A Country in a Corner (starts at 15:00, Malavoune Tango follows)
Homesickness drives Neema Ngelime to the district of Matonge in Brussels, which is home to a large African community. The busy shopping streets evoke memories of her life in Tanzania. She wants to record the similarities with her native land for her grandmother, but that is easier said than done. As in Tanzania, most people on the street prefer not to be filmed. Yet, Ngelime gradually gets closer to the shopkeepers and customers of Chaussée de Wavre, and shares her observations with the viewer.
Ngelime sees that the stifling morality she recognizes from Africa has also been transported to Belgium. She explains that respect for women in Tanzania is measured by the length of their skirts. The hairstyle you choose also shows how you want to be respected. At her every stop, from the hairdresser and nail salon to the grocer’s, Ngelime is obliged to make choices: will she follow tradition or take her own path? She wants to be part of the community, but at what cost? “I wish, as with a skirt, we could alter parts of our country we don’t like.” Without passing judgement, A Country in the Corner shows the dilemmas migrants face worldwide.
On Mayotte, the only island in the Comoros that is still French, a group of outlawed young men lead their lives in the shadows, hunted by the police. Although they were born on this island north of Madagascar, not all of them hold French citizenship. They have nothing to rely on but their dogs.
The animals protect them from police brutality: “If the dog gets respect, so do I.” The dogs have no pedigree and no history; they just live from day to day, and they don’t know whether they will be beaten or shot tomorrow—their existence is as bare and uncertain as that of their owners. One of the men has had to fend for himself since he was 14, when his mother was deported from the island. He feels abandoned by all except by his dogs: “At least they always stay with me.”
Meanwhile, the only place the men feel at home, the forest beside the mangrove swamp, is being cut down. “We’re neither here nor there, nor in France, we’re just lost.” With rough tenderness, and excellent camera work, this empathetic film shows how the dogs form a lifeline in a colony where these men are not allowed to exist.