Iara Lee " Burkinabè Rising" - interview


Viscult 2018 has begun! The program for today can be found here.

At 15:15 (3.15 PM) we are screening Iara Lee's documentary "Burkinabè Rising: the Art of Resistance in Burkina Faso" (Burkina Faso, USA, Bulgary 2018.) The film tells of creative, nonviolent resistance in Burkina Faso. 

Director Iara Lee answered a few questions about the film for us.

What experience did you have in the past regarding to Burkina Faso and people there? How did you become interested in them?

I became interested in Burkina Faso while working with Slow Food International to look at countries with strong movements to protect traditional forms of agriculture. I was in West Africa and learned about the incredible history of resistance in Burkina Faso. This is a place where, just a few years ago--in 2014--popular movements removed a dictator who had been in power for 27 years. It’s a place where the spirit of indepence leader Thomas Sankara still animates the national conversation. I wanted to tell that story and expose more people to this incredible history.

Did you have any doubts about the film when you were making it?

I never had any doubts about the importance of telling the story of creative resistance in Burkina faso and of the remarkable artists and activists there, but we did encounter many challenges while making the film that almost derailed the whole project. Filming in the global South often comes with technical difficulties, such as slow internet and power and water outages. But this time, the problems were even more extreme. I became very ill with some kind of dengue fever while in Burkina Faso. I was stuck in bed while my cameraman conducted many of the interviews. He did not speak French, so I had to record my questions in French on his phone and then he would play them for the interviewees. Interviewing people who spoke various indigenous languages also presented a challenge in post-production, when we needed to translate languages like Mòoré, Dyula, and Gourmanché into English. It was a lot of work, but I think the results show that the effort paid off. I am really proud at the range of people we were able to include in the film.

What did you learn from making this film?

With this film, as with almost all of my films, I did not go in with a set script or a pre-determined agenda. When I started exploring Burkina Faso, I did not know what I would find. The story was created organically as I met different artists and activists, learned their inspiring stories, and followed up on new leads that presented themselves. I think that you will see from the style of the film that it has this sensibility of sort of unfolding organically. Because I follow this method, I am always learning a huge amount as a I go.

What was the best part or most important part of making the film?

The response to the film has been one of the best parts. I made this documentary in the hope of spreading awareness of creative resistance and providing lessons that are not relevant only in Africa, but all over the world. The fact that it has already screened in more than 80 countries has been incredibly rewarding. We’ve received some very positive feedback from audiences, which is very heartening. One Burkinabè viewer called it “a mirror of Burkina Faso’s revolution,” while an audience member in Italy reported that the film prompted a great post-screening discussion about the the lessons that could be applied. In many cases, people who know very little about West Africa going in say that they are inspired to learn more about the region. That is great to hear.

Are you planning to make more films?

Yes. I often have trouble saying “no” to people, especially when they're working on such compelling human rights topics. So I sometimes end up taking on an insane amount of activity. I currently have a bunch of films in various stages of production. There is a documentary about the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, three decades after the nuclear disaster there. Another project focuses on art and activism in Lesotho. Still another film is about resistance to climate change in Melanesia. And then I have just travelled from Scandinavia, where I was filming about the indigenous Sami people in the arctic.

Earlier this year we also released a second film about Burkina Faso, Burkinabè Bounty. This short film focuses on agroecology and food sovereignty—something I touched on in Burkinabè Rising but thought warranted a closer look. I hope people will be interested to check out that film too!

The theme for this year is Good Life. What does good life mean to you?

To me, a good life means a life in which we are not just enjoying ourselves, but one in which we are all actively trying to make a positive impact. I hope people don’t just watch my films and say they liked it and then go back to their lives. My hope is that people will watch and be inspired to become more proactive. My hope is that they will do more than just go on social media, but will push themselves to get out of their comfort zones and help movements that are organizing on the ground. I hope that my films can be a call to action. Because that sense of social engagement and solidarity is central to my vision of what the good life ultimately is.

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