How do I spot the warning signs before a society collapses and the jihadists give law and terror? Senegalese director Mamadou Dia did not wait for the deadliest attack that Burkina Faso has known since the beginning of jihadist violence in 2015 to talk about the subject. How can a family, a city, an entire society fall into the trap of jihadism? “The Father of Nafi”, a first masterful film, was released this week in theaters in France.
Mamadou Dia, the winner of the Golden Leopard, shot his film in his hometown of Matam, in northern Senegal, near the border with Mauritania, in his mother tongue, Poular, and yet his story is universal. Stunned, we helplessly witness how this sanctuary, where once the old rules of living together were respected by all, falls into religious extremism.
Nafi’s father has already been to theaters in Senegal in 2020 before being hailed by festivals around the world. The filmmaker is used to coming and going between the United States and Senegal, but one of the first things he did was buy a projector and a giant picture to show the film all over the world.
“A very personal story”
“Father de Nafi tells a very personal story in the sense that it begins with the story of a marriage, of a family unit. The small town in the movie is my hometown Matam. This is where I grew up before I went to Dakar, to university. It’s a life I know well. It is an ordinary life where decisions are generally made in society. The marriage between my sisters, my cousins, many were decided in this way. ”
In the film, we meet Tierno, the imam with a human face, who respects the demands of traditions, but whose body is tormented by a disease. At the same time, he is facing a difficult decision. Her daughter, Nafi, wants to marry her cousin, Tokara, and settle in Dakar to study. Then comes Tierno’s brother, Ousmane, who returned from a long stay in Europe where he radicalized to seize power in his hometown and make a fortune. Thanks to the money and the activists that the jihadist movement makes available, he gradually decides his law and puts his brother and traditions aside. He approves of the marriage and demands that Nafi stay in the village, wear the veil and give up studies …
Timbuktu electric shock
As a journalist, Mamadou Dia had visited Timbuktu, Mali, before and after the jihadist invasion in 2012. An electric shock. But he had the wisdom not to feed the story of his film with spectacular or violent images. With many features, it shows low noise suppression and slides towards oppression of traditional values. Above all, he takes care to make us understand that it is first and foremost the Muslims who are the first victims of jihadist terror:
In the film, I asked myself the question: what would happen if someone in this society decided to corrupt the core of this marriage, of this aspect of living together. The second idea for the film comes from another fact. Ever since I arrived in the United States in 2014, every time I said that Senegal is 90% Muslim, that I am a Muslim and the grandson of an imam, I always get a look that I cannot read. And I begin to justify myself by saying, “In Senegal it is different. In sub-Saharan Africa, we experience religions differently.” But every time I say to myself why do I have to justify myself because I am a Muslim? While the majority of Muslims in the world are people in peace. ”
“Everyone has a different dream”
Despite all the differences between the main characters, there is one thing that connects them: having dreams. “Everyone has a different dream. And it sometimes happens that in a family, as in Tierno’s family, our dreams flow with other dreams. In the film, no one is bad or good in itself. We are all people who want to live our dreams. Sometimes we make sacrifices and these sacrifices affect other people next to us. It’s like coronavirus. We need to understand how we got there. How can a family change forever? Like the world, with coronavirus, which will change forever. ”