Njel, the Separation
When pre-teen Manuela’s parents went to work in Italy, it had a profound effect on her emotionally. Encouraged by teachers and family, with her parents on the phone, she tries to have a normal childhood and overcome her sadness about her parent’s absence.
Manuela, intelligent and enthusiastic at school, yet sad at home, is eleven years old and preparing for her first certificate. She lives in Edéa, Cameroon, with her grandparents who do not understand why their granddaughter is dissatisfied as she almost does not miss anything. Manuela’s parents abandoned her to work abroad for their daughter’s better future, but Manuela could not understand or accept this situation when she was four years old. Today, she shows us how to live with the absence, to question her parents, and maintain remote contact.
After obtaining in 2012 a Master 2 in Documentary Filmmaking in Saint-Louis, Senegal, Félix Mbog has since then directed several films that have distinguished themselves in many festivals around the world. He is also active in the Association of Documentary Filmmakers of Cameroon (ARDC) of which he is currently the president.
In 2016, our first daughter was barely a year old, when my wife, newly recruited in civil service, was assigned out of town. We found no other solution than to leave her with her grandparents. During her stay there, we noticed that she was having fits, she was dying silently, withdrawn into herself, angry and violent. She often took her grandparents’ phone and tried to break it. When we took her back with us sometime later, all her tantrums quickly stopped.
I met Manuela in 2016, the year her grandmother came to leave her with us for the holidays. I took time to observe her and noticed that she was showing the same symptoms of trauma as our little girls in the past. I chose her because she reminded me of what our own daughter had experienced. I wanted to help her open up, to facilitate communication with her parents and grandparents. Her parents went on an adventure to another country and thought they would bring her everything. In hindsight, I understood the trauma of this girl and the lack of communication around their sudden departure. She needed to revisit this painful past in order to free herself from anger, resentment, fear, and everything else that haunted her thoughts. I made the film Njel, the separation to share the situations encountered in my family, by my daughter and my niece.
Cyrille Masso is a Cameroonian filmmaker who has influenced his generation. After studying at university, he received internships and training in many cinema institutes and conservatories. His time at the Fémis, in Paris in 1998, was a decisive turning point in his young career. In 1999, he created Malo Pictures and produces numerous fiction and documentary films, some of which have received awards in festivals around the world.
Don Edkins is a South African documentary filmmaker and producer based in Cape
Town. He has produced documentary film projects that have been broadcast around
the world, such as Steps for the Future, Why Democracy? and Why Poverty? earning
multiple international awards, including an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, and the
Special Teddy Award at the 63rd Berlinale for Steps for the Future. The Peabody
awarded Why Poverty? Project, with documentary films from 21 countries, was
screened globally by 70 broadcasters. He is Executive Producer of AfriDocs, a free-to-
view VOD platform and broadcast strand across Africa that screens the best African
and international documentary films. He is currently producing a new documentary film
project with African filmmakers across the continent, Generation Africa, around the
theme of migration. He is a mentor for the Berlinale Talents, Durban FilmMart, and
Docs by the Sea in Indonesia, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Tiny Mungwe is a documentary film and arts producer. She currently works at STEPS
(Social Transformation and Empowerment Projects) where she produces Generation
Africa, a pan-African anthology of 25 documentary films from 16 countries in Africa, on
the topic of migration. Mungwe’s films include Akekho uGogo, a 48 minute
documentary about urban youth culture, which screened at several festivals including
the Durban International Film Festival, Apollo Film Festival and DOKANEMA Festival.
Her short film script Evelyn was selected for the National Film and Video Foundation
(NFVF) Women Filmmaker Project and she directed another short film in the program,
Daddy’s Boy. She has written for some of the highest rating South African television
dramas such as Muvhango and Matatiele, and was one of the directors on the series
Uzalo. For several years she worked as a festival organizer and programmer for four
international festivals, namely Time of the Writer, the Durban International Film
Festival, Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival and Poetry Africa. During that time she also worked on the program for Durban FilmMart (the co-production market of the festival) and Talents Durban (a career development program for emerging African filmmakers in partnership with Berlinale Talents). She continues to work as a program curation associate for the Durban FilmMart. She also programmed and curated the city of Durban’s inaugural book and art fair, ARTiculate Africa.