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Tinselwood

- Film 2K 82 min.


Synopsis
 
The great primeval forests on the edges of Cameroon are a territory that was disputed by colonial powers exploiting the prodigious forces of nature. Today, men and women organize their lives around the luxurious, monumental surroundings, which shelter the traces of their history.

 
Cast:
 
Trapper: Junior Lombano
Sand workers: Farrel Mpesil, Marcial Souata
Shopkeeper and cacao planter: Noël Pial
Sorcerers: Pierre Bakandja, Jasmin Sameleu
Head of logging operations: Ajavon
Logging operator: Samuel Medjissa
Logging assistant: Wylfried Namoudjou
Logging truck driver: Oumarou Garba
Cacao planter: Hermine Yendjé
Cacao workers: Michel Ambadjé, Franck Bemebouom, Jean Hermann, Martin Kobolo, David Lalé, Mitterrand Touambot
Gold prospectors: Simplice Tsigonang, Franck Bemebouom
Bar customers: Franck Bemebouom, Désiré Bouh, Christian Ngalla, Simplice Tsigonang, Hermine Yendjé
 

Crew:
 
Producer: Eugénie Michel-Villette
DOP: Thomas Favel
Sound: Marianne Roussy
Assistant director: Noël Pial
Sound mixing and sound design: Thomas Fourel
Editor: Marie Voignier
Colorist: Yannig Willmann
Translation: Noël Pial (Baka, Bakwélé et Bangando), Philippe Farah (English)
Distribution: Vendredi
Production: Les Films du Bilboquet, Bonjour Cinéma, joon films;
 
Avec le soutien du Fond d’Aide à l’Innovation du CNC Avec le soutien de la commission mécénat de la Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, FNAGP
 

 

 
The tropical forest in Cameroon extends over the whole southeastern region and isolates it from the rest of the country. This forest has a colonial history: German colonizers set foot in the region toward the end of the 19th Century, in search for rubber and other raw materials. The French drove them out and took their place after World War I. As the region was sparsely populated, the colonial companies had trouble recruiting the labor power needed to exploit all the natural resources they were hoping to extract. As a remedy to this state of affairs, the German and French colonizers carried out over the years a systematic destruction of the local economy of self-subsistence. The inhabitants fit to work were arrested and compelled to toil in the mines, in the construction of roads, or in the collection and transport of rubber. The population was decimated by epidemics and exhaustion at work. When Cameroon became independent in 1960, the southeastern region was in a state of depopulation, exhaustion and misery never reached before. After a century of devastation, the local economy could not recover, the know-hows were not transmitted, and wage labor available in foreign timber and mining companies was very limited and badly remunerated. To top it all, without proper maintenance, the roads became almost inexistent and hardly usable, isolating the local population even more. Today, as in the past, the forest is part and parcel of every existence and the core of every economic activity in the region. It remains the primary source of living for most of the population (cocoa plantations, farming, hunting) and constitutes a much-coveted reserve of wealth (wood, gold, mercury, diamond) for foreign and Cameroonian capitalists alike. Tinselwood is a film on this forest and the people inhabiting it today. It tries to catch the human presence in its territorial and historical embeddedness, away from any kind of “exotic” representation. In this tropical jungle, promises of prosperity fuse with the scars of history inscribed in the landscape – colonial scars, characterized by their invisibility: what was not accomplished, what was not said, what was expropriated. The narrative here occurs off-screen and takes the form of a dialogue between different scales and times, a weaving of actions and beliefs, a blend of memory and imagination. Tinselwood proceeds in stages and layers. It delineates through subtle strokes the historical and political dimensions of the forest (wealth, culture, technology, sorcery). The characters themselves determine the course of the action and the way they interact with the forest and its elements – the camera takes on an observing stance, watching the bodies in their environment without imposing any interpretation. The editing, instead of focusing on single characters, gives precedence to the multiple, to the whole, thus enriching the texture with a wealth of crossings and encounters, both real and imaginary, and allowing for the emergence of hidden dialogues and perspectives between the scenes. The forest is the beating heart of the film and its monumentality is imposed from the onset as the measure of everything else. Consequently, the delicate function of the framing and the sound in the film is to inscribe meaningfully in this massive landscape the tiny scale of the human body and its actions. The unfolding and the organization of the parts in Tinselwood seek to echo the lack of consistency in the development of the region – an ongoing legacy from the colonization period. The structuring principle of the film remains therefore implicit: to abstain from using a linear narrative, which would suggest the possibility of life in this region as a consistent and ordered succession of events. Nonetheless, this does not prevent the development of an intensive movement in the film. The flexible narrative form opens up a resonating space where, through ellipsis and emergences from the past, the people and their gestures are subtly inscribed in the larger history of their territory.