Cameroonian filmmaker Rosine Mbakam now has two exceptional features under her belt: The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman and Chez Jolie Coiffure, both made during the same period and marking her as a new documentary talent to watch.
In The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman, Mbakam returns to her native Cameroon after leaving the country for Belgium at age 27, where she studied film, married a European, and had a son. Her mother, Mâ Brêh, lives in the capital Yaoundé most of the year, but returns to their familial village of Tonga occasionally. This is where mother and daughter meet—the elder woman sharing stories of French colonial rule and daily life in a repressive political climate. We also spend time with Mbakam’s extended family as they go about their lives; patterns and strong memories emerge for the filmmaker who feels at once connected to, and distant from, her ancestral home.
In Chez Jolie Coiffure, Mbakam crafts a loving portrait of the titular beauty salon in central Brussels, a haven for West African women like herself; the tiny shop is full of mirrors, stories, laughter, and sorrow. Mbakam spent a year filming the women of the salon, delving into their lives in one of Europe’s central hubs—an unforgiving existence and one in which little opportunity comes along. Focusing more closely on Sabine, a kind of matriarch of the salon, Mbakam teases out a grueling story of survival and the precarious existence of these women’s daily lives, as well as their main concerns for the future.
Co-presented with the Cascade Festival of African Films.