.” Camera continues panning around the room of the young lovers. Fela Kuti and The Africa 70 album poster of Confusion next to Miriam Makeba’s solitary stare, turning away from Fela. Facing Papa Wemba instead. (Unbeknownst to the boy, the girl knows something about geography. His abuse of the backward hung flag.)
Scene 12: TIGHT SHOT. The camera elevates from the bottom of their bed to a parallel scale of the two. The girl reaches for a radio at bedside. Tuning in to Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). Color re-enters as Zamrock slowly seeps into the scene. Blackfoot’s “Running” plays as their bodies become blurred naked under the stream of moonlight entering through the window. He kisses her belly button— calls it a compass, following its southmost trail. He tells her your skin is beautiful. How one might mistaken pollen for cinnamon. She lifts his head gently to her face and kisses him. She says “I’m learning how to take care of flowers. To not worry about the carnations as much as the lilies.” He wonders how much less is he in the dark. His mind still in Northern Rhodesia. Landlocked country. “God Save the Queen” still sliding on his tongue when he speaks. She will say she used to belong to a nation, but it kept a record of her raptures so she dissolved it. The moonlight will shine brighter. Revealing parts of his body he wants clothed. He will think “I must possess myself.” She will ask what nation he belongs to? His answer her body. A ruthless allegiance. To claim her as country. Call her nation. Carve a kiss on her collarbone and call it a flag. She will tell him independence exacerbates the abrasions of a country. To ask a nation why it’s flag bears red. The thought of freedom as an open wound. Silence could be useful if he knew its cadence. Maybe the fourth wall should be broken. To invite others into his discomfort. Or maybe they remain as is. Sinking back into bed where he learns making love is immigrating to someone. A citizen who feigns to be a refugee under the tender weight of skin and its nudgings. The unpronounceable pleas of the mouth soaring into an anthem he imagines his. To sustain the borders of her body or coalesce the floor into deep country before they are lulled to sleep. His dream of a nation as suspended and ethereal as her weight next to his. Camera pulls away into a long shot— the focus blurs.
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October 08, 2021