Taking inspiration from L’Afrique fantôme — the controversial diary by French surrealist writer Michel Leiris recounting his participation in the ambitious Dakar-Djibouti ethnographic expedition of the 1930s — Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc’s arresting first feature reflects on identity, cultural appropriation, and the transference of memory through objects.

Wavelengths

Sector IX B

Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc

Playing as part of Sector IX B preceded by Faux Départ

French artist and filmmaker Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc has amassed an impressive, multidisciplinary body of work that engages with the history of colonial development, focusing on the decolonization of African states in the 1960s and exploring their reverberations in terms of cultural identity and collective amnesia. Now, taking inspiration from L'Afrique fantôme — the controversial diary by surrealist writer Michel Leiris that recounts his participation in the Dakar-Djibouti mission, the ambitious French ethnographic expedition of the 1930s — Abonnenc makes his first foray into narrative filmmaking with Sector IX B, in which he extends his thematic concerns in strikingly cinematic fashion.

Betty (Betty Tchomanga) is a young anthropologist who is working on the Dakar-Djibouti mission, her research taking her from the IFAN Museum in Dakar to the Musée de l'Homme in Paris. Seeking to push the limits of her discipline, she reconstructs the medical prescription box given to the original expedition members and takes the drugs herself. In the grip of the narcotics' psychedelic side effects, Betty becomes haunted by a recently discovered family archive. Reflecting on identity, cultural appropriation, the transference of memory though objects, and subjectivity vs. objective classification, Sector IX B evokes the surrealist undertones of Leiris' groundbreaking book in its moody, anxiety-charged atmosphere, which is bolstered by an intense and startling soundtrack.

Sector IX B is preceded by the latest film by French-Moroccan artist Yto Barrada, which observes the elaborate fossil industry in Morocco. Paying homage to the "preparators" in the arid region between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, whose intrepid work is fuelling a thriving trade in artifacts real, faux and hybrid, Faux Départ is a rebuke to the fetishistic thirst for foreign objects, a sly meditation on authenticity, and a paean to creativity.

Screenings

Sun Sep 13

Jackman Hall

Regular
9:45pm
Wed Sep 16

Scotiabank 6

Industry
11:30am
Wed Sep 16

Jackman Hall

Regular
12:45pm