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Africas: How Are You Doing with the Pain?

Afriques: Comment ça va avec la douleur?

Director, Photography, Sound, Narration: Raymond Depardon
Editing: Roger Ikhlef
Producer: Claudine Nougaret
Production Company: Palmeraie et Désert, Canal +
Source: GEMACI
33 rue Jacques Hillairet, 75012 Paris, FRANCE
Phone: 33-1-40-02-09-11 / Fax: 33-1-40-02-09-40
FRANCE / 1996 / French / Color / 35mm (1:1.66) /
165 min

Raymond Depardon

Born in France in 1942, Depardon began taking his first photos at age twelve and in 1958 went on to study in Paris working under photographer Louis Foucherand. From 1960, he was able to combine two years military service in Algiers with an opportunity to make photo reports on the Algerian war. Going on to cover upheavals in Vietnam, Israel, and the Czech Republic, and through his work covering the Olympics and at F. Truffaut's film locations etc., he gradually established himself as a photographer. In 1979 he was made a member of the world's leading photographic agency Magnum. 1979 was also the year in which Depardon made his first documentary film Numero Zero, and he went on to win the French Caesar award for best documentary with Reporters in 1981. His two fiction films Une femme en Afrique (1984), and La captive du désert (1989) have both been shown at Cannes.


Traversing the continent, this piece snaps a picture of contemporary Africa. At first, one might be tempted to call this a road movie but, in the film's opening sequence, the director's voice-over tells us that, "its not a road movie . . . not a piece of investigative journalism . . . . But the sights and sounds of ordinary pains in Africa." "The pain" is an accumulated history, past and present, of agony and oppression; and, "How are you doing with the pain?" is for the peoples of Africa a daily greeting. The film begins with a 360 degree pan, looking out across the high ground of hope in South Africa. By way of such places as Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, and Egypt, it ends with another 360 degree pan shot in the filmmaker's home in Villefranche-sur-Saône in central France. However, this film is also a conversation between images of Africa's "Pain" and the filmmaker who has seen Africa's apartheid, starvation, disease, and civil war first hand. In this sense, the film is the director's own subjective travel diary of his relationship with Africa.
--Murayama Kyoichiro

Director's Statement

In Africa, I find that people, from the north to the south, have one thing in common: their discreetness about their difficulties.

This is one example that they give us every day.

For those Africans who understand the French language, the word "pain" is used as a mere salutation to enquire whether we visitors are doing well during our stay in Africa:

"Comment ça va avec la douleur? [How are you doing with the pain?]," like a simple "Hello." Discreetness in speaking of enormous pains.

In this place, there are all sorts of pains.

So, are there big and little pains? There are certainly those of the misery of the living. Perhaps we can say that pain is more than a mere emotion, more than a mere sensation.

Pain as a "defensive reaction," as a "warning one is lucky to get," as a "delicate sensitivity, " described by our doctors, is far from the concerns of Africans.

If the memory of pain does not exist, if pain is foreign to thought, then it always remains between silence and screams.


Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee