It all started with a small school exercise book. But instead of being full of vocabulary, the pages were checkered with the courageous testimonies of 300 Central African women, girls and men. They reveal what Congolese mercenaries did to them between October 2002 and March 2003 in the wake of armed conflict. On their own initiative, they gathered together their testimonies in this book to record the crimes committed against them.
Directed by Swiss-German filmmaker Heidi Specogna, the feature documentary “Cahier Africain” is a long-term observation that begins accompanying its protagonists in the village of PK 12 in 2008. But while they try to master their difficult daily lives with confidence – and while, in The Hague, the legal prosecution of crimes committed during the last war is still in progress – the next war breaks out in the Central African Republic, and they must once again face a maelstrom of violence, death and expulsion. At their side, the film bears witness to the collapse of order and civilization in a country torn apart by civil war and coup d’états.
For the director, “Cahier Africain” is a personal film. On a research trip and by chance, she came upon the book, which led her to seven years of filming, visiting and accompanying the people who described their suffering and shame in it.
The film, which made its world premiere during Critics’ Week at the ongoing 69th Locarno Film Festival, has been described as terrifyingly beautiful, with praise pouring out of most reviews.
Cologne-based Rushlake Media acquired all world sales rights outside German-speaking territories to “Cahier Africain.”
Rushlake calls is “a heartbreakingly insightful story that reminds us that many human rights abuses in Africa are often overlooked or quickly forgotten by the news cycle. As we continue to focus on Africa related content and the African market, we’re also increasing our world sales activity and excited to support an established voice in documentary film like Heidi Specogna.”
The film continues to travel the international film festival and screening circuit, although it’s opened in some parts of the world, winning awards along the way, including Swiss Film Awards (the national film award of Switzerland) for Best Documentary and Best Editing. It also most recently picked up the Best Documentary trophy at the Deutscher Filmpreis (German Film Awards, the most important German movie award).
No USA distribution at this time. But you can follow the film’s progress via its Facebook page here.
Watch a trailer for the film below (unfortunately it’s not subtitled in English, but it gives you some idea of what it looks and feels like):