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Progress is never permanent

Cineasti del Presente - Baamum Nafi

Progress is never permanent

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What was the idea behind Nafi’s Father?

The question of how religious extremism is gaining ground, even in tight communities. Zadie Smith once wrote that “progress is never permanent.” This is true in Senegal, like anywhere else: progress is always threatened. It needs to be treasured and constantly re-imagined.

How did you research the film?

I have worked for over 8 years as a journalist both in Senegal and all over Africa. I visited Timbuktu before and after the occupation. I couldn’t believe it fell. Yet people I spoke to had all seen the signs. Then as I was finishing my MFA in Film in New York, Donald Trump was elected. Nobody could believe it. Yet, again, there were warning signs. 

Where does Nafi’s Father take place?

In an imaginary town in Senegal on the border with Mauritania. We shot in my hometown of Matam. Ours is the first fiction feature shot in the area. At first, people were curious how a movie is made. Then the constant repetition took some of the excitement away and we became part of the town. Neighbors helped keep the set quiet. By the end, the whole population of Matam had participated.

Did you have a particular audience in mind?

African and Western audiences. Being born into a religious and progressive family, I feel the urgent responsibility to talk about these issues. I would like Senegalese families to be able to see their rich traditions and cultural practices on screen in a nuanced and dignified manner. I also want to engage with the public in Europe and the US, where there is a growing demonization of Islam and the “Other”.

Nicholas Elliott

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