manzanas, pollos y quimeras

mujeres que cruzaron el mar de arena

PRESS RELEASE

Un documental de Inés París para MUJERES POR ÁFRICA

Synopsis

Technical team
Direction, production and script: INÉS PARÍS Financed by the WOMEN FOR AFRICA Foundation Songs written and performed by PIRUCHI APO. Music: Mariano Marín Director of photography: Javier Alomar Editing: María Lara Direct sound: Jaume Meléndez Sound Editing: Steve Miller-Juan Ferro. Production manager: Raquel Cólera Documentation: Ignacio París Bouza Postproduction: Evasión Format: 16:9 DCP

manzanas, pollos y quimeras
mujeres que cruzaron el mar de arena

Lali is Guinean. She came to Spain because P a sailor told her that in our country the apples were as big as balloons and giant chickens ran up and down the Gran Via. Lali is one of the women who show us their real situation and their innermost feelings, her life’s projects, hopes and chimeras in this documentary that breaks down stereotypes and for the first time gives a voice and a face to a forgotten, invisible group of women in Spanish society: black Africans.

Leading Actors
Nicole Ndongala, Piruchi Apo, Edith Mbella, Lali Ferreira, Martina Casia Ferreira, Sharon Opi Ferreira, Chanelle Mwizero, Aauri Bokesa, Agnès Agboton, Tania Adam, Mariana Drammeh, Vicenta Ndongo, Delphine Kouakou, Aissatou Ndiaye y Mamiya Conteh.

press release

Report on the director Inés París

A new life Lali is Guinean, of about forty, with small eyes that she winks when she laughs. She has two daughters, Martina and Sharon. The eldest was also born in Guinea and the youngest eleven years ago in Spain. They were the first African residents in our country that I contacted. We met in the cafeteria Comercial in the centre of Madrid. From the beginning, that meeting was idyllic: Not only was Lali willing to work but was thrilled about it; for the first time in her life someone considered her story to be significant and worth telling. Her story and that of her daughters and her mother, because as I then discovered, the four women lived together in a small flat by the M-30. The conversation lasted until noon and then they invited me to accompany them and eat at the home of their great friend, Fatima, who was born in Senegal and has four children. After sharing with them a great lamb maafe, taking a lot of photos of them and starting to use the phone as a recorder, I left there very excited. They had so much to tell that was so amazing, lives so full, and they were so eager to share their view of the world, that it was one of those moments when you feel you have the best profession in the world. I felt that this documentary upon which I was embarking with the Women for Africa Foundation was going to be a priceless experience in terms of my profession and my life.

Ahora soy: sólo hoy tenemos y creamos._ Nada nos es ajeno._ Nuestra la tierra._ Nuestros el mar y el cielo._ Nuestras la magia y la quimera.
Nancy Morejón. “Black Woman”

It was not that day, but the first day we recorded at home, when Lali gifted me the title of the documentary. She was telling me that before coming, everything she knew about Spain was from a merchant seaman who told them about a country where people ate a lot: above all, very fat chickens that thronged the streets and huge apples hanging from the trees , which bent over with their weight. Lali then imagined herself sitting in a square in this country, with her sister next to her and eating a roast chicken... Of course, this image was as idyllic as it was absurd and never came true. She ended up coming her alone, hired as a maid for a family that had her for years like a little slave with no pay, papers or holidays. Nearly twenty years have passed since then. Now, with effort and sacrifices, Lali has achieved a minimally stable situation earning a thousand euros a month, with which she raises her daughters: girls who speak several languages and who want to be economists or writers. Her story seemed to me a symbol of what the documentary had portrayed: a group of women forced by difficult circumstances to leave their countries and build a new life. They are very strong, courageous and positive women, with a life plan and a surprising capacity for joy, who are now an important yet unknown part of our society.

The Women for Africa Foundation

This documentary is a project from the Women for Africa Foundation, which is chaired by María Teresa Fernández de la Vega. In the foundation, they do significant work by contributing to the development of Africa, but with a perspective that is as novel as it is effective: doing so through women. Within the Foundation’s areas of work there is the audiovisual world, in which I have the pleasure and honour of working as an advisor. From the outset, Maria Teresa insisted that this area of activity should be important and cover a dimension that no other foundation of this kind has. In just over a year, we have created two awards: one for Best Woman Director at the African Film Festival in Córdoba, and another for Best Woman Director at FESPACO, the largest African film festival, held in Burkina Faso. We brought several female directors to Madrid, and under the leadership and initiative of Guadalupe Arensburg we organized a series of films directed by African women. We have also signed agreements with several film schools for scholarships for students and to send teachers to Africa. Projects have been filmed and ... we shot this documentary. The documentary initially arose out of the need to locate, investigate and document the social group of African women living in Spain; to

contact them, to see their needs first hand and to create projects suited to their needs and demands. We decided to do so in the form of a documentary so that this research would have the utmost impact and would be able to reach the general public in the most effective way.

Do I know any african ladies? You mean african from Africa?

After this experience, it was clear that the best tool to put an end to platitudes and false ideas was to show the real situation, and this was our aim: to give a voice and a face to some of the black women from Africa who live in Spain so that through their stories, their emotions, their ideas, their art and their professions, people may get to know this unknown social group much better, this group that is invisible in the media and which is labelled with many stereotypes.

Very early in our research work, as well as delving into the search for data and getting redeyed in the documentation process, we went out to film people of all ages and situations. We asked them: “Do you know any African lady who lives in Spain? What image do you have of them? How do you think they came here? What do they do?” The answers were very similar: their idea of African ladies was one of illiterate women who came on boats, many of them prostitutes, who were welcomed but who did not want to integrate...and of course nobody considered themselves a racist. They thought that Spain was welcoming country, that everything here makes things easy, etc. These stereotypes and prejudices only changed when they really knew some. This was often the case among the parents of young children, because many had a black companion in class whose parents, whether mother or father, had emigrated from Africa.

From the kitchen to the Olympics: our stars

A writer, a waitress, an art gallery, a singer, a cook, a journalist, a seamstress, an actress, a cultural manager, a farmer able to create an association of hundreds of women and an Olympic runner ...these are the stars of this documentary. They tell us why they have come, what image they had of Spain, what they found, how they got by and what their life is like now. Not only do we observe their comings and goings, their work, their homes, their families and friends, but they have opened their heart to show us their feelings, the most curious anecdotes from their lives, their fears, joys, hopes, ideas and their way of looking at life.

These are women who are characteristic for their ability to work, who have a clear life plan they struggle to achieve; they have learned Spanish or Catalan, and generally speak several languages. On getting to know them, the first thing we learned is that we cannot talk of a "group" because it is impossible to narrow down the enormous human diversity, the complex, rich, and surprising reality of so many women.

we filmed the children rehearsing to create music for a cartoon. But when the children had gone and the work was over, she continued to sing, accompanied by her brother, her sister, her Spanish husband, her friends, and all her nephews and nieces. We continued recording this priceless testimony of family intimacy, and the climax came when they reminisced about their parents who sang in church. African church services, they explained, are so joyful that prayer is a party. Nothing at all like religious services here.

A musical documentary África es more realistic All the women featured in the documentary have something in common (a trait shared by almost all African women): their amazing capacity for joy. Most of them have experienced terrifying situations that have made them leave their countries of origin (war, poverty and sexual violence). Many still have a difficult life (far from their families, with economic and often legal insecurity) but they all laugh heartily at the slightest chance. They celebrate life by sharing their food and welcoming all those who come to them. And they sing. They sing so much, so well and on so many occasions that I suspected I was shooting a musical. It is also true that in the documentary there is a professional singer: Piruchi Apo. At home,

told us over and over again, they do not forget. They do not forget in the first place because they know that they are needed there; many have come so they can send money and others do so even though their families are not in need, because they know that there is always someone there who needs help. Not only do they send money, but they set up projects in their countries of origin: women’s cooperatives, associations that build schools in villages, digging a water well or constructing a mill. Nearly all of the projects seek to give more opportunities to the women and girls who have stayed there because they know that they are the future and that, if there is anything they like about Spain, it is that as women they have had more opportunities to study and live freely.

This was the first thing Martina said to me. She is a girl born in Spain of a Guinean mother and Nigerian father. To my astonishment at this sentence, which she spoke so surely, she explained further, convinced that I was stupid and did not understand Spanish: in her mother’s village, she had learned that one has to go and fetch water at the well or the river and that, if you’re not careful, you may drop the jug and break it. Then you have to go back again for water. I had to admit she was right: water out of a tap is not "realistic". Martina feels African. The truth is that all African girls born here feel they are from there. Or from both sides. Africa is a fundamental point of reference for all these women, which, as they

Powerful women

Edith is from the Dwala Tribe. She was born in Cameroon and her surname Mbella means eagle. She specializes in African tribal art. A graduate of the Sorbonne, she has a fabulous, beautiful art gallery in the centre of Madrid. The gallery has a library open to all who wish to enter. As she always says, Africa is very near and yet for the Spanish it is still an unknown continent. With her, we learned about the rich Bubi culture in Guinea, about the status of women in African cultures before colonization.

She explained the shock of Livingstone on discovering that divorce already existed in Cameroon. Aissatou does not know this; she has a much more traditional concept of the family. Aissatou believes she is a simple peasant with an awful defect: she doesn’t know how to get angry. But this must be the only thing that this woman from Gambia is not capable of. She came to Spain when she was still illiterate, and since then she has continued to take courses (in Spanish, nursing, driving, geriatrics...) and now chairs an association that has created more than 800 jobs in her native village. I’ll never forget the image of Aissatou driving her car loaded with farm tools. She and her friends have a small agricultural garden next to a road in Paterna (Valencia). The large lorries that pass by just twenty metres from their crops are not able to smother the sound of these farmers’ voices, who sing to cheer themselves as they do their chores in the field. This work is not enough for them to live on, which is why they are also cleaning ladies or work at tills, or else they care for the elderly. However, thanks to the garden they feed many families that would otherwise go hungry. And as they do not spend on food, they can send more money to those who stayed in Africa. Yet they still manage to make ends meet so their daughters can study. Aissaitou’s nine-year-old daughter wants to be an airline pilot and her mother looks at her with

laughter. She knows she will achieve it, because with a mother like her it seems strange that she hasn’t sprouted wings.

The making of

For four months, from the coldest winter to the spring, we lived with these women who have taught us so much and with whom we have had such a good time. We’ve followed them around Madrid, Barcelona, Premià de Mar, Valencia and Paterna. If they ever got tired of having us close at their heels, of me interrogating them mercilessly about anything, of us sharing their food and going into their rooms and those of their children, then they did not show it. The hardest part was having to choose from the large amount of interesting material that went into the editing room. Much has been omitted, but this material may serve those who wish to do research into migration, those who want to show the real situation that is seldom portrayed and which will now be more accessible and documented.

Movie women
María Teresa Fernández de la Vega

When we launched the Women for Africa Foundation in February 2012 we were well aware that, in order to change things, the world of images is an indispensable ally. When it comes to transforming our societies, breaking down old stereotypes and ways of doing things, there are few tools as powerful as the small or big screen. This is why, in addition to the fifteen or so projects we are carrying out along the five main lines that make up our Action Plan (which are education, knowledge, health, economic development and the empowerment of African women), audiovisuals are also one of the fields that we are putting most work into. We have participated in several Spanish and African festivals, supporting women from the world of cinema. In Madrid we have screened a sample of today’s African women directors which, it has to be said, has surprised everyone with its quality and diversity. We are offering scholarships to young African students who want to receive an education in the world of images. Of course, we document all our projects in audiovisual format.

When we considered that almost half a million African women living in Spain deserved to be more well known to all of us, the idea of producing a documentary to show us their daily lives, their stories and their world, seemed to us the best way to do so. Today, now the film has become a reality, we have no doubt that this was the right decision. Apples, chickens and chimeras presents another way of looking, another view of African women living in our country, thanks to the solid work of Inés París. In fact, surely we should not say "another", but “one”, because few of us even knew these points of view beforehand. Through a dozen of these women, Apples, chickens and chimeras breaks down stereotypes, wipes out old clichés and, above all, opens a window onto the reality of the African women who share their daily life with us. It is well worth seeing, because what one finds is some magnificent, brave and tireless women. These are women full of energy and perseverance that are strengthening the continent of Africa. They are truly movie women.

As one of them says to another in the movie, "You are a woman of Africa and it is you who are going to carry it forward." These women’s ability to deal with everything, to invent and reinvent themselves, to reach goals that seem unattainable to us, is indeed amazing. The stars of Apples, chickens and chimeras are a good example of all of this. Look at them, listen to them, get to know them and you will understand why African women have become the continent’s great engine and why in the foundation we have chosen to walk beside them.

María Teresa Fernández de la Vega
President of the Mujeres por África Foundation

Inés París
FILMOGRAPHY

Director and screenwriter for film and television. She has a degree in Philosophy, specializing in Aesthetics and Theory of Art. She studied acting, directing actors, and stage direction. She is the director of the Buñuel Institute of the Authors’ Society, SGAE, and serves on its Board of Directors. She has written and directed three full-length films: "Miguel and William" (Spanish/English co-production) (2007) "Semen, a Love Story" (Semen, una historia de amor) (2005) "My Mother Likes Women" (“A mi madre le gustan las mujeres”) (2002) She has also directed these documentaries: "Women are...Africa" made in 2010 in Mali, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Senegal, and the documentary series "Igual-es" (“Equals”) (6 documentaries for TVE). She has made three short films: “Batuma’s radio" (“La radio de Batuma”) "Who's telling me to get involved in this" (“A mi quién me manda meterme en esto”) "Let's give this up" (“Vamos a dejarlo”) Her films have won numerous awards and have been screened internationally.

She has written several screenplays for other directors, most notably the following: "Rivals" ("Rivales") (Fernando Colomo-2008). "I know who you are" (“Sé quién eres”) (Patricia Ferreira, 2000). She has worked for television, directing creative teams and writing numerous series. These include: "Altered States" (“Estados Alterados”) (La Sexta), "The Swamp" (“El Pantano”) (Antena 3), "Fate in your hands" (“El destino en tus manos”) (TVE) and "All you men are the same" (“Todos los hombres sois iguales”) (Tele 5). She has combined her career as a director and writer with teaching, giving courses and lecturing at universities and other educational organizations in Spain and abroad. She currently teaches at ECAM (Madrid Film School) and in the Screenwriting Master’s of the Carlos III University. Committed for years to the problems that affect women, she was the president of CIMA for Spain (Association of Women Filmmakers and Women in Audiovisual Media) for six years and is currently a board member of the Women's Foundation for Africa.

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